Late Night Traveler

by Jamie Burns

    Luka stretched his neck back and forth, leaning back in his chair. He had been at his desk a solid six hours. Dr. Luka Banton’s commitment to his work always leaned toward the path of obsession. The only thing holding him back from going over the edge was asleep on the lounge chair to his right.  

    Luka looked over at his daughter, fast asleep, her book held askew from when she nodded off. She was coming up on her twelfth birthday and every day that Luka looked at her he saw more and more of her mother. It was a beautiful but painful feeling. As anyone that has lost their soul mate will tell you, no amount of time can dull that pain. It had been over six years since Luka’s wife died and his pain was as fresh as an open wound.

   Luka’s mind dropped all his work and thought only of his wife and daughter. He rubbed his eyes realizing how tired he truly was and looked at the clock. He hadn’t realized it was so late and had the familiar feeling of being an irresponsible father. He scooped his daughter up gently and carried her up to her room. Once she was safely tucked in, Luka quietly walked out and closed the door gently. Normally he would have sent her off to bed hours ago but sometimes he was too wrapped up in work to notice a silly thing like time.   

   Just as the door clicked closed a noise came from down stairs. Luka’s head snapped toward the noise and he made his way carefully back down stairs. “Hello?” He called out once he was at the bottom of the stair case. Luka was a scientist, brute strength was not a trait he could boast. The thought of a fight had him feeling less than confident. He looked around the living room and found nothing, then moved back to his study. He looked the  room over from top to bottom to see that nothing was out of place. Once he confirmed that, he relaxed slightly and sat back down at his desk.

   In the closet across the room, a man watched through a crack in the door. Luka dragged his hand over his face and was trying to decide  whether to call it a night or to trudge on with his work. The papers on his desk were filled with theories and equations that he needed to solve and prove.

   This was not what the man in the closet had planned. Really, he didn’t have a plan. Now he thought to himself how stupid that was. If he was caught here the consequences could be dire. On the other hand, he might be able to explain his presence. If Dr. Banton didn’t think too hard about how the man had broken into his home, snuck around his office, then hidden inside of  his closet like a criminal. Maybe he could come out now and explain the situation or maybe that would make the universe explode. It was difficult to tell, as the man in the closet had yet to master the minutiae of time travel.

   The man in the closet pressed the button on his watch and it lit up telling him it was three thirty in the afternoon. It was most definitely three thirty in the afternoon at some point in time, many points of time, actually. But it sure wasn’t right then, in that closet. He felt stupid for forgetting to reset the watch when he arrived. He peered through the crack trying to read the clock on the wall but it was just slightly out of sight.

   Luka sat at his desk and started to pick up a pen again. The man in the closet tried to push the door open just another centimeter to see the clock. The resulting squeak from the hinge against the quite room might as well have been a gunshot. The man in the closet froze. Luka dropped the pen and stood. The man was still hidden in the darkness within. Luka took a step forward and the man in the closet stopped breathing. This is it, he thought, this is how he was going to meet Dr. Luka Banton. Not his best first impression.

   Luka took another step and reached his hand toward the door knob.       

  “Daddy!” A yell come from upstairs. Luka’s attention was immediately drawn to  the sound of his daughter’s cry and he rushed out of the room.  He rushed to her bedside and wrapped his arms around her.

  “Olivia, what is it sweetheart?” he asked.

  “I had a horrible dream.” she said through sobs.

  “It was only a dream dear.” He held her tightly.

  “I lost you!”

   “I’m right here.” He reassured her, as he stroked her hair. Her cries slowly diminished and they sat together hugging. Luka was a world class scientist. He had working for years making breakthroughs in his field, teaching courses, winning multiple grants and awards. Vastly successful by anyone’s standards. But the thing he was most proud of in his life was  fatherhood.  

  Once his daughter was back asleep Luka walked back into his study, having just about forgotten the squeak he had heard. Until he saw the closet door was now open. It was empty of course, and nothing in the study was missing. Luka checked the rest of the house thoroughly and found nothing. In the morning, he would call the police and have them look for fingerprints. They too would find nothing.  

