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Zeal

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zeal.

 

By S. R. Laubrea

 

 

Contents

 

 

Stars. 

Mystarium. 

Nine. 

Volition. 

 

ETC:

Author Stuff. 

Stars.

 

 

 

Astro-philosophy and Zodiacal Sciences, the 311 courses, took place at night. Tenchius allowed me to pass by the grace of sterling, straight As. I was supposed to be held back since my skill working the Apparatus wasn’t demonstrated properly. I wasn’t worried about it, as I pretended my lead-pen was a space ship turning miss Banbal’s lecturing.

 

‘Oh no, captain! We’re not going to make it to the second page!’

 

‘Sweet nonsense, boy! We’ve still got a whole rod left! Eject the lead through the rