Nathan wonders what he’s doing there. He first thought it was a hoax, when he came across the LinkedIn ad. However, the correspondent he had by email seemed serious, expressed himself without questionable spelling mistakes, then the secretary on the phone seemed to him cold and devoid of emotion, like a real civil servant. Even the building is official, if that makes sense: sober, boring, sanitized. A few posters, magazines and other leaflets adorn the waiting room, the only touches of color provided by the “company”. As for the other candidates… No matter how hard he searches, he doesn’t see a pleasant term, or even a neutral one, to characterize them.
When someone waves a flyer in his face, Nathan forces a smile that seems to him more of a grimace, but which seems to satisfy the man who hands him the paper. When Nathan reads it, he feels annoyed by the predictability of it: the same one you find in every mailbox, once or twice a year.
Marabout, voodoo, witchcraft: return of the loved one, success in exams, placement on the stock market, promotion, penis enlargement, flowering of hydrangeas. Call me at 45…
And these people actually think they are taken seriously? He purses his lips. Well, it’s because of people like these that he’s ashamed to reveal his real job to those around him. For six months, he managed to make his ex believe that he was mining Bitcoin on the internet.
In front of him, a young girl waits, inspecting her long fingernails. She must be in her twenties, a lot of jewellery, plant tattoos and woolen clothes that look itchy, judging by the rash on her arms – probably alpaca hair from Peru, woven by hand or he doesn’t know what bullshit yet. One of those new Wicca witches, no doubt. All the same. Well, on the religious side, he has nothing to say about it, but can’t she dress a little more strictly, for a job interview? Between that and the pink hair, how can she expect these people to take her seriously? And yet, it is one of the least worst. The interview room opens. A stunted little old woman reeking of incense, with a shawl and at least ten amulets around her neck, comes out, accompanied by a government pundit in a suit and tie. He throws the traditional “We’ll call you back!” » and returns to lock himself in the office, this time with the marabout. Madame Irma hums as she leaves the building.
“Well, there are a lot of charlatans here, don’t you think? It’s his neighbour, comfortably installed on his plastic chair – as comfortably as one can be, in any case, on this kind of folding things – who has just addressed this introductory sentence to him. His dazzling smile might have inspired confidence, if he weren’t wearing a large white toga adorned with gold patterns. Fifties, bald. “What are you?” The guy holds out a hand that Nathan doesn’t take, responding: “I am Nostradamus, the cosmic priest of the stars of the firmament. A cult leader, then. So that’s the pompom. In the end, the other scammers don’t do too much harm: if they manage to steal a few tickets from petty bourgeois wishing to speak to the ghost of their poodle, good for them! In this economy, you have to find tricks to survive. But this brood… Fortunately for him, the door opens again on the suit and tie. Given the length of the interview, the marabout did not convince him. It’s not really surprising. This guy really manages to make a living with this kind of shenanigans?
Finally, the recruiter says Nathan’s name and Nathan springs to his feet. He does not flinch even when he feels analyzed from head to toe and enters the small windowless office, where he is asked to sit down.
He doesn’t know what exactly this “job” he is applying for consists of, but the announcement comes from the government, just that! The description was vague and contained the words: paranormal, witchcraft, afterlife, special powers. It must be a section of scientific research on everything related to the unexplained, like what the CIA set up in the last century. The sort of thing that’s a little immoral around the edges. But Nathan has no more morals than all those fortune tellers. Oh, he prides himself on doing his job properly, without lying to anyone! Only, here, the customers do not jostle with the gate… So, this job, it is a godsend for him. He got ready for the occasion, shaved, dressed in his best shirt and updated his resume. He’s serious, not like those clowns strutting around in the waiting room! The suit-and-tie executive goes through his papers, then raises dull eyes to Nathan, with an eyebrow arched to the middle of his forehead as if not taking him seriously.
— Good. Tell me about yourself. — My name is Nathan Daot. I’m a paranormal consultant. The eyebrow is still rounded, if possible. — Consultant?, repeats the recruiter, articulating each syllable.
— Yes. It’s mostly about determining if people are haunted by a ghost, a demon, or just paranoid. The guy writes something about his stationery. He takes his time, the bugger. Nathan stirs.
— I see. And what is the difference between these… three scenarios? He takes on the skeptical tone of anyone Nathan explains his job to. Oh, he didn’t expect it to be easy anyway! — Demons are aggressive and vicious. Everything they do has a purpose: to drive you mad, to hurt, to kill… Ghosts are just residual energies after death. If their manifestations hurt anyone, it is only by pure coincidence. As for paranoia, it’s simple: doors slamming due to drafts, strange noises that actually come from the plumbing… I don’t need to draw you a picture. “What are you doing to send these…entities back to the afterlife?”
— It’s impossible. The demons are here because of a pact, and nothing will stop them until it is over. As for ghosts, there is no technique to make them disappear. This guy is really going to twist his eyebrows from raising him. “You don’t help these poor people?”
— What do you want me to do ? I advise them to leave the haunted place, at best. If a candidate hands you the Ghostbusters vacuum cleaner, kick them out, please! The joke does not make the recruiter laugh. Nathan swallowed. “Anything else to report?” he asks in his drawling tone. Telekinesis, telepathy, communication with the beyond… “Bullshit, all that!” Uh, no offense. Damn, he spends so much time getting annoyed about all this that mustard naturally goes to his nose every time he talks about it. Reflex.
— Good. We will call you back.
What, is that all? So he’s not believable? Nathan stands up, annoyed, as the recruiter walks him to the door. Finally, he is much more believable than the other imbeciles! He returns to the waiting room, while the fiftieth – the supreme priest of Jupiter or he does not know what – comes forward to succeed him.
Why didn’t he convince them? Should he have introduced himself as a wizard? Bah ! Too connoted. The term conjures up ridiculous togas and pointy hats. Wizard ? Even worse ! He doesn’t do sleight of hand! Blasé, he leaves the building and leans against the wall. There, he pulls out a cigarette which he wedges between his lips, then snaps his fingers to make a flame appear at the end of his index finger, which he uses to light the tube of tobacco. He shakes his finger to put it out, blows a whirlwind of smoke skyward. Really, what a hassle, to find work.
It’s been a while since I’ve written little stories. Here’s a little one to remind you that when you have a crush on someone you shouldn’t be too hesitant to tell him/her.
Her name is Apple. Like an apple. She probably has parents who have a lot of apple trees. Can you imagine a beautiful girl? Well Apple is even more beautiful than that. She has wonderful dimples, wonderful hair (red, but not too much) and she smiles all the time, even when it’s gray or rainy. In history class I am behind her and I admire her back. It’s a pity that the Bac test does not fall on Apple’s back, I would have been unbeatable. I try to listen to history, the one we should know, the cold war, the fall of the wall, the construction of Europe… All of this brings me back to Apple’s back. Her red hair over her green sweater. This afternoon: English! I will be on his right. So I’m going to work on his right profile, maybe my favorite. I will have to be discreet, especially not heavy! I would be sorry.
His name is Raoul. Still haven’t understood what prompted his parents to call him Raoul! It scrapes at the back of the throat, you can’t be affectionate with a name like that. “ My little Rara ! it can’t work. Too bad because he’s funny and rather cute, I can already see all my girlfriends starting to hang around him. Strangely he doesn’t realize anything, plus he seems shy. The Christmas holidays are approaching and I will spend two weeks without seeing him. It doesn’t seem to move him. This afternoon, during English class, I thought I saw him watching me. But nothing is certain, he could as well observe Coline who is sitting next to me. Coline is tall (I could say tall if I were naughty) and inevitably she overshadows me, you only see her, in the classroom, in front of the school, on the bus. It’s our benchmark, so obviously Raoul only sees Coline. It’s certain.
Sorcery objective: I have studied the problem well, the only way for Apple to take an interest in me is to use proven and risk-free techniques. I watched tutorials, consulted blogs there are many processes. In some cases it is necessary to obtain an extract of the person to bewitch, I had no intention of cutting Apple into a slice.
Get a recent full-length photo. Not easy either. She is not on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook, I would have to be able to take her picture discreetly without anyone around, so that she is not hidden by a Coline for example.
No, the most accessible way is the so-called “encirclement” technique. The principle is simple: you have to go around the home of your loved one 33 times. In addition to the LPs, you have to recite some kind of weird sentences that I printed out to learn them by heart. It must be Tibetan, I’ve never seen it but it looks like it.
I am scared. I don’t know why but I’m scared. I’m sure they’re all flirting with Raoul on their Instagram Messenger and company. They’re all stuck in their head, and I’m a UFO. No social networks, no Meme (yes I know what it is!), no TikTok and thumbs up that skip to the next video half a second after half a second. So I read, I think of Raoul, I eat chocolate, I think of Raoul. I wouldn’t crack. I swore to myself not to pry into his life using the internet and I would hold on. So I invent stories, stories with Raoul who comes towards me smiling, or who cooks or who walks in the forest. At the end of the story, Raoul takes my hand, he says kind words to me (I don’t know what in fact, it’s up to him to find the right words) then he approaches my mouth and kiss. Pfff I look clever making me stories of princesses and charming princes who come to kiss me. Prince Raoul ! it doesn’t sound very good. I don’t know what sounds good with Raoul. Sometimes I imagine that it’s him who’s sleeping, on the beach, and I take advantage of his closed eyes to kiss him.
I can’t stop learning the magic phrases by heart. There are about fifteen in all, each sentence is made up of about ten words that look something like this: KAFALOUMIKOLOPARA MIPOULARISOTOALAPOELE etc. Fifty times that I reread these damned sentences, I’ll never get there! Not to mention that I’m going to have to recite them while I go around Apple’s 33 times. Speaking of which… Pomme lives in the countryside, in an isolated house, with flat land around it and probably lots of apple trees. So 33 times around the property, I calculated, that’s 66 kilometers, to do in one go otherwise it won’t work, the tutorial is formal! I decided to do the 33 bike tours, in 4 hours it is possible. I would get up very early, my parents would still be sleeping and, keeping a good rhythm, I would be finished before going to class. People will think that I left for high school very early. I’m almost to the point on the last evening Tibetan phrases to repeat. I should have taken Tibetan as a second language for the Bac.
Apple’s dad finishes shaving, it’s still dark and he leaves for work in 30 minutes. Back in the kitchen, standing behind the window, he drinks his coffee, staring into space. He sees in the distance a young cyclist pedaling at a brisk pace. The young man is holding his handlebars in one hand and sheets of paper floating in the wind in the other. The picture makes him smile. After getting dressed, Apple’s dad goes back to the kitchen, he thinks amused of this cyclist who is perhaps revising his lessons on his bike. He turns off the light and does not notice that the same cyclist is going back to the same place always at the same pace.
Monsieur Pomme silently leaves the house which is still sleeping, gets into his car, triggers the opening of the automatic gate and says to himself that he should remember to change the orange flashing light of the gate, the one which starts up during the operation of the leaves. He quickly crosses the gate without bothering to look at the traffic, because there is no traffic in the rue de Pomme. Except that morning, at 6:30 a.m., at the precise moment when Raoul, his nose buried in his papers, pedals vigorously, articulating his 24th MIPOULARISOTOALAPOELE. The shock is terrible, the bike becomes folding for the occasion, Mr. Apple’s car is badly dented and Raoul is lying on the road.
Dad is in the hall yelling on the phone, he’s yelling at someone who obviously doesn’t understand that there’s an accident and that help needs to be sent quickly. I rush in pajamas in front of the house. There, in the street, I see a twisted bicycle and a boy lying on its side. I remain frozen by the scene that I discover: Raoul, My Raoul, he is there, lying on the macadam, his eyes closed. I rush over to him, take his head in my hands and I don’t know what’s gotten into me, I slowly approach his mouth, I kiss him. So slowly he opens his eyes, he kisses me in turn and whispers something weird, probably Tibetan. I don’t care, it’s up to him to choose the right words.
Jane jumped to the strident sound of her awakening. What day were we? Tuesday ? Wednesday ? She swivels on her stomach to wipe out cheerfully in her duvet. A large cup of coffee would undoubtedly help him to clear up ideas. She had vague memories of the day before. She took a deep inspiration to give herself courage and got up. The slippers that had slipped under the bed were far too big for her little feet. She noticed that her t-shirt was coming strangely at the knees. In the kitchen, she could not reach the shelf where the cup in which she usually used her coffee was located. She enlisted with an automatic gesture the coffee maker which emitted a complaint and a brief gargouillis. While her drink flowed drip and already embalmed the apartment, Jane headed for the bathroom to take her medication box. She was surprised by her own reflection. Planted in front of the big mirror, she found herself face to face with a little girl.
That morning, Jane was six years old.
-Damn, she sighed.
She had never come back so far in time.
Jane suffered from a rare and unknown disease that doctors simply called “temporal disruption”. They could have found a more learned name, a name in Latin which would make a little classy temporis disturbi temporis, or a name inspired by mythology as aeson syndrome, but no, they had not been more inventive. The first signs of the disease appeared the day after her fortieth anniversary. Jane had not first paid attention to it. One morning, she was radiant with a fresh complexion and the pink cheeks. She told herself that she had enjoyed a restful sleep and that her new night cream had done wonders. For once, advertising had not been false. But another morning, she discovered new wrinkles and multiple white hair. The differences with her real age had increased over the months. In the night, her body was transformed according to an unknown and mysterious process. He rejuvenated or aged in her sleep. At dawn, she discovered her age of the day helpless. She had been forced to leave her job as an accounting assistant when one morning she woke up in the body of an eleven year old prediction. She was far too young, even to solicit a discovery course. She had asked her boss to exercise her profession in teleworking so that she could shut herself up and not cross her colleagues who would have understood nothing about the situation.
Her illness had also turned her love life upside down. Jane had initially considered her temporary rejuvenation as an unexpected chance of enjoying lost time again. She had forgotten how beautiful she was at twenty. She who had been so complexed after adolescence! What a funny idea with hindsight! Jane returned to her jeans again effortlessly and was taken from a crazy desire to dance and get drunk. After dragging into two or three bars, she had managed to bring a beautiful philosophy student home who had debited her quotes from Saint-Augustin while undressing her penetrated. “As for the present, if he was still present, if he was not going to join the past, he would not be time, he would be eternity. Jane had not understood anything, but she had been delighted with her evening. Her one night lover had been in a less philosopher mood when he had discovered the next day a woman of seventy years nestled against him. He had cried out of gold and detailed like a rabbit. Jane had not held the experience and had since resolved to celibacy.
The little girl she was that day sat down with her cup of hot coffee at the table of her modest kitchen and swallow her drugs like a handful of candies. She began to believe that a vulgar placebo had been passed through her because the disease would get worse. She inspected her little pink hands. Six years today. How old tomorrow? What would happen if she woke up in the body of an infant or in that of a grabarity vieillarde? In both cases, she would be unable to move by herself. It had already happened that it remains significantly blocked at the same age for several days in a row. She shivered at the idea of staying lying in bed, unable to move, and die of dehydration or hunger, helpless and stuck in the boring body of a six -week baby.
This perspective froze her blood. Her coffee was already cold. She had to urgently consult Dr. Chronas. In her wardrobe, she kept clothes of different sizes. Over time, it had formed a wardrobe to overcome all her morphological deviations. She put on a flower dress size 10 years – too large, but too bad – and sizes 29 boots which she had recovered in a fair at everything. The doctor’s office was at the other end of the city. The car would have been the fastest means of transport, but Jane was far too small to reach the pedals and she did not want to be arrested by the police. It was a hit to be directly placed in childhood social assistance. So she took the metro by being as discreet as possible. Based in the crowd, making believe that she was accompanied by an adult, we might leave her quiet. She hoped that a poodle granny was not going to caress her cheek by asking her where her mother was, as the last time she had borrowed public transport. Fortunately, and after only a few intrigued looks placed on her, Jane arrived without incident at the medical office.
Dr. Chronas did not need to examine it at length to lead to this observation: he unfortunately felt overwhelmed by the condition of his patient. All analyzes carried out, radios and other blood tests were not anomaly in Jane’s organism. It had to be psychological.
-I am not a psychiatrist, but you may have somatized your quarantine crisis, announced the doctor learnedly.
Jane got up and kicked her in the shins. What a charlatan that one!
Let’s see, Madame Pellicer, stop behaving like a child! replied Dr. Chronas. You cannot constantly flee the passage of time!
Vexed, Jane slammed the cabinet door and began to wander in the city. Of course, she was afraid of the passage of time. She had nostalgia for the years when she was still a student, she regretted the innocence and the cheerfulness of her childhood. She would have liked to retain all these years in the palm of her hand, the years spent, but also in the years to come. The next decades were a nightmare. She refused that her body will change, that her movements become slower and painful.
Just live the present time, forever.
As it walked and the sun was declining, Jane’s shadow gradually lengthened. She crossed her reflection in the window of a hair salon.
Steven, a father-to-son unicorn breeder for 18 generations, was upset. The breeding season was not looking good, but then not good at all. Already, Lucette had started making milk way too soon—all that wasted colostrum was frustrating. And then, for a few months, they had all had aberrant requirements for their end of gestation. Strawberries in the middle of winter, a great classic, it was just the warm-up; afterwards, we had moved on to a cup of eternal snow sprinkled with Aji Charapita peppers picked on a full moon night, or three grams of cerberus skin diluted in original fruit compote, these kinds of little cravings that are easy to satisfy. Steven had been limping since his encounter with the Cerberus in question, he had been bitten by a snake and was still nursing his chilblains; frankly, he was sick of it. On the verge of dropping everything to convert to a quieter job, Steven. Anything would do, horn polisher for Minotaurs or toilet paper keeper in a supermarket, anything. He sighed. He needed air, that’s all.
— Steven, have you finished changing my litter? — No, Leontine, not yet. — So, what are you doing daydreaming on your pitchfork? These edelweiss are not going to distribute themselves! — Yes, Leontine.
Nah, frankly, there was no worse job than raising unicorns. Especially since they had unionized. In Grandpa Robert’s time, they would never have dared to ask for anything other than straw in their unicorn boxes. Edelweiss, frankly! The price per kilo was staggering, and it didn’t absorb anything, either! Steven suspected them of testing his resilience. Or his bank account. And then what an idea, frankly, to breed creatures whose gestation time is twenty-two years. Twenty-two years ! We had time to clean out the boxes before having the privilege of seeing a unicorn! Fortunately, unicorn hair sold very well on the black market. As long as they didn’t find out, he could easily avoid bankruptcy.
— Steven, tell me, with the friends we would have liked to try… Steven, sweating from the effort of stirring the edelweiss, painfully sat up and barked: — What now ? — Still ? How so again? We didn’t ask you today!
Steven opened his mouth to deliver a scathing repartee, then snapped it dryly. Appealing to Lorette’s intellect was a bad idea; it had been fallow for a good two centuries already, apparently. Arguing with her was like playing chess with a pigeon; no matter your level, the pigeon will just knock over all the pieces, shit on the board and proudly strut around like it’s won. Steven sighed; Lorette pinched her nostrils and continued, stubbornly:
— With the friends, we would like to test the Kangoo Jump. — The what? — The Kangoo Jump, you know, the springs you put under your feet? We saw that on TV.
Ah, yes, TV. Installing the small screen for them in the stables was not the idea of the century, it was confirmed day after day. Fearing the worst, he followed the matriarch to the TV, then waited for the commercial to agree to reappear. Between two day creams with Aloe Vera, he finally discovered the machine, terrified.
— But… it’s for humans! — You’ll manage to adapt that to our clogs. — And have you seen the price? You need four of them! — Yeah, oh, it’s not that bad. We will each do it in turn. — And you’re sure it’s a great idea, at the end of gestation, like that? Aren’t you supposed to preserve yourselves, be reasonable?
Lucette contented herself with staring at him in silence. All the air from the Himalayas circulated between his two ears, without encountering the slightest neural obstacle. Steven lost himself in the visualization of a snow-white pigeon, decked out in a golden horn, trying to move a chess pawn. He snorted to come back to reality, ran a sweaty hand over his face and capitulated: — Pink or blue, the Kangoo Jump?
— Hiiiii look, Steven, they are there! — Yeah, great, wow… Insensitive to the overflowing enthusiasm of their breeder, the unicorns jostled around the box just placed in front of the stables. The air sparkled, filled with the sequins they let loose in their glee. — Go Steven, opeeeeeeeen! Obviously, it was up to him to do all the work, since they were incapable of holding scissors, these devils. He tore open the tape and pulled the coveted items out of their cases, like Arthur pulling Excalibur from the rock. A ray of sunlight illuminated the pearly purple of the shoes. The unicorns sighed together, conquered. — Well, you have drawn lots who will start? The tension rose suddenly. Steven realized that several unicorns bore traces of hoof kicks, even bite marks. His instinct for survival screamed death; he raised his arms and bellowed, just in time to avoid the carnage: — OKEYYYYYYYYYY, calm down, it’s up to me! And the first that jostles me will go last! They stopped. — Splash, splash, you’ll be the one to start, one, two, thriiiiiiiii… Lisa-Rose! — But… — And all those who discuss will be deprived of compote tonight! Thirty-four adult unicorns sulked, while young Lisa-Rose waddled contentedly. Steven stuffed the toes of the shoes with cotton, then equipped the unicorn with the Kangoo Jump.
— Above all, be careful, huh? — Yes yes… — Don’t go too fast or too far… watch out for the lake… — But yes… — And if anything happens, you come get me, huh? She rushed forward without deigning to answer, dropping sequins and rainbows, hopping even more as she passed in front of her upset comrades. — That’s awesome!
Steven, reassured by his apparent balance, went back to shoveling his edelweiss. It was Loralie who came to alert him, about twenty minutes later. — Steven? Lisa-Rose still hasn’t come back, and yet it’s our turn! She cheats! Steven frowned. — Let’s not be too quick to judge. Where did she go? — In the forest ! To hide and go on all afternoon, I’m sure! She cheeps! Leaving Loralie to her pigeonish hysteria, Steven went in search of the big offender. — Lisa-Roooooose! Youhou, Lisa-Roooooose! After a few minutes of fruitless searching, he twisted slightly and put his hand over his mouth to change the sound of his voice:
— The stupid-unicorn is called to the reception, I repeat, the stupid-unicorn is called to the reception! Her hysterical laughter made all the birds in the area fly away. — Hey, Steven, it’s not very nice to call me that… — Lisa-Rose? But where are you ? I do not see you !
— Look higher. Steven looked up and launched into a very interesting part of “Where’s Wally.” Searching for a white animal in a birch forest, frankly… A burst of purple color caught his eye on the only ash tree in the corner. Lisa-Rose hung from a branch, her legs dangling, her horn deeply planted in the gnarled wood. — Steven…Steven! Can you stop laughing for five minutes, please? The rancher wiped away his tears and stood up. Unable to keep his seriousness, he fell back into laughter.
— STEVEN! — Yes, yes Lisa-Rose, sorry. — You come look for me ? His voice broken by his efforts, he shook his head no, then explained to her: — First I’m going to need to go back to the stables for a ladder and a saw. I’m coming back, above all, don’t move! He gave her a bright smile and walked back to the building. Before getting her out of there, he had one urgent thing to do: order two pairs of Kangoo Jump for each unicorn present at the breeding, as well as a camera. The week was going to be fun, after all.
This week, I’m bringing you something a little different than usual. My cousin Alice had an accident. She’s fine but she has a broken leg and was entitled to a long recovery time so to keep her busy I offered her a little collaboration. She illustrated this story and the story you are about to discover was written by our four hands.
The story is a bit more childish than usual but I hope you’ ‘ll enjoy it.
The legend of Lilfire
Lilfire stomped forward. He had just argued with his father again: Burninflame was a 625-year-old Great Ruby Dragon and he couldn’t stand that his youngest son didn’t have a job. “Learn from your brothers!” Roarloud has worked at the forge since he was 193 years old. When Fierelmet enlisted in the royal guard, he was just 181 years old. Even Brurn found a job at the mine before he turned 207! And you, at 212, you’re still here! Lilfire would have liked to make his father proud of him, but he was not like his brothers. He wasn’t tall and muscular, and his flames were barely enough to start a wood fire. Every time he applied somewhere, a stronger dragon got the job. When he passed the forge, Roarloud called out to him. “Fuck it!” Did you argue with Dad again? Anyway, I have good news. I registered you. Lilfire grabbed the yellowed sheet her brother held out to her, on which was written in gold letters: “Hear, hear dragons and dragons!” The king is looking for a dragon to defend his treasure. In order to choose the strongest among you, a big sports competition is organized. At the end of the latter, the dragon with the best score will have the immense honor of becoming the guardian of the royal treasure. If you are over 180, register with the palace steward. » Roarloud had signed him up for a sports competition. Organized by the king himself, what’s more. And that was supposed to be good news… “Roarloud, I can’t go. I will make a fool of myself. What would I do in a sports competition? “I’ll train you!” And then imagine how happy Daddy would be if you won! “But I will never win!” There’s only one way to find out…
They had a month to prepare Lilfire for the tests of the competition: acrobatic flight with a block of stone, camouflage, spitting fire on moving targets, and finally, the fight against knights. Unlike his brother, Lilfire was far from optimistic. They started with camouflage since it was the only test he felt capable of tackling. Indeed, he had inherited his mother’s dark gray scales, which made him look like a big rock. For the other events, Roarloud called upon the skills of Brurn and Fierelmet in order to prepare Lilfire as well as possible. Brurn for bodybuilding and endurance, Fierelmet for combat techniques; himself would take care of the fire-spitting. With such a demanding training and such demanding teachers, Lilfire did not see the time passing and one morning, without warning, the sun rose on the first day of the competition.
A colorful crowd crowded the drawbridge to enter the huge arena of the castle. Wooden bleachers stood all around, set up for the occasion. Five large rocks were arranged in a circle in the center of the arena. Lilfire paid no heed to the cheers of the crowd and headed straight for them. Four other dragons did the same. Lilfire didn’t dare meet their eyes, he concentrated on his block and remembered his choreography. He had to keep his rock in the air for more than three minutes by performing as many tricks as possible to score points. A sound of the gong announced the start of the test. All the dragons took off at the same time, except Lilfire. He climbed on his rock, dug his claws into the roughness of the rock and flapped his wings. Gradually he rose. During this time the other dragons had stung to recover their block helped by their momentum. Lilfire, meanwhile, continued to climb. When he was about six meters above the ground, he dropped his rock. He flew another ten meters and swooped down after the huge stone. He passed her, spun around and picked her up on her back. The shock took his breath away and nearly knocked him off balance. He hovered for a few moments then, mobilizing his last strength, did a loop. The boulder fell right back to where it started and Lilfire landed right behind it. Another sound of the gong announced the end of the first round.
A huge blackboard had been set up to record the scores. For each event, the first earned 50 points, the second 40 and so on. When Lilfire looked up at the painting, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Missia, a female mole who failed to lift her boulder, was last with 10 points. Feurlet, a dragon with electric blue scales, followed her with 20 points. Foudre, another dazzling golden female, was third with 30 points, while Veryfierce, a large pine green male, won the class with 50 points. Lilfire was therefore second and gained 40 points. Unbelievable !
For the rest, a section of the arena had been dismantled, so that it was now open to the forest. The camouflage test was simple: the dragons had one minute to blend into the landscape. The first to be seen lost. The five competitors lined up at the edge of the forest, and, at the sound of the gong, dashed between the trees. Missia, who thanks to her dull dress had blended in with the earth, came second. Veryfierce, who had melted into the foliage of the trees, finished third. Lightning with his golden scales was the penultimate, ahead of Feurlet and his dazzling blue cuirass. Lilfire, transformed into a rock, won the test. He was now leading the competition with 90 points! He couldn’t believe it. But his joy quickly waned. The last two trials to come were the ones he dreaded the most.
Thirty yards from the five dragons, targets were mounted on rails. Feurlet passed first and hit seven out of ten targets. Veryfierce burned nine, Missia five. Lightning burned them all at once. It was Lilfire’s turn. The sound of the gong startled him. He inflated his chest to the maximum, felt his fire pocket fill up and spat as hard as he could. He didn’t hit any targets. However, he didn’t have time to mope because he already had to prepare for the last test, the fight.
Lilfire was the second to pass. Three knights in armor were waiting for him on the sand. At the sound of the gong, the first, equipped with a flail and a shield, threw himself on him. Lilfire curled up on himself and leapt above his opponent, without the flail touching him. He landed right next to the second knight who was pointing a spiked spear at him. He mowed it down with a swipe of his paw, while sweeping the first one with his tail. Seeing his two teammates on the ground, the third, armed with two long swords, slowly backed away. He was trying to buy time to allow the others to get up. Lilfire didn’t let this fool her and instead of attacking her directly, he knocked out the other two once and for all. Alone with his two swords, the last knight rushed at Lilfire. As Fierelmet had taught him, he blew out a thick plume of smoke from his nostrils to blind his opponent before ripping his swords off with a sharp claw movement and putting him out of action.
The king stood upright on the dais as he addressed the crowd to close the competition. “At the end of this historic sporting competition we have a happy winner! I would like to congratulate you all for the magnificent show you have given us. Without further ado, the name of the new guardian of my royal treasure: Veryfierce! Congratulations ! » The crowd cheered cheerfully but the king resumed, silencing the cheers. “However, my dear friends, he was not the only one to impress us! Another competitor stood out for his originality and above all for his vigor in combat. Thus, I decided to reward also the second of this competition. You see, my daughter, Princess Iloa, needs a valiant protector. So I designate Lilfire as Princess Iloa’s official bodyguard! Kudos to him! » Lilfire choked at this announcement. Roarloud at his side gave him a strong slap on the back to congratulate him. Fierelmet and Brurn spat flames into the sky to proclaim their joy. The crowd cheered him and Veryfierce, and among all these people, Lilfire saw a large ruby dragon. Burninflame looked at him and in his eyes shone a gleam of pride.
Alice is 16 (well soon 17 years old) but she is already quite a talented artist. She just start her blog but I know it, there will be soon tones of good sketches and photos and other amazing things. If you wanna discover her univers, please go check her blog :
Have you ever had a friendly crush? Someone you meet one day, by chance and after 5 minutes, you might as well have grown up together. I consider myself a bit lonely and gruff. It takes time to tame me but when I met Mitch, it was as if he had walked into the fortified enclosure of my friendship with all the keys. There was no resistance. One moment I’m ordering a drink at the bar next to a stranger, and exactly 4 minutes later I’m screaming with laughter at the table with my best friend. That was 8 years ago and since then, not a week has gone by without us seeing each other, nor a summer without us going on vacation together.
My wife Carole gets along very well with his girlfriend Stephanie and we see each other as one big family. Our children are like brothers and sisters. And incredible vacations, we took some, Hawaii, New Caledonia, the coral reef in Belize, the sea atoll in the Maldives… You see the theme here, I’m an avid scuba diver and Mitch is my instructor. Every year we look for a place where we can leave our little family on the beach and where we can explore the depths of the ocean. I made phenomenal progress with him. We are starting to make deep spots. This year we are going to Egypt, on the edge of Damascus on the Red Sea. We will dive in the Blue Hole, a 120 meter deep basin nicknamed the divers’ cemetery. Not a corner for beginners but I’m not stupid and I’ll have the best of the best with me, my old Mitch. So there is no danger.
Arrived on the spot, the show is up to par. We are floating on the bluest, most translucent water I have ever seen. The sea goes from bright turquoise to dark navy above the tank without losing its transparency. Mitch reminds me of essential security measures and adds:
“Okay man, let’s go. I’ve been here before and I’m really not kidding, it’s sublime but extremely dangerous. If you walk away, there is a kind of arch at the bottom which is a death trap. Above all, you don’t even try to go there. I’ll be right behind you but we stay careful. »
His fatherly tone makes me laugh. I solemnly pledge to be his obedient little disciple and not to let go of his hand, then we get ready.
It’s like floating in space. I have never seen anything so beautiful. We have incredible visibility. I see other divers tens of meters away, small particles suspended in the rays of the sun and schools of fish passing like silver rockets around us. Mitch has pulled out his amphibious camera and is taking pictures. As he bustles around the fish, I begin to circle a little wider, that’s when I see the light a little further down. There is a huge arch and sunlight filters through. This must be the thing Mitch was talking about. We are very close, I tell myself that I will move forward a little. While staying at a very careful distance, I swim for a while and stop to enjoy the breathtaking spectacle. It’s gigantic, I miss the adjectives. I find myself in front of what seems to be the entrance to another world. Imagine being floating in the heart of darkness when suddenly, a monumental arch opens in front of you from which emanates a soothing blue light. It is an unreal spectacle. In width alone, it must be around 25m. I stare at her for a moment.
There is something that stands out from the place, a feeling of serenity, of fullness. It makes your head spin a bit. I hear something, it starts slowly, like harmonies in the dull rumbling of the water, a kind of musical breath that gradually increases in intensity, like an orchestra tuning up. I don’t know if it’s a phenomenon related to the shape of the structure, but it’s absolutely incredible. This music from the depths makes me want to laugh with happiness while bringing tears to my eyes.
I know it’s not necessary but I want to get a little closer. I have air reserves that can last a little over an hour, I risk nothing as long as I stay at a distance. I walk a little further and the music becomes louder, more catchy. Do I hear someone sing? Sounds like a woman’s voice.
