Extra | Short Story 3: Transience

 

Short Story #3
“Transience”
3687 Words

Snowe stared at the canopy above his bed and studied it a moment. It hadn’t changed; the loose thread was still there, the faint glowing stars still stitched into the fabric. The diary on his desk still had no entries in it, but pages had been ripped out. He recalled he had done that; Richard was pressuring him to write in it, but every time he would, he would have a headache so great he had to lie down. He wondered if something was wrong with him, but Richard and Vera assured him that everything was all right. Vague memories of a blonde haired girl passed through his head, but she was a few years younger than him. If his mother was to be believed (and Snowe started to doubt that she could be), he had turned fifteen a few days ago. But where had that blonde girl gone?

The prince sat up in his bed and slipped out of it. It was nearing midnight he was sure but he couldn’t sleep. He wondered if he had this problem the previous night, but at the same time, he couldn’t remember anything about yesterday. His mind was fuzzy and perhaps that was from the lack of sleep. He moved to the diary and looked at it again. Pages and pages had been ripped out, Snowe wasn’t sure how many, but even though he knew he had tried to write in them once upon a time, he couldn’t remember when. What would he write anyway? Nothing happened.
At midnight, Snowe wondered what he could find in the castle. Anything that would lull him to sleep would be nice. He peeked out of his room and found the ever present guard standing by. When the guard noticed Snowe, he flashed the prince a smile that didn’t feel quite real.

“What are you doing up, Prince Snowe?” the guard asked. “It’s the middle of the night.”

“No it’s not,” Snowe said and smiled. “It’s morning.”

The guard paused as the thought rolled over in his mind. When Snowe kept smiling, the guard nodded and stretched his arms. “Is it already?” the guard asked. “Time passes by pretty quickly here.”

“It does.”

Snowe left the guard and went down the steps. He wasn’t sure what power he had over the guards, but they sure agreed with him quickly. Another quirk he figured. When he grinned or laughed, the nearest guard would do the same. It was almost eerie but Snowe found that even though he should mind, he didn’t. It was just a harmless quirk. It made them easy to deal with after all.

The castle was still warm even though it was the dead of night. The halls were lighted by the flickering candles that never seemed to go out and Snowe recalled once that he played hide-and-seek with the children from town one night long ago. He was a child then, he was sure, and so were they. Snowe paused in the hall as he entertained the thought. They were few and far between he found. Francis and Ivy were still children and so were Theodore and Anastasia. Immediately he wished he hadn’t followed the line of thought; his head exploded with pain and he staggered forward, leaning against the wall.

“Snowe?”

Snowe jumped and almost fell backwards as he found Richard coming down the hall. The adviser hadn’t been there a moment ago and Snowe suddenly realized he was on the ground. When did I fall down? he wondered. He glanced out of the window and found the hint of sunlight streaming in, illuminating the hall as much as it could. When did morning come?

“How long have you been down here? You’re ice cold,” Richard said as he helped Snowe to his feet.

“I was just thinking,” Snowe said and smiled. He knew Richard wouldn’t return the smile; the guards and the people in Sabine would, but never Richard or Vera or even his parents.

“We should get you back to your room,” Richard replied.

“You look tired today,” Snowe remarked as Richard led him down the hall. “Were you that tired yesterday?” He stifled a laugh and Richard stopped in his tracks and gave the prince an alarmed stare. “Oh wait, no you broke your glasses yesterday, right? Did Vera fix them already?”

“Snowe I broke my glasses a few months ago,” Richard whispered.

“Did you?” Snowe laughed again and felt another burst of pain in his head. He ran a hand through his hair and tried to grin once more. “Did Francis and Ivy finish that snowman already? They said they’d let me help.”

Richard’s face paled and he put his hands on Snowe’s shoulder. “What’s wrong Snowe?”

Snowe shrugged. He could barely think with this headache and he covered his mouth to stifle another laugh. “S-sorry, was that last year maybe? With all the days looking the same I think I lost track again.”

“Have you tried writing in that diary your mother gave you?” Richard asked.

“The funny thing is every time I try, I have a really bad headache,” Snowe said. He winced and pushed Richard away and tried walking down the hall again. “Maybe I can try again, it’s sure to get rid of this headache I have right now actually.”

The room swam and Snowe was sure he tripped over his own feet; he stumbled forward and suddenly his bed was underneath him again. Sunlight streamed through the windows and he sat up. Just like yesterday, Snowe mused to himself and slipped out of bed. He stepped over to the diary and sure enough, no entries just like before. He made a mental note to try again later in the day. It was his birthday today if his memory was correct; Richard could keep track of the days really well and Snowe was trying to give it a shot.

After he got dressed, Snowe left his room. Richard was in the hallway talking to a guard and Snowe smiled upon seeing Richard. “Good morning!” he said.

Richard jumped at the prince’s voice and looked at him. He still looked pale as though he was sick.

“Are you sick?” Snowe asked.

“N-no, I’m not,” Richard replied. He placed a hand on Snowe’s forehead. “You fell down some steps a little while earlier, are you all right?” he asked.

“I did?” Snowe laughed and grinned. “I’m just fine. Wow, what a way to start my birthday, huh?”

As if Richard could get any paler. “Your birthday was a few days ago,” he said.

Snowe winced as his head exploded in pain. “R-really?” he asked. “I mean, I guess it-it must have been. All the days look the same, how can you even tell them apart?”

A pause and Snowe shifted uncomfortably. The headache was only getting worse but Richard kept staring at him like he was searching for something.

“Let’s get you back to your room, Snowe,” Richard said and steered Snowe around.

“Aw, I just got up,” Snowe said as he tried to wriggle free from Richard. “Let me just eat something, that’ll make me feel better!”

He got out of Richard’s grip but he regretted that decision shortly after; he stumbled to the floor as the room swam. He felt like this before, he knew it. Once again, a headache exploded in his head and he shut his eyes tight. As he slumped to the floor, he found himself sunk in his pillow.

Just like yesterday, Snowe mused to himself. He was too comfortable so he didn’t move. Sure, he wondered why he was clothed and tucked in tightly, but he didn’t feel like moving. Safe and sound underneath the fake stars above his head. Maybe he could sleep the day away. Everything would be better tomorrow.

. . .

Edgar and Lina were due to come home anytime now and Richard tried to go over what he would do when they did come back. Day after day they were holed up elsewhere and no one could ever find them. Perhaps they were in the sky; they were always elated when they came home, fresh tans, and speaking of how bright and warm it was wherever they went.

Snowe was getting worse and neither seemed to care. Ever since they’d met with the Original King, Snowe’s health and memories had been doing weird things. He could barely remember things he did the previous day and his memories he did have were always jumbled up when Richard tried to talk to him. His magic would change day to day as though he’d forget his lessons or he’d remember them suddenly and burn the food on his plate. He never remembered doing that either. Edgar and Lina wouldn’t let him go to town very often; it seemed to bring out the worse in Snowe. No one aged aside from Snowe and at times, Richard was sure he noticed even though he wasn’t supposed to. Maybe that was the problem. The children in town, the ones Snowe used to play with, never changed and they never noticed he had grown while they had not.

Everything was going wrong and Edgar and Lina seemed not to care.

The doors to the castle opened and just like before, Edgar and Lina strolled through, looking happier than Richard had seen them in the last fifteen years. Edgar was just a bit more tanned than before and Richard was sure Lina had a sunburn, but that didn’t put a damper on her mood at all.

“What’s wrong Richard?” Edgar asked as he and Lina paused at the doors.

“You have to take the spells off Snowe,” Richard said.

“No, we can’t,” Edgar snapped, his mood suddenly worsened. “We do that and then everyone in town are going to suddenly remember everything,” he pointed out. “They’re happier how they are.”

“And suddenly it gets very cold again,” Lina pointed out quickly.

“Do you know what it’s doing to him?” Richard asked. “The spells are warping his mind, you have to do something. He can’t remember things from day to day and whenever he does, he gets a splitting headache.”

“It’ll go away with time,” Lina said as she waved her hand dismissively. “It says it right there in the spell books.”

“How the hell do you expect me to talk about him if you keep the spells on him? And even me?” Richard shouted, losing his patience. “How the hell did you even manage that?”

“Richard, it’s all for the best. He’s happy and so is the town,” Edgar stressed. “Who cares about anything else? You’ll all have a peaceful death someday so don’t worry about it.”

“Then what am I supposed to do with Snowe?” Richard whispered. “If this keeps happening?”

“You just have to give him something to remember every day,” Edgar suggested. “Haven’t you gotten him to write in that diary yet?”

The urge to deck Edgar across the face rose within Richard, but he took a deep breath. “And that’s the problem: every time he does, he passes out from a headache,” he explained. “Do either of you even care?”

“We’re on our way to fix everything, Richard, stop worrying,” Lina explained, her tone of voice becoming darker.

“Soon we can all forget all this ever happened and be happy forever! Just trust us, will you?”

“You trapped that thing in Snowe and all he’s had since then are problems!” Richard snapped. “That thing is never coming out of him, is it?”

“You’re being too dramatic,” Edgar said. “He’ll be fine because we’ll be fine. Don’t you get it?”

They had changed and Richard held back from decking his former friend once again. Not once had they acted this way before they came to this island. Whatever was decaying their bodies was decaying their minds, Richard was sure of it.

“You have to do something. Snowe can barely function as it is.”

“Fine,” Edgar snapped as he ran a hand through his hair. “I have an idea. Don’t worry anymore, Richard, I’ll deal with it.”

Richard would rather had Lina volunteer; she was far kinder to Snowe than Edgar ever was. Lina just smiled, her cheeks rosy and as Edgar strode off to do whatever had come to mind, she walked up to Richard and patted his shoulder.

“I guarantee you by tomorrow morning, we’ll all be happier,” she said quietly. She gave the bag across her shoulder a tap and just giggled to herself as she walked forward, almost twirling as she went into the throne room.
Something had changed and as Richard watched her go, he felt a shudder go down his spine.

. . .

Edgar entered Snowe’s room an hour or so later with a bottle filled with something he had thrown together in the Magic Hall. The Magic Helpers were so damned insistent that he was doing it wrong, but how would they know? They hadn’t ever seen the ingredients he was using and he could follow a book to the letter without their help. Snowe was still curled up in his bed, a few bruises on him from what Edgar guessed was the poor boy falling all over the place from headaches. A stuffed bunny sat near Snowe and Edgar wished he could remember where it had come from. He briefly wondered if it was Astra’s, but after a short deliberation, he figured it didn’t matter. It wouldn’t after today.

“Rise and shine,” Edgar said in a sing-song voice as he pulled up a chair to Snowe’s bed.

Snowe sat up abruptly and tried to look presentable. “S-sorry, is it that late?” he asked.

“No, it’s not late at all,” Edgar said as he grabbed the glass of water from Snowe’s desk. He handed it to Snowe.

“Drink the rest of this.”

Snowe always did as he was told and he drank what was left in the glass in one gulp. As he handed the glass back, Edgar placed the bottle on the desk.

“Heard you’ve been having headaches,” Edgar remarked.

“H-Have I?” Snowe asked.

“Don’t you remember?”

“I g-guess I have,” Snowe added hurriedly.

The liquid poured forth from the bottle; it was dark red in color and Edgar was sure it smelled of cherries if he still had his scent. It had been long gone for a few months following his sense of taste. All side effects he was sure from dealing with that damn demon. He handed the newly filled glass to Snowe.

“This’ll help,” Edgar said.

“What is it?” Snowe asked as he peered at the liquid.

“Medicine,” Edgar lied as he sat back. “Just drink up.”

Once again, the boy did as he was told. It only took a few seconds to take effect and Snowe fell into the bed again, dropping his glass in the process. Edgar caught it before it hit the ground, lest Richard get overly paranoid again. In truth, Edgar was sure it wouldn’t work as much as Richard would hope, but all Snowe needed was an event to base every day forth on. The boy was fifteen now and he would be an adult soon; the spell book had also said that would keep everything level. Adolescent ages were so tumultuous. In the meantime, the drink would dull any headache he’d receive henceforth, Edgar knew that; it worked wonders on Lina when she was pregnant with Snowe.

The king watched the prince sleep for a few moments; every fiber of that boy was a reminder to Edgar how everything had failed and how incompetent he had been. Sabine had burned up through an act of desperation and trickery and everyone who mattered had died that night. Saved by a man with the same sheen in his hair like Snowe’s, but now, Edgar and Lina had everything they needed to be happy. Their hardships would end and Edgar knew that soon too would Snowe’s. He just needed an event to remember above all else.

Edgar took the bottle from the desk and turned to Snowe’s diary. Pages had been torn out and he was sure some of the ends of the remaining pages were scorched. If the boy hadn’t been born in the summer, Edgar was sure he could tolerate Snowe just a bit more. Nevertheless, Edgar took up the quill next to the diary and dipped the tip in the ink. The prince rolled over in his bed and Edgar glanced back at the boy; his back was to Edgar now. The urge to smother the boy crossed Edgar’s mind, but he knew Lina wouldn’t approve and it would surely doom Richard and what was left of Sabine so he took a deep breath and returned to the diary. After this day, he wouldn’t even have to think about it any longer; Snowe was the reason they could do this even if Edgar had no care in the world for the boy. If all possible, when everything was said and done, he’d simply forget and Snowe would be the son he had always wanted. That’s what Edgar would focus on and it would be.

With quick strikes, Edgar wrote the date in the diary and a few simple words: “This is the day my parents died.”
Taking a swig from the bottle, Edgar returned the quill to the desk and strode out. The effects didn’t hit him as hard as it had hit Snowe but as he walked out, he felt himself stumble. He took a deep breath and the guard gave him an awkward glance.

“Is something wrong?” the guard asked.

Edgar grinned and shook his head. “Everything’s fine,” he said quietly and passed the guard. The guard, overcome with sudden complacency, forgot Edgar was even there and returned to his post.

Lina was waiting for Edgar in their room. Her cheeks still rosy and skin still pink from its exposure to the sun, she stood in wait. As Edgar entered, he took a deep breath; the room had long since been cleared right underneath Richard’s nose. Guards and Magic Helpers had done it in secret and right after they had finished, they forgot what they had done. Never to tell the secret.

In Lina’s hands were two wine glasses, one of the few things she had salvaged from her home. When Edgar came in, he wrapped his hands around her waist and kissed her on the neck.

“Is Snowe asleep?” Lina asked as she giggled and wriggled free from his grip.

“Fast asleep,” Edgar said as he shook the near empty bottle in his hands.

“You drank some too didn’t you?” Lina placed the wine glasses in one hand and with her free one, she reached out and touched Edgar’s face.

“Well I don’t want this to hurt, do I?” Edgar said as he placed his arms around his wife’s waist again. “There’s still a little left.”

“I’ll be just fine,” Lina whispered and handed a wine glass to her husband. As he took it, she grabbed an ornate bottle from her bag and looked at it. Her smile faded. “I’m going to miss him I think.”

“We can pretend he’s up there with us, I’m sure one of the phantoms up there will oblige us,” Edgar replied. When Lina didn’t smile, he pulled her closer and gave her a tight hug. “We’re dying here; we have to leave while we still can.”

Still no smile, but Lina uncorked the bottle and poured its contents into the two wine glasses. Once again, Edgar wished he had his sense of smell; it was sure to smell just like his favorite wine. His legs buckled underneath him and he and his wife slumped to the floor. A bit of the wine spilled, but Lina giggled.

“You shouldn’t have drank that stuff,” Lina said as she placed her bottle on the floor.

“We’ll be fine,” Edgar said as he placed his bottle on the floor. He ran a hand through his wife’s hair and she giggled again, leaning in to kiss him deeply. If his body hadn’t been so decayed, Edgar knew he would enjoy that a bit more.

“We found it while he rotted,” Lina whispered as she withdrew from Edgar. A grin had spread across her face. “And we’ll never tell him how we managed it!” She erupted into a fit of laughs as her cheeks flushed.

“And we’ll be happy again,” Edgar added. “And so will everyone on this island.”

They clinked the wine glasses together and both the king and queen took a deep breath. Their bodies had decayed long enough. They had suffered long enough. It was time to join the sky and feel at peace. Together, the king and queen downed the contents of their wine glasses. The effect was quick; every single piece of decay that had plagued Edgar’s body suddenly went numb. His arms slumped and the wine glass shattered on the floor. Tears ran down from Lina’s eyes as she grabbed her husband’s face and held it. Second thoughts were creeping up on them both, Edgar knew it.

“We’ll be happy right?” she cried. “I don’t want to feel this pain any longer.”

Edgar only wished his arms hadn’t decayed; he couldn’t hold his wife and make the fear go away. Blood poured from them and he could see blood pooling underneath Lina’s dress as it poured out of the hole in her stomach. The pain would stop soon and Edgar nodded and leaned his forehead against Lina’s. “I promise you, Lina, we’ll be happy again. Just you wait.”

“I’ll miss him.”

. . .

Richard jumped in fright while he stood in the throne room. He looked up; something had shattered above. Like usual, the guards looked complacent. Snowe was complacent, so they must have been as well. That only meant it was Edgar and Lina. He cursed under his breath and ran for Edgar and Lina’s room. The door was wide open and as Richard stood in the doorway, he froze. His knees buckled underneath him and he fell to the floor.

The king and queen were dead.