Sorry it’s been such a long time!
Nemet wondered when her people had first chosen a Keeper, and why. This was something that was never explained. A questioning attitude was not encouraged, and most Keepers were happy for things to be the way they’d always been. Nemet was different. She had bombarded her parents with questions until they had sent her to school, and then she had given her teachers a headache with questions too. It wasn’t until the school informed her that she was a chosen Keeper that she was made aware that questions were somewhat taboo. She had naturally asked a thousand questions about her calling, but Arnath and the others had stared her down solemnly until the questions faded into an awkward silence. And then they had taken her to the Complex for training. By the time they had finished with her, she had lost a great deal of the desire to ask.
But now she was in charge of her own star, and the questions were flooding back.
I am used to being in a minority
I use my left hand to write
But nobody would now call me sinister
I don’t go bump in the night.
Three wishes, like the Bard’s witches.
He wished for happiness, and spent forever searching.
He wished for love, and gained only hatred.
Then he wished for death, but lived to 112, a hero.
Light, scorching into the house from the police helicopter floodlight, burned the retina and made the girl blink and screw up her eyes, attempting to block out the unpleasant coloured blotches now floating in the middle distance of her vision. She was 17, thin and bony, with long black hair that would be beautiful with more care given it.
She squinted at the figure in the doorway. A man. She wriggled backwards, hoping he hadn’t noticed her.
Her head snapped up to look at him. How did he know her name? He came toward her slowly.
‘Ellie. I know what happened here. You don’t have to worry. I’m here to make sure you’re ok.’
‘I..’ she tried to speak, but the barest of sounds escaped.
He crouched down in front of her, his face shadowed by the brightness of the light behind him. She could see he was dark-haired, with chiselled features.
‘You don’t have to say anything. Just relax. I’ll take care of you.’
His voice was quiet and low, and she felt herself slowly beginning to calm.
He reached to the back of her head, soothing and stroking gently. And then he applied pressure to the two nerve clusters either side of the nape of her neck. She collapsed with a tiny sigh. He picked her up, like a ragdoll lying in his arms, her hair falling across her face. He strode back to the helicopter. It wasn’t the police as she had thought.
A woman came to meet him, a strange woman with an ice-white streak of hair that shone up in the floodlight. ‘Well?’
‘She took out two fully-grown men,’ said the man with a peculiar smile. ‘She’ll do.’
And that is how Daria Smith was born.
Death and the Maiden
It’s that time of year again. The time of year when people dress up in silly and gruesome outfits, when the shops are filled with russet pumpkins and peculiar cakes, when children are encouraged to extort sweets from respectable citizens by dint of menaces.
I hate this time of year.
Death, in the form of a scrawny masked young man, approximate age 17, stalked outside the shop, attempting to get a rise out of the O.A.P’s. The mask was probably more attractive than his actual face. I succumbed to a childish urge and stuck my tongue out at him. He vanished, apparently abashed.
I hate this time of year. But at least I won that round.
‘So how did your date turn out?’ Rebecca wavered between answering her mother (difficult and embarrassing) and pretending she hadn’t heard (pretty much impossible).
‘Rebecca? Don’t pretend you didn’t hear.’
‘I suppose that means it didn’t go well.’
Rebecca tried to smile. ‘It went fine, mum.’
‘Then why isn’t he here now?’ demanded Mrs Frank.
Rebecca’s mum had been very opposed to the idea of the dating website. Rebecca hadn’t really been all that keen herself, but when her mother told her in no uncertain terms just what she thought of dating websites and those who frequented them, she somehow became determined. The fact that it had gone horribly, impossibly wrong was not something she wished to share with anyone, least of all her mother.
‘It didn’t work out.’
‘I thought you said it went fine?’
‘It did, as a date. But he … wasn’t really what I’m looking for.’
The truth was that Rebecca had had her head turned by that new and flashy website, the Intergalactic Love Finder. It had offered its services in large exciting words, and she’d fallen for it.
She put in her requirements, and let it do the work. It had come up with a stunning profile of a sensitive, friendly male, with a love for nature and trees. He liked warm climates and fruit. It wasn’t until she discovered that the profile picture section wasn’t working that she began to feel uneasy. Still, they enjoyed many long conversations. He really was quite remarkable. And then he asked to meet her under the tallest tree in Honduras. By this time, Rebecca believed herself very much in love, and so she spent her savings to get to Honduras.
There was nobody there. Only a very large bird with a beautiful yellow and maroon bill. It squawked on seeing her, and disappeared into one of the trees.
Rebecca waited for hours. And then she got back on the plane and went home. It was humiliating. But the worst was yet to come.
When she got home and went back on the website to ask her date why he hadn’t bothered to turn up, she found that the profile picture section was working again.
She put a feverish search into Google.
‘The chestnut-mandibled toucan…’
She didn’t want to read anymore.
You see, the problem with the Intergalactic Love Finder was that, although you could specify planet (in case you didn’t want to have to fly to the other end of the universe to meet up), you couldn’t specify species classifications…