    This was just the first instance of Luka and Olivia Banton’s lives being disrupted by travelers. And really, it was one of the more pleasant ones.

 

By Jamie Burns

She walked along the damp tunnel, her bare feet moving swiftly against the cold cement. The wind blew through the tunnel and right through the thin night gown she had been given. She knew that if not for all the adrenaline running through her she would feel frozen, but right now all she could feel was her heart pounding through her whole body.

She had nothing; no coat, no shoes, no means to tell how much time had passed. It felt like hours but really it was less than ten minutes. Less than ten minutes for her to change her life, less than ten minutes to either get her life back or end it for good.

The tunnel went on and on. She was finally nearing the end when in the distance she heard the dogs barking inside the tunnel behind her. She quickened her pace. Then she could hear men’s voices in the tunnel, yelling out indecipherable commands and information to each other. She ran through puddles and sludge praying that her feet wouldn’t find any glass. Then, a burst of fresh clean air blew across her face,  she had made it out of the tunnel. But it was of little relief since she was still a mile from the fence line. She sprinted toward it even though her lungs were already on fire. Dawn was on the horizon and if she could at least make it to the fence she might have a chance.

She had been locked in that room so long that running felt freeing mentally but excruciating physically. Once able to run for hours without feeling tired, now she was spent after  fifteen minutes. She was a shadow of what she once was and they had done that to her. They had taken all her detail away, all of her dimension and complexity. She hated them for that, she ran even harder.

The loud, clear barking of dogs filled the field telling her they had made it out of the tunnel. Their men would be behind them shortly. She ran and tried miserably not to wonder if the dogs would tear her apart before the men could shoot her.

She had covered the expanse of the clearing and reached the wooded area that came before the fence line. She was only a short way in when she ran straight through a patch of thorn bushes. She could push through a few scrapes on her legs but it was the ones that buried themselves deep into the bottom of her feet that made her fall to the ground. Rolling a few times before hitting a tree. She scrambled up next to the trunk and frantically pulled the thorns from her feet.

The low growl of a dog reverberated through the forest. They had caught up, and the first was now stopped just ten yards away. It’s head low to the ground and the fur on  its back standing on end, the snarling dog’s two companions fell in line behind it. After making it this far, coming so close, to die with nothing but a tiny hope. It was all she had left. Even with so little of it, she had to try. Maybe she was close enough. She clapped her hands together, interlaced her fingers and closed her eyes to concentrate, but nothing happened.

She opened her eyes. The dogs were now starting their slow approach. With her last shred of hope fading, she looked in the direction of the fence line and there as the first light of morning brightened the sky was a gleaming silver fence post. Without a second thought, she pushed herself away from the tree and sprinted for the post. Overjoyed to find the fence line had no fence to speak of. If she could just cross that line…

From the moment she started running the dogs closed the distance quickly.  She was sure she could feel their hot breath on the back of her legs. She extended her stride and pushed her body to its breaking point. As she did her best to jump over the brambles at the fence line,  one of the dogs knocked her to the ground. They both tumbled and rolled but by the time she stopped the beast was over the top of her, teeth bared and snarling. Terror overtook her for the split second before she realized they were over the line.   

She slammed her hands together in front of her in the space between her and the beast looming above. The blue surge of energy that shot from her hands manifested itself as a double-edged sword that glided smoothly up through the beast. Its snarl faded to confusion, then it was gone. She tossed it aside and popped up to her feet. The other two dogs split apart trying to encircle her. She pulled her hands apart but the energy stayed, the sword splitting in two so she wielded one in each hand. She felt her energy returning, the burn in her lungs and legs dissipating. Her energy filled her with more rage. Her natural state only reminded her of all they had taken from her.

The remaining dogs jumped at her almost simultaneously, the one behind her moving only seconds after the one in front. She stepped sideways and raised her hand over her head then swiftly back down, slicing off the heads of both beasts in one fluid motion.

It sounded like the men were now closing the distance. All she wanted was to get out, to get free. Now standing at the edge of her own hell, her prison over the last five years with the men that tortured her approaching a place where she was the one with the power her feelings shifted. Did she want freedom? Or did she really want revenge? Inside the scared girl that had spent years there told her to leave then. But with the energy that coursed through her, the rage filled warrior she was supposed to become told her to stay. So she stayed, broken and angry she was intoxicated with her own power and intoxication leads to bad judgement.

She moved farther away from the fence line but still within view to lure them to her. The four men stopped when they saw the dogs, dead on the ground and exchanged looks with one another. They spotted her, no blue energy coming from her hands just a slight, barefoot girl in a dirty, thin nightgown.  Like the dogs they were, they too spread out to surround her.

The man in front of her held out a hand. “27, why don’t you come back now and save us the trouble of dragging you back.”

“That’s not my name.” She said under her breath.

“You don’t have a name.” His voice dripping with disdain.

The men closed in around her, and she tried to track them all in her peripheral vision but  lost one behind her. That was the first moment she wished she had listen to the scared little girl that said leave. It was too late now. She steeled herself and looked up and meet the gaze of the man in front.  

“I might not have a name, but in a moment, you won’t have a head.”

His smug look faltered for a moment and she focused the energy back to her hands, the blue light illuminating the forest around them. All the men took a step back as the dual swords formed. The leader tried to keep his composure but every tiny waver in his confidence made her giddy with pleasure.

“You really think you can win you worthless piece of garbage?” He spat at her.

At the words, she jumped high into the air toward him, twice as high as she had been able to jump within the fence line. Calling her garbage was the last thing he ever did. She landed in a crouch on the ground in front of him and his blood ran down the edge of her blue blade. The gasps from the other men were like music to her. She stood to her full height which was still half as tall as the man she had just decapitated. Turning to the next man she ran at him, closing the gap quickly. When a pain like nothing she had known coursed through her body radiating from her chest. She started to fall toward the man and her blades flickered out, once again defenseless. She stumbled forward and to her surprise, the man caught her. Her legs went limp and he lowered her slowly in his arms. She felt a warmth spreading over her as her energy diminished. The man held her as her warm blood covered both of them before staining the earth below. The man across from them still had his gun raised and a smile on his face. She looked to the face of the man holding her and thought how she might have hated him the least. But he was still one of them. Through the blood that filled her mouth she choked out. “Do...don’t touch me.”

He lay her on the ground and stood over her. “You should have just come back with us.” He looked surprisingly sad.  The other two men joined him looking over her.

Hatred consumed her heart giving her a last surge of energy. “Death first,” she spat and a blue pulse coursed out of her body. The ripple filled the forest and she was finally free.

 

The Dark Dragon (Nathaniel)

The Dark Dragon Accounts

(Mary)

(Isaac)

(Lucas)

The Dark Dragon

Nathaniel

By Jamie Burns

My father told me stories of the Dark Dragon my whole life. It was tradition, of course  I told them to my Children. My wife Rose and our two girls would curl up under a blanket while I repeated and added to the stories. When the stories got to scary our girls would bury their faces against Rose’s shoulders wait for the moment to pass then join back in the adventure. Those were my favorite memories of my wife.

Rose passed away shortly after giving birth to our son Isaac. For years I thought I would never tell those stories again. The memory of my girls all huddled together under a blanket listening were so perfect it hurt to think about. Until one day when Isaac was 7, he had been sick for several days, and I sat by his bed trying to comfort him. When one of my girls pointed out Isaac had never been told the tales of the Dark Dragon. Both girls agreed that mom would never have stood for that. They made themselves comfortable, Rachel at the foot of the bed and Mary along side Isaac, pulling a blanket over them both. Once again I told the tales of the Dark Dragon. Isaac loved the stories, the girls cared more for the nostalgia of the it, less about the stories themselves, but I suppose that’s part of growing up.

...

After the second tremor the merchant I worked for let us all go for the day. People were gathering in the square and it was clear no one was getting any more work done that day. I just wanted to get home to my kids. I though the tremors would be small, nothing to get worked up over and maybe we could have a nice family dinner for once.