My reverie is interrupted by a repetitive noise above my head. I look and I see that Mitch is back up, he is very high above me and he seems to be tapping his knife on the side of his bottles. As if to get someone’s attention, he gestures. He must try to communicate with the group of divers from earlier. Maybe they are in the field of his photos. It’s a bit painful to look up after long minutes staring at the soft light of the depths. The sun through the surface is like an unpleasant spot in the eyes, it hurts the head.
Well, I promised Mitch to be careful, I decide to check my monitor. The sun blinds me, I struggle a little, I feel dizzy. I finally reach the box which beeps continuously. I didn’t pay attention but on the screen there are big letters flashing:
G O U P G O U P?
Goup? It means nothing ! “Goup” is the funniest thing I’ve seen in my life. Goop when I tell Mitch that…
I try to focus on the numbers, but they fly by and I still chuckle at “Goup.”
OK better go back up. I head towards the light, I swim quietly, but the current pushes me aside, it’s more and more painful. The opening seems to be shrinking more and more. It’s weird.
The music is still there, louder. In the light I finally see her, the one who sings. She is a woman, she is naked and extremely pale. Her long hair floats around her like a huge halo. She’s so beautiful it feels like my heart is going to implode. I feel my eyes swell with tears. The current continues to pull me away from her, to the side. She holds out her hand, her eyes are sad, I start to panic. You shouldn’t panic. Panic drastically reduces oxygen stores.
Nothing make sense anymore. I realize that I, that I don’t think normally anymore. It’s getting harder and harder to fight. I feel like I’m swimming in thick mud and my aching brain is full of cotton wool. I have a flash of lucidity, I activate the emergency button of my safety jacket to go back to the surface. I know it’s dangerous, that we have to take steps, but I will react in due time. For the moment the urgency is to go up quickly.
I hear the air filling my jacket but nothing happens. I don’t go back. The current continues to push me sideways. A shock ! I hit the side wall, I’m stuck against it. Holy shit, why won’t my jacket work? Why is there current in a closed basin? I keep pressing the button with all my might
“Inflate you fucking inflate yourself! »
My monitor is screaming, I don’t recognize the sounds it is making. The screen flashes. The scrolling information might as well be written in Chinese. I do not understand anything anymore. The sound of air in my jacket slowed. I breathe harder and harder. I close my eyes.
” Nope “
I refuse to die like this. I think of Carole and the children. I want to find them. We have reserved a restaurant for this evening, there will be seafood, we will watch the sun go down before returning to the residence. Up close there is the sun, Up close there are people who love me. There is music, smells, life, what am I still doing here in the depths of darkness sleeping against stone?
In a last superhuman effort, I start kicking my legs as hard as I can. My muscles screaming in pain, I try to propel myself through this molasses. Each breath is more and more difficult, more and more painful. The sides of my field of vision darken. I scream in rage and frustration at my gear. I hit the wall again. I am incapable of making the slightest gesture. I wait. A faint blue glow appears. She approaches. God she is beautiful. How can she be so beautiful? She caresses my face.
I realize I’m not wearing my gear anymore. I’m naked too. I am breathing normally again. She opens her arms and I snuggle gratefully. Mitch must have come back up now. He will explain to Carole, Everything will be fine. They can go to the restaurant without me. I’ll just rest a bit, just a minute or two and then I’ll join them. Everything will be alright. Everything will be alright. With a big sigh, I close my eyes.
As far back as I can remember, He’s always been there. When I was at the park with my parents, he was standing on the hill, when I was looking out my bedroom window, he was under the lamppost at the end of the street. He was very small because really far away, but I knew it was him. Mister Fog.
I don’t know at what age I gave him that name but it stuck. When we were in the car, I saw him several times along the way, always standing, always in grey, always far away. He was doing nothing but standing there, at a distance. I had called him Mister Fog because when I squint to see him better, his outlines became blurred and hazy.
One day while I was on a school trip, I told my friends about Mister Fog. The teacher heard me and told the class that I was making up stories. I got angry, I wasn’t making anything up, he was there, standing on the low wall at the end of the park, but everyone pretended not to see him and I got punished for telling a lie. My mother is worried, I had to go see a shrink who spoke to me as if I were a baby and I then decided to stop talking about Mister Fog, but he stayed. When I entered primary school, when Grandpa died, when I entered college… He was there every day of my life. If I looked into the distance, I knew that he would be faithful to the post there. Which was oddly both frightening and reassuring.
It took me years to realize that he was getting closer. It was really subtle, a few centimeters a year I think. I was in high school when I realized that when I looked out my bedroom window, it was no longer under the lamp post at the end of the street but under the one before. It’s crazy that I didn’t hit it earlier but it was so progressive that it escaped me. I should have succeeded in distinguishing it better but its contours were still so blurred so that day I decided to go see it. I left the house and I walked towards him with a determined step without taking my eyes off him but without realizing it, arriving under the lamppost where he was standing when I crossed the threshold of my door. , he always stood at the same distance from me, at the level of the church square. I tried again to join him but again, without my understanding how he had maintained the distance between us, he was now on the other side of the cemetery so I gave up, contenting myself over the years to see that he was approaching very very slowly and then one day there was the accident.
I was in the car, tired from my day, on the way home that I knew by heart, I mechanically crossed a crossroads. When the light turned green, a blinding light and a horn made me turn my head to the right and there, a fraction of a second before the driver who had fried the game ran into me and everything went black. , I saw him, on the passenger seat, was sitting Mister Fog.
I woke up days later in a bad state, I couldn’t speak or move but I could see him, at my bedside standing by my bed, day and night without anyone worrying about it, nor the nurses , nor my family. Gradually doctors became more reassuring. I slowly recovered my motor skills and day by day, Mister Fog regained some distance, first one meter from my bed, then in the corner of the room and finally in the hallway.
Today I am 82 years old. He’s been standing in the room with me for several years. Although he never answers me, I talk to him like an old friend, knowing that the day he will be close enough to take my hand, it will be the last of my life.
Here is a little story that touches me a lot because there is a lot of me in it so I hope you’ll like it.
A shadow. Suspended above the void, I freeze. Breathe slowly, don’t move, don’t let go. Expect. Do not make noise. Behind me, Elton has stopped too. One minute, two, three, four. The shadow has not returned. Slowly, millimeter by millimeter, I advance my hand along the cable. I grab the next handle, then slide my whole body forward. The friction of my clothes against the metal causes slight vibrations that reverberate throughout the structure. I feel them under my skin, right down to my bones. Elton follows me. The platform is not very far away. The palms of my hands are sweaty, I need chalk. I tighten the grip of my legs then, feeling my way, I look for the bag attached to my harness, slip my fingers into it, grab some fine powder. It clings easily to the calluses and roughness of my hands. A few more meters before security. I see the edge of the plateau, so close. With a contortion, I throw both my arms at him, grab the sharp edge of metal, and pull myself up on it, oblivious to the pain. On my knees, I catch my breath while Elton clings to his turn before collapsing next to me. A moment of calm, during which we both contemplate the great void that makes up the majority of our universe. It wasn’t always like that. I still remember very well what the city looked like before. Before my mother, before the creature, before fear, before death. Before secrets.
It is cloudy today, humid, and the mist is dense. The silhouettes of tall towers of corroded metal surround us, ghosts of the glory of the Hanging City. Rusty cables disappear into the gray of the sky, the remains of bridges sway gently in the cold, gloomy wind that glides over our skin and makes the hairs on our arms stand on end. The Hanging City, so beautiful, shining in the light of day, is nothing more than a rotting corpse, rotting at the slow rhythm of fear. Elton pats me on the shoulder to make me turn to face him.
“Night will soon fall,” he signs. “Let’s hurry home. »
I nod. We get up, legs a little wobbly, then we approach the opening cut in the side of the tower. A bay window, surely, when the glass hadn’t yet shattered and disappeared, reduced to sharp dust. Cautiously, I step inside, Elton on my heels. Not much of the furniture remains, but the apartment must have been comfortable. Now it’s mostly depressing. And unsanitary. We sink into the bowels of the building, far into its depths, where the light is only a memory. I light my torch, with which I sweep the shadows around me. The atmosphere is thick, the smell of humidity invades my nostrils, but I still prefer that to the mask. The walls, bare and dilapidated, torn in places, reveal their metal frame. Elton waves at me and points to a door to our right. We enter.
The apartment is not very big, in a surprising state of conservation. Most of the walls still have an identifiable color, which I hadn’t seen in a long time. I put my bag in a corner, scan the place of the eyes, before returning to Elton.
” So ?” he asks with gestures. “It will be very good. » He smiles at me, brushes his hand against my cheek. ” I will bring food. “
I nod and watch him walk away, then disappear into a narrow opening. I then begin to activate myself. I set up our meager possessions, the tent, the mattress, the blankets, the electric stove. We should be able to stay here at least a few days. I frown at our stash of batteries. It has never been so low, we will have to make an expedition to the towers of the northern zone. And the northern area is dangerous. In the evening, we heat up one of the cans that Elton has brought back. Vegetables, no doubt, maybe ratatouille, it looks like it anyway. Elton cleans the pan while I make sure our bedding isn’t on a piece of ground that might collapse overnight. I slip under the covers and Elton joins me. He settles against my back, caresses my hips with his hand, goes under my sweater to grab one of my breasts. I feel his hot breath on my neck, his erection against my ass. I shift, just enough to be able to take off my clothes. He kisses me, everywhere, on every piece of me that passes within his reach. I feel his lips burning on my skin, drawing marks of fire and making shivers of desire hatch in me that go up along my body. Well, we’re both naked. I spread my legs and I feel him entering me, slowly, as he knows I like. I sigh, close my legs around him to pull him closer, arch my back, digging my fingers into his back. He accelerates, he always accelerates too soon. Never mind. I let myself be overwhelmed by the pleasure that I feel growing deep inside me. I scream. I bury my face in his neck and close my eyes. I can live like this until the end of time, with Elton inside me, forgetting the world and the fear.
A moment later, Elton is sleeping, his arms around me and his head in the crook of my shoulder. He always falls asleep like that, as if to protect me from the world, or maybe for me to protect him from what’s outside, I’m not sure. I stare at him for a long time. I wonder about him, about me. And as always, my mind drifts and ends up returning to the past. To my mother.
I was born deaf, a genetic anomaly whose name I have forgotten. It never really bothered me, because I didn’t know what I was missing, so I turned down the hearing aids. But my mother did not accept it. At that time, the Hanging City was at the height of its glory and its laboratories were state of the art. For years my mother worked on crossbreeding and genetic manipulation of guinea pigs to try to find a cure for my deafness. It did not work. And then one day there was an accident. One of her creatures mutated in a way she hadn’t expected, in a terrifying and destructive way. My mother was his first victim.
I don’t know exactly what species she encountered, but the result caused the downfall of the entire city. The creature fled and hid in the cloudy depths of the city. No one ever saw it, or no one lived long enough to tell. A shadow was just a shadow, impossible to find, impossible to eliminate. On the other hand, everyone heard him. And his cry became the nightmare of all that lived. For that scream was so horrible, so strange and monstrous, that it drove everyone who heard it mad. Most people preferred to die. Many are those who have jumped into the void. Some began to kill others. Madness or mercy, opinions are divided. They called her banshee, because nothing could protect her from her cry, that cry which brought death. In the end, those who remained preferred to pierce their eardrums. In a few months, the Hanging City, the pride of men, a marvel of technology clinging to an endless cliff, sheltering several million souls, had become a ghost town, populated by a few hundred deaf people surviving as best they could. I might have laughed if it hadn’t been so tragic.
I feel Elton’s steady breathing against my ribs. He’s the only one who didn’t abandon me after the disaster caused by my mother. He had already learned sign language for me. When he took out his hearing with a few drops of acid so he couldn’t hear the banshee’s screams, he told me he didn’t see it as a sacrifice. I almost believed him. To fall asleep, I think of my memories of the Hanging City, as it once was. Its sparkling towers, its white, wispy clouds, its air bridges that sway gently in the breeze. No one knew what was underneath and no one wanted to know. My mother said that the sea was there, I had chosen to believe her. As for knowing where above our heads the sheer wall on which we were clinging finally ended, everyone also did not know. Perhaps our ancestors knew this a long time ago, but this knowledge had been lost. Our world of metal and wind was enough for us. Some elders claimed that our people had come from the stars in the distant past, but these stories only served to make the youngest dream. I think of the reflection of the sun on the chrome, of the slow swaying of the bridges under my feet, of the smell of snow on winter mornings. I think of things more easily than of people. It’s been two months since we’ve met anyone in the City, and I’m beginning to wonder if there’s only us left. Just Elton, me and the creature.
I must have fallen asleep. When I wake up, Elton is no longer with me. He must have gone to search the surroundings to see if there are still objects that could be useful to us. We haven’t found much lately. Almost five years since the creature invaded us, perishable foodstuffs are becoming increasingly rare, and equipment in working order is beginning to look extraordinary. Yet we were good builders, I really would have thought our creations would last longer, at least long enough for the monster, fear, hunger or loneliness to kill us all. I straighten up when a figure frames itself in front of the window opening, letting the covers slip off my shoulders. Elton raises an appreciative eyebrow, walks over to me, leans down to brush my lips with his.
“Get dressed,” he signs, “I think we’ll have to go to the northern zone. » ” I say. We’re almost out of batteries. “ “That’s not the only thing we’re missing. And the northern zone is the only one that has been almost spared since the disaster. “ “Because it is his territory. “ ” Yes. “
We look at each other for a long time. We both know it’s dangerous, as we also know we have to go. Our survival depends on it. The northern zone scares me. She scares everyone, but my reasons for fearing her are different. She scares me because of my secrets, she scares me because of the truth. And above all, she scares me because of Elton. But I can’t tell her, so I get dressed and, with a shiver, strap on my harness. We are going to the northern zone, we need it. In the pale morning light, the City seems to have changed during the night. The wind has calmed down and the chrome of the towers shines in the sun like the torn chrysalises of oversized butterflies. The air is fresh, crisp, the cold grips without the rays of our star warming us up. I take a deep, almost painful breath, I hold my breath for a long moment before exhaling slowly. I check the straps of my harness, plunge my hands into the chalk bag. The shortest way will probably be to go through the lower floors.
I go first. It still is, I’m a much better climber than Elton, I better be the one testing our route. I’m very good at feeling good grips under my fingers and I have a good eye for sections of cables that are in danger of breaking. With caution, I venture onto a piece of bridge that is still intact. With my toes, I test the solidity of the ground in front of me before moving forward. After a few tens of meters, the bridge disappears to make way for a maze of large rusty cables. Some are in better condition than others, I have to choose well. I run a hand over one of them, up to a huge rivet that I cling to. My other hand follows the same path to another rivet, on the other side of the cable. I secure my hold then hoist my legs up and wrap them around the steel rope. So, slowly, I drag my body along this uncertain line of life. Below me there is nothing but endless emptiness. I can’t afford any mistakes.
When I have progressed a few meters, I wave to Elton and he takes the same path after me. We move slowly, to the slow rhythm of our fear, the sweat running down our foreheads and into our collars. I regularly plunge my hands into the small pocket at my side. Magnesia is one of the things we’re starting to run out of and hope to find in the northern zone. Because without magnesia, there is no climbing, and if we can no longer climb and move along the cables, we will remain stuck on one of the towers, doomed to starve in a long agony. Our progress is facilitated by the absence of wind and, a quarter of an hour later, we reach the next tower, a few floors below. With any luck, we will have reached the northern zone for lunch. Around noon, we almost reach the goal. We crossed eight towers and descended a few hundred meters into the City. Here, the clouds are permanent and the sun’s rays struggle to pierce the thick misty layer to illuminate the sad surroundings. I look at the dilapidated tower in front of me. The northern area is just on the other side, past a new chasm. I shiver, then jump when Elton’s hand lands on my arm.
“Ready?” he signs.
I nod and he shakes my hand briefly before walking past me. We step over a pile of rubble to get inside the building. Despite the lack of light outside, my eyes take a while to get used to the darkness. I don’t prefer to light my lamp here, not unless it’s really necessary. It is an old hydroponic greenhouse. Its large windows are drowned in greenish mold. The automated systems must have survived for a while since some rows of plants are still green. The others are just cracked skeletons, some crumble into brown dust at the slightest touch. Elton has already stepped forward to pick those that can be eaten. It’s a valuable find, but I can’t help but find this display of half-dead plants gloomy. Roots ventured out of their domains in search of nutrients they couldn’t find, but that didn’t save them. They hang from the bins above our heads, brown and withered, making the place look like a huge spider lair. It is however not the only greenhouse nor the first that I see. Devoid of any solid soil and cultivable land, the Hanging City subsisted exclusively thanks to greenhouses like this one, with others favoring agriculture by aquaponics or aeroponics. We cross quickly, recovering on our way all that we find edible. I’m uncomfortable, I feel like hundreds of phantom eyes are looking at me and judging me. I am responsible for the state of the City, responsible for the dead who populate it. Me and my mother’s madness.
I focus my attention on Elton. I didn’t realize I had stopped. I have the impression that this is not the first time that he signs my first name without my reacting. I give her a smile and set off again, no need to worry her with my stories of ghosts and guilt. The cable that should lead us to the northern zone is slippery, the descent is difficult. Every time my hands grip against the metal, I feel like I’m going to let go and fall into the void that awaits me like a voracious being below. Finally, we arrive. I straighten up on the platform that I have just reached, look around me. It’s even darker here, the humidity clings to my skin, which no wind comes to dry. I don’t want to be there, I feel naked, exposed. We move forward with caution. This is banshee territory. Elton wants us to split up, to cover more ground, to stay shorter. I hesitate, I’m afraid. He reassures me with gestures that make no sense in my blind fear. He moves away. I remain alone, alone with my secrets. I have to pull myself together. I have a part of the tower to explore, if I want to be able to get away from here as soon as possible. I start moving again, walking slowly towards the back of the hall in front of me.
Suddenly, something moves, on the periphery of my vision. A form, which appeared then disappeared. I freeze, my heartbeat echoing in my head like the pounding of fear. Wide-eyed, I wait. Another movement, perceived out of the corner of the eye. And then, a cry, echo of the dead it contains, tearing of an endless agony. Then she is in front of me, still far away and yet so close. She doesn’t look much human anymore. Her long hair forms a shroud around her slender, pale limbs. She looks wet, as if her skin is oozing thick liquid. Even at this distance, its smell is strong, the smell of the sea, of fresh iodine. The yellow-green tint of his skin gives him a sickly appearance, the darker green of his hair makes one think of a sheaf of seaweed torn by the tide. She looks like a drowned woman, come back from the dead to take us with her. The creature didn’t kill my mother, I always knew that. I was in the lab that day, the day of the disaster. I don’t know what she injected. She had no human guinea pig other than herself, no other choice in her obsession. It didn’t work out the way she had planned. My mother became the banshee. I never told anyone. This secret, I kept it deep inside me for all these years, certain that it would be my downfall, the end of everything. I ran away from the laboratory, I told that my mother was dead. Then I fled, as far away from her as I could. Far from the truth.
For a very long moment, we remain facing each other, separated by the large empty and dark room. We look at each other. In some of her features, I still recognize my mother, the one who raised me, who watched me grow, who loved me. And what does she see when she looks at me? Does she even recognize me? She doesn’t move, seems frozen, anchored to the ground, her bulging eyes with huge pupils fixed on me. Footsteps behind my back. Elton. I feel panic rising in me. No no no ! Not now ! They grabbed me by the clothes to pull me back. I let myself go, eyes still riveted on her. Elton drags me to the outer platform and then starts shaking me, his eyes full of storm. He then lets go of me so he can sign violently, his face twisted. “Sin! What is that ? It’s the banshee, it’s her, isn’t it? It’s your mother, I’m not blind, it’s her! You knew it ? Tell me you didn’t know that! » I don’t answer. What could I tell him? He will forgive me, he has always forgiven me. He continues to gesticulate, screaming silently with his hands. I am watching him. He’s no longer afraid of the banshee, now that he knows the truth. No longer afraid of her scream either, since he is deaf. He’s not scared anymore, but he’s angry like I’ve never seen him before. A doubt grips me. What if he didn’t forgive me this time? A howl rings out behind me, so mournful, full of unspeakable pain, like the song of the end of the world, the sound of the victory of death over life. I turn quickly. She is there, at the entrance to the tower, looking at us with her shark eyes, cruel and soulless. She seems to be waiting for something, or maybe someone. Maybe it’s me she’s been waiting for, she’s always been waiting for me.
I turn to Elton again. He’s calmed down, he’s looking at me funny. His eyes go from me to the creature, then to me again. I’ve never seen that expression on his face. Very slowly, he raises his hands and asks the one question that shouldn’t be asked. “Sin, you hear, don’t you? You heard her scream, that’s why you turned around. You couldn’t know otherwise. » I don’t know what to say to him, but he doesn’t need to. He understands that it is the truth. I’ve been hearing for five years. Five years since the scream of the banshee gave me back my hearing. From my mother’s first scream, that scream that drove others crazy gave me back the sense I was missing. I’m the only one to hear beauty over death. She wasn’t so insane, my mother, after all. His experiments eventually paid off. She healed my ears, as she had hoped, even though it didn’t happen as she had planned. Elton stares at me, as if seeing me for the first time. As if he didn’t know me. As if he didn’t like this stranger in front of him, this stranger lying to him. I don’t like his look, I don’t like what I see in his eyes. That hurts me. His eyes always said he loved me. Now they say he’s gonna leave me too. I raise my hands, caress his cheeks, place them tenderly on his chest and smile at him. Then, with force, I push him. He doesn’t let out a scream as he topples over and falls into the endless abyss, as if he’s forgotten how to use his voice. His eyes no longer seem to want to leave me, they only express surprise, the immense astonishment of death. It’s better, better than the eyes that leave me. And very quickly, it disappears in the clouds. I stare into space for a moment, staring at the slice of mist in which I lost him. My eyes then return to my hands. They don’t shake, it’s strange. I turn to my mother. She is still waiting for me. Very well. At least I won’t be alone.
In the early morning, the nightclub had nothing of its superb. Lieutenant Hansen pushed aside the protective strips that barred the entrance, clumsily placed by a policeman who was unaccustomed to crime scenes. He hadn’t had time to drink coffee, having been woken much too early by the sergeant’s call. He’d just put on his clothes, grabbed the car keys, and arrived on the scene as his watch hand hit six o’clock. Not an hour to start the day this way, he thought, rubbing his eyes at the remnants of his hangover. Once through the anonymous doors, in front of which a nonchalant cat had replaced the line of revelers waiting their turn to enter, it took him a few moments to adjust his gaze to the semi-darkness that reigned in the room. Under the gray light falling from a ventilator, the track looked seedy. Lieutenant Hansen moved quickly towards the back of the room, without lingering on the bar on his right and its mirrors, which only reflected emptiness. Hard to believe in the silence that weighed on the place, that a few hours earlier, a crowd of people moved in the middle of the track, moving to the hypnotic rhythm of techno hits, while others came and went from the bar with a drink in hand, after yelling their order to the bartender who nodded his head to signify that he had understood. A discreet door opened at the end of the room on the spaces reserved for the personnel. Brigadier Andersen was waiting for Hansen:
«Hello my lieutenant. It’s this way. “Hello Andersen. – I warn you, it’s not a pretty sight. »
Hansen made a vague wave of his hand, to signify that he had seen others. The two men entered a corridor which led to several doors.
« It’s at the bottom, my lieutenant. In the boss’s office. He had finished closing, and he went to look for his car keys in his office, like every day. That’s where he came across… the corpse. »
The door was ajar. You could hear men talking behind. Hansen pushed open the door cautiously. At the same time, three gendarmes turned their gaze towards the newcomer, and greeted him briefly, as if conviviality could have no place in such circumstances. The lieutenant’s gaze was immediately drawn to the figure lying on the ground. A woman, as the brigadier had told him. Still, his heartbeat quickened as if he hadn’t expected it. With her sequined dress pulled up to the top of her thighs, her cheap shoes with oversized heels lying on the floor and her hair dishevelled, she looked like a stranded wreck, thrown up by the sea like trash.
Hansen closed his eyes for a moment. A flash. The same woman dancing with a greedy frenzy in the middle of other dancers. Men pressed against her, irresistibly attracted by her provocative swaying, her eyes full of innuendo, her seductive mouth. The lieutenant chased away the image. The woman now had her eyes half-closed, with a frightening stare. Purple markings marbled his pale neck.
« Strangled?” Hansen asked in a voice that sounded weaker than he wanted. – Affirmative, my lieutenant. »
Andersen, who had remained in the background, took a few steps towards him. “We have started the surveys. The body should soon be taken away for examination by the coroner. The team should arrive soon. We didn’t touch anything, of course, but in my opinion, it’s strangulation, we have no trace of blood.
« And the boss, asked Hansen with a dry throat. Where is the boss? – To the gendarmerie, my lieutenant. Fergusen takes his statement. – Good,” Hansen said. Then, not knowing what to say, he repeated, “Good, good.” »
To keep himself in countenance, he took a few steps towards the victim. The headache that had been smoldering since he woke up now rumbled furiously between his temples. Hansen wondered again what had gotten him such a hangover. He really had no memory of his evening. It was happening to him more and more often lately, and if he had never ended up in the salad cart of his colleagues, he had to thank the lucky star that was watching over him. I have to stop my bullshit, he thought, looking at the woman who had gone too far, there was no turning back. Mechanically, his gaze went around the room, and he immediately noticed discreet but very real traces of struggle. Papers had slipped on the floor. An ashtray was overturned not far from the victim.
«The boss of the club is our main suspect, of course,” continued the brigadier, who did not seem to have noticed his superior’s slight discomfort. Or an employee who would have had access to the premises.
Was the office locked?
I don’t know, Lieutenant. You will have to ask the owner the question. “Let’s go out,” Hansen said. There are five of us suffocating in this room. »
The two men retreated onto the dance floor. The blind walls, without the illusion of the play of lights, were squalid, coated with a dark paint peeling and stained with various splinters. The broom that had been used to clean the floor sat in a corner, next to the pile of dust that no one had bothered to pick up.
«I wish I had a little black one,” Hansen said, feeling his legs wobble.
– What’s wrong, Lieutenant? Anderson asked. You are quite pale. »
Hansen gestured that he wanted out. The room revolved around him. Dull shocks hammered his skull. Boom, boom, boom. He put his hand on the sergeant’s shoulder for support. He closed his eyes again. A new flash. The woman was there, right next to him, laughing lasciviously. Around her, the other dancers melted into an indistinct blur. The deafening music stunned Hansen with its repeated pounding. The woman had grabbed the lapel of his jacket, and was pulling him towards him. The cool early morning air made her open her eyes. Andersen watched him with worried eyes.
“Are you all right, my lieutenant?”
– Yes, Andersen, it’s better. A moment of fatigue. The night was short, I believe. »
Today I am posting a somewhat special text. I lost my grandfather earlier this week. He was a pillar for me so I had to do something to honor him. I hope you’ll like it.
Grandpa died last night. Dad and I drive towards Jørlunde, eyes moist. My father hits the steering wheel every time the traffic slows down, grumbling: “What a jerk! What an idea he had to go up on the roof! Images from my recent vacation come to mind: colorful kites tearing through the gray sky. I wipe my nose again with my soaked sleeve and shout silently: “ Grandpa ! Why ? »
Dad drops me off in front of his childhood home, a tall, five-story building that survived World War II. He asks me if he can leave me, the time to go “ do what is necessary ” for grandfather. I accept, of course, without realizing that for the first time I will be alone in this house where I have spent all my summers, as far back as I can remember.
As soon as I walked through the door, the smell of waxed wood brings a few tears to my eyes – I imagine my next vacation away from this soon to be lifeless place. In the living room, I linger over the photos placed on the sideboard: grandmother; grandfather and her, little piece of woman, hand in hand on the beach; my father on a racing bike; me, very young, all smiles in the middle of a huge sandcastle. I fix these images and engrave them in my memory. Standing in front of the large library, I take the time to recognize the books that I have seen a thousand times near the armchair next to the fireplace. A book with a golden cover, which I had never spotted, caught my eye. I climb on a chair to grab it; the title surprises me: How to age well – not the kind of reading for this house. I open the manual, a feather falls. I pick it up, and notice the wet ink on its end. After a few seconds, I finally sit down in front of the thick wooden table to read these tips that will no longer apply to my grandpa. All pages are blank. Not a single sign, not even a date, nothing. What good advice, congratulations! In rage, I take up the pen and almost engrave my recommendation to myself, on a random sheet: “ Do not walk on a slippery roof ! I slam the book shut and put it back in place before running upstairs to throw myself on my mattress.
Dad comes home a few hours later, dejected. Little talkative, we dine quickly then go up to bed to put an end to this cursed day. From my bed, I hear the wooden floor creak – my father is approaching. The creaks stop – short pause behind the door. He finally comes in, draws the curtains of my room and wishes me good night without looking at me.
The next morning, rays of light stream through the new shutters and wake me up. I hear my mother stirring the kitchen utensils down the hall. Strange sensations, feeling of having braked suddenly, that my memories collided with the walls of my skull. I slept at my house, not at my grandfather’s. I tumble in pajamas in front of my mother, my eyes still glued, and ask her:
— Where is dad ? — In the garden,” she replies. I do not understand. — And grandpa Michel? — Grandpa, I don’t know. At his place, or at the beach, I imagine. Call him if you want. I sit up abruptly, afraid my legs will wobble and let me fall.
At noon, I insist with my father throughout the meal: I want to eat at grandpa’s this evening. He gives in – the privilege of being an only son of an only son. My grandfather, always very happy to receive us, simmered his famous roast for us. After dinner, while my parents are washing the dishes and tidying up the kitchen, I take out the cards to play belote. When I close the drawer of the sideboard where the photos are enthroned, I turn around and ask my grandpa a question, without thinking: — Do you think of grandma sometimes? — day. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. — And are you talking to him? — Nope. Not directly. I talk to myself, and since she is etched in my memory, she may hear me. — What was the disease that took her away again? — A hereditary filth, banal and sad, which left him no chance. — Could we treat her today? — Quite a question! I do not know. I do not believe. Do you have any funny ideas tonight, big boy… Shall we play? My parents arrive at the same time.
Restless nights for two weeks, intense reflections, I think I know what happened, without obviously understanding. I alternate between fear and joy at having brought my grandfather back. I didn’t tell my parents. I often have a headache. Dead, not dead, that’s a lot of emotions.
Rainy Saturday, dark gray early afternoon. I’m trying to solve a puzzle when the phone rings. My mother picks up and wipes her hands on her apron. I see her become livid, she cries to me: — Go get your father, quickly!
Grandfather died this morning in a car accident. Dad and I drive towards Jørlunde, eyes full of water, like the road. My father hits the steering wheel every time the red lights of the vehicles in front of us come on, grumbling: — What a jerk! What an idea to drive in such weather! Images of beaches, kites, roofs and feathers cross my mind. I blow my nose in the crook of my elbow, my head is spinning – want to vomit.
My father stops in front of grandpa’s house. He tells me that he will “do what is necessary” and that he will be back soon. Raining cats and dogs. I walk across the yard, go around the puddles, protected by my yellow raincoat. I slam the door, drop my jacket on the tiled hallway, and rush into the living room. The golden book has not moved. I take it gently this time – I don’t want to damage it and make it unusable. I open it to a page drawn at random, and with the quill already inked, I write diligently: “ Do not drive in torrential rain ! “.
My father arrives a few hours later. I come to meet him in the hallway; we hold each other in our arms. We don’t experience the same emotions and he doesn’t know it. During dinner, I chatter a little more than the circumstances would require, but he notices nothing, haggard.
The next morning, my mother comes to drag me out of bed with the promise of hot pancakes. The sun pushes aside the curtain of clouds with vigor. With my mouth still full, I ask if we can eat at grandpa’s tonight; my mother replies that it is already planned.
In Jørlunde, when I set the table, I hear my father talking low, but with intensity, with my grandpa. I only catch snippets of the discussion: it’s about degeneracy and relentlessness – I don’t understand a thing. The evening ends with a game of cards; my grandfather and I, with a smile on our lips, we beat my parents to the hilt.
Another week passes. I fell back to sleep. I feel like I have a super power. At times, that scares me.
Sunday noon, my father comes into my room with tears in his eyes. I can’t believe him when he tells me that grandpa fell off the roof. ” Still ? I want to say, biting my lip. Three accidents, including two falls from the roof in one month, that’s not possible. I curse all the gods I know, and get in the car towards Jørlunde.
My father drops me in front of the house and I run into the living room. When I take the magic book and open it, a postcard falls on the ground. The photo looks like an advertisement for Lake Filsø: a black and red kite crosses the azure sky. I recognize grandfather’s handwriting. He left me a note, very short: “Big boy, I know it’s difficult, but please let me go. I am very sick and I prefer to leave alive. I put my atoms back into play and I join grandma. I like you. Grandpa. »
Last night grandfather died for the last time.
Jeg savner dig så meget bedstefar. Hvis jeg blev den kvinde, jeg er i dag på trods af mors fravær, er det takket være dig. Du vil altid være i mine tanker. Jeg elsker dig rigtig meget.
Take care of yourself and your loved ones, tell them you love them and see you soon!