The Dead Never Rest by Heather Bos

It’s coming. 

The biting chill crawling over my skin is a clear sign It’s in the city. A gut wrenching stench of death and decay follows behind me like a fly to a rotting corpse.

It’s coming for me and It knows where I am.  

I run through the abandoned streets, lungs already ablaze and legs aching, towards my only hope. A weapon that can end my torment is somewhere within this labyrinth. I just have to get there before It catches up to me.

I swiftly turn into another moonlit alley, sharply slamming into the wall. That’ll likely bruise but I can’t stop. No matter how much every fibre of my being screams for me to, I can’t.

I must be close now. I have to be.

I swerve around another corner and there it is. The Museum of the Undead. Resting place of Lifewarden: a blade that can destroy any undead creature. 

With salvation in sight I push myself harder. Adrenaline gives an extra boost to what little energy I have left but that kick is gone as quickly as it appears.  

There It is, blocking the alley’s exit.

The revenant. 

I freeze. Feeling my entire being turn to ice. Terror consuming me. I reflexively grab my dagger. Ready for anything. 

The creature just glares at me. I’ve never seen what It looks like, even now It stands shrouded in darkness, except the eyes. Eyes that were forged in the pits of hell. Fire swirling around a bottomless void, consumed solely by anger. A hellscape I see everytime I close my own eyes. 

We stand staring at each other for what feels like an eternity. My breathing evens out and I dare to do something I’ve been too afraid to try. I speak to It.

“Who are you!?” I shout a little shakily. 

It starts to laugh. A deep mocking laugh. Then It steps into the moonlight.

“What’s the matter baby sister? Don’t recognize me?” It taunts with a smirk.

“Caleb…?” I breathe.

Of course it was Caleb. Who else would have such a vendetta against me? He looks almost the same as the day I murdered him. 

 His messy shoulder length brown hair is now caked in dirt and mud. His skin appears ashen grey, like a ghost with flesh. His condescending grin revealing blacken gums and several missing teeth. A large dried blood stain flows from the dagger shaped hole in his forest green tunic. Looking closely I spy his ribs and the flesh rotting around the wound. My gaze lingers on that spot for a moment. Guilt mixing with the terror inside me.

I snap back to reality at the familiar sound of a sword being unsheathed. I behold the now armed conscious corpse of my brother.

“I’ve grown bored with our little game of cat and mouse Amarella.” he says with that cheshire cat grin still plastered on his face. Gripping his sword with both hands he prepares to strike. “Time for you to die.” 

Caleb charges at me.

I dodge out of the way at the last minute, using the wall to jump over his head. I break into a sprint as soon as my feet hit the ground straight towards the museum. I have to get that sword. 

I barely register a pleased growl from behind me. A clear sign of how much Caleb enjoys the hunt. Like a wolf chasing a rabbit. A true predator. 

Closing in on my beacon of hope I ready my dagger. I’ve only got one shot. I don’t need to turn around to know Caleb’s already gaining on me, he was always the fastest. I take a steading breath and hurl the dagger. 

Smash! The window shatters and I leap through the opening.

When I land a heavy hand shoves my face into the shattered pieces of broken glass.

“Tsk tsk tsk. Still trying to run away.” Caleb scolds with enjoyment.

He throws my body across the room like a rag doll. Pain shoots through my body when I crash onto the wooden floor. Caleb plunges his sword into the ground.

“What happened to the brave warrior who shoved a blade through my heart?”

He stalks towards me, cracking his knuckles. Rage and bloodlust burning in his nightmarish eyes. I start pushing myself off the ground but I’m quickly met with a harsh kick to the stomach. He kicks me over and over again until his foot collides so strongly with my fragile body that I fly into the next room. Caleb slowly strides in behind my beaten form. That feral grin painting his putrid face.

“Caleb I can explain.” I cough out, spitting blood. 

“This isn’t something you can fix with your precious words.” he spat at me. “It’s pretty clear what happened. Now stand up. The least I can do is let you fight for your life. A courtesy I was denied.” 

Caleb throws my dagger to the ground in front of me. The blade lodging itself in the wood closer to my head then I’m comfortable with. With great effort I yank the dagger from the floor and slowly rise.

“I had no choice.” I finally reply.

“There’s always a choice.”

Caleb charges at me again, fists ready to strike. Amazingly I dodge every attack he throws whilst backing away. He mirrors every step I make, anger growing with every  missed swing. My luck runs out when my back hits a wall. One solid punch to the face sends me straight back to the floor.

“Fight back!” he growls. Kicking me again to emphasise his fury.

I look up into his eyes and thrust my dagger into his stomach. A low menacing chuckle erupts from Caleb. Seizing my opportunity I dash to the otherside of the room. There on the wall rests Lifewarden. 

I rip the sword free from it’s confides. A bright white light surrounds the blade once it’s in my hands. I turn to my brother to see that grin and my dagger in his possession. 

Without fear I run at him, Lifewarden poised. Caleb makes no move to defend himself. I go to strike but quickly find my head colliding with the floor. He’d kicked me. Lifewarden slides out of my grip. Panic and fear overshadowed by the disorientation. 

This is it. This is how I die. Caleb towers over me with that grin. That sickening grin that refused to leave his face.

“Quick or slow dear sister? I’ve thought of nothing else but the slow agonizing death I would bestow upon you.” He flips me over with yet another kick. Eyes examining my broken body, spying the despair reflected in my own eyes. “Seeing you now however, broken and pathetic. I must confess I feel something that might be considered pity.”

I spit at his feet as I sluggishly back away from him. Caleb in turn places a foot on my chest and stabs my dagger into my left bicep. A bloodcurdling scream explodes from my throat. Metal rips apart muscle fibres, scrapes past bone with a nauseating crunch before embedding itself in the wooden floor. Every vein and artery throughout my body ignites in agony. Tears prick my eyes. Caleb closes his own, listening to my screams of anguish, and blissfully sighs.

“Slow it is.” he whispers to himself. “I want to listen to more of your beautiful singing. To really savour my revenge.” 

My right hand frantically searches blind for Lifewarden. At the feeling of cool leather I quickly wrap my hand around the hilt like a vice and plunge Lifewarden into Caleb’s chest. The triumph and pleasure drains from his face. His body slumps into the sword and my strength gives out. Caleb falls to the floor beside me. There’s a silence as I watch the life bleed out of his corpse.

“Why?” he requests on borrowed breath. Not asking about this moment but my first betrayal.

“You were going to slaughter millions of innocent lives. It was the only way to stop you.” I confessed with my own quiet voice.

“It was for the greater good of the kingdom.”

“No Caleb. You grew to love the killing.” I pause, looking into his dimming eyes. “It destroyed me when I stabbed you. Seeing the betrayal in your eyes. But you weren’t my brother anymore. I’m sorry.” A waterfall of tears cascade down my face. All the guilt, sorrow and pain breaking the surface.

Caleb lightly touches my hand.

“Thank you Amarella. For saving me.” he softly says with a sweet smile. A glimpse at the brother I grew up with. “Goodbye sweet sister.”

The last I see of him is the light in his eyes going out before his entire body melts into ash. The wind quickly carries them away. Lifewarden clatters to the ground. 

“Goodbye dear brother.” I mutely whisper. 

I silently cry myself into a slumber consumed by darkness, clinging to the remnants of my brother Caleb in my hand.

Memories By Heather Bos

This was the moment she’d been dreading. She received the news only yesterday but there was a crucial reason to be standing here so soon. Mental and emotional defences prepared like a warrior with her shield and sword at the ready. She looks up at the two-story house, once a place of comfort now a harbinger of despair. A small castle left abandoned by her sister. The tiny key she holds weighs heavy in both hand and heart. One shove of the shield forces that feeling away and she bravely steps towards the front door. On the other side, the soft pitter patter of paws on hardwood greets her ears. Shaky fingers slide the key into the lock. A strained gentle push on the cool wood slowly opens the door with a creak.

Sitting on the other side is a patient springer spaniel, Frost. He stands, tail wagging and tongue hanging free, looking at her with his ears raised in confusion.

“Hey buddy.” she says, trying to sound happy but failing.

Frost ignores her, tail still wagging, he bounds to the threshold. Eyes search frantically outside for his owner to no avail. Frost’s tail falls and his head lowers as he trots upstairs. Sad eyes watch the heartbroken dog.

With sword raised, one step through the barrier, she enters the fray. Everything looks the same yet feels completely different. Everywhere she moves a cloak of unease and emptiness clings to her skin.

Living room to the right, a space of countless joyous memories. Now the air is silent. A foggy no man’s land. Opposite stands a sturdy precious bookshelf where two women stare at her smiling. A photo from a time long passed. Her younger self and her sister, Amber, both blissfully ignorant of what was to come, a world overrun by disease and pain. She reaches out to touch the frame when suddenly the feeling of a gentle hand rests on her shoulder. She whips around; no one’s there. Just an empty room. The feeling lingers on her shoulder, a comforting ethereal hand. Looking back at the picture, she places her hand over the ghostly one. Nothing there but there’s a sense of connection with the presence. A bubble of peace. Her hand lowers and she drifts to the kitchen.

She gathers all of Frost’s necessities as fast as a cheetah. Sword slashing and shield bashing away the hurt that’s threatening to surface until everything is neatly placed in the car. Satisfied she grabs the lead and stands at the bottom of the stairs.

“Frost!” she yells.

Silence.

“Come on boy! Time for a walk.” She calls again, yelling even louder.

Silence.

Hesitant, she ascends.

“Frost?” she calls.

Wherever he is he’s not making a sound. With each step towards the top she silently prays. Don’t be in that room, please don’t be in Amber’s room. 

A long hallway. All the doors are closed except one. Gathering courage, she marches forward. One shaky step at a time.

“Frost?” voice barely above a whisper.

Each step feels like a needle piercing the flesh. Invisible swords hack away at her inner shields.

She’s now standing in the doorway, trying her best to keep the emotional barrier in place. Inside, Frost lies on the end of the bed. He doesn’t move, just briefly glances towards her. His attention swiftly returns to staring at the pillows.

Still at the door, she tries coaxing him from the room.

“Come on Frost. Come on boy”.

Nothing.

Steeling herself, she steps out onto the battlefield.
The room feels delicate, almost as if any sharp movement would shatter even the air into millions of pieces. Every footfall strikes another fracture into the emotional barrier. The illusioned safety of the bed seems an eternity away. At last she perches on the edge next to Frost. Both rest their gaze on the same spot as if Amber would just appear, but she won’t. Her heart-warming presence will never again flood a room. A rough hand meets soft fur. The emotional defences can longer hold together as a tear slides down her cheek. Each new tear cracks the splintering shield and the barrier she’d built to protect herself crumbles into ruin. Everything she was holding back comes flooding out as she crashes onto Frost’s stomach, nuzzling her tear-soaked face into his fur.