That hope for a nice night was dashed by the fact that I got home to find no one. They were smart kids, even if they had been out they knew to come home when they felt the tremors. I double checked the rooms but it’s not like our home is big enough to have missed anyone. I paced and with every pace the room felt smaller and smaller. I couldn’t just wait here and hope they were on their way back. I left and headed toward the square.

“Rachel!” I called out when I spotted her.

“Dad!” She ran over and greeted me with a hug. “Do you know what's going on?” she asked.

“I’m sure it’s just earthquakes. But where are your brother and sister?” I tried not to sound irritated, not sure it was working. She looked at the ground.

“Rachel? Where?”  

“I saw Isaac on the path, the one that leads toward the cave.”

“On the cliff side?”

“I was going to go get him dad I swear. But it’s ok because Lucas is getting him.”

“Lucas? Who’s Lucas?”

“Um, he’s a boy I know.”

It was just getting better and better. I decided to handle one problem at a time. Find my kids first, punish them later.

“So where are Isaac and Lucas now?”

“I don’t know they haven’t come back yet.” Rachel bit her bottom lip. Something her mother use to do when she was worried as well.

“And Mary?” I asked

She shrugged her shoulders. “She wasn't with Isaac when I saw him.”

“Ok, come on. We’re sticking together.” I pulled her by the hand out of the crowd and toward the mountain. Then another tremor shook the ground.

Rachel and I were halfway to the mountain when it emerged. Every story my father had told, every story I had told and there it was. The Dark Dragon had come out of it’s cave after over 100 years.

The mountain was still a ways off but it sat like a dark shadow looking down over the village. Even from where we were it was easy to see the torrent of fire that was now pouring from the creature that stood at the cave's mouth. I ran toward the mountain,  praying Isaac had l left that cave long before.

When I realized Rachel was running behind me I turned to her. “No, go home. Run home and take cover. If your sister is there don’t let her leave.” I wished I could soothe the frightened look on her face but I was pretty sure I had the same look.

I ran at a sprint toward the mountain, and I heard it. It was a sound I had described many times over while telling the stories but never really heard till that moment. I’ll be the first to tell you that the description in the stories did not do justice to the roar of a Dragon.

It was said in the stories that the Dark Dragon’s roar was like thunder from on high. Now having heard it I would say it was a thunder that enveloped you so completely the thunder might have come from your very own bones. A sound that instantly drained the warmth from your body leaving you cold and frightened.

I ran faster half watching my path half watching the Dragon. The as the light from it’s fire dimmed the black Dragon took the the sky. It seemed to take little to no effort for the massive creature to lift off the ground. The flap of its great wings disturbing the trees and land around it with a powerful flurry of wind. The dragon shot straight into the sky. It made it’s way up out of the shadow of the mountain and what was left of the sun light hit it. I had never imagined it properly. I had been far from it and the Dragon still seemed to massive to comprehend. The Dark Dragon was indeed a black dragon just as the stories said. What the stories never got right was well the color. Yes it was a black dragon, but once the light hit it the black had a incredible undertone that glinted in the sun light. Like when lamp oil is mixed with water. A rainbow effect that mesmerizes any on looker.

I reached the start of the cliffs path and the dragon was still soaring upwards. It must have been terribly high because it was finally starting to look smaller. I thought I could see it turning slightly toward the village. I told myself again one problem at a time, first find your family. The crash of relief came with a crash of Isaac and Mary’s hugs. They had made their way back down the path and seemed to be unscathered.

“Thank God you’re alright!” I said as I looked them over to be certain.

“We’re ok Dad.” Said Marry.

“Ok we need to get back home and get Rachel.” I turn back down the path, but a hand pulled my arm stopping me. I turned to Isaac. “What is it?”

“I...I think there was another boy… in the cave.” He said.

What had Rachel called him? Lucas?

“Ok, I want you to stay right here! Do you understand me? Only move if that Dragon comes back and you need to take cover. You got that?” I instructed Mary.

They both nodded their heads in a compliant yes. I headed up the path, once I was almost to the cave opening I could see over the village and I spotted the Dark Dragon high in the air and it looked like it was flying in high wide circles around the village. I thought for Rachel in our house, I wanted to go to her right away but I hoped it wouldn’t be with bad news about her “Friend”.

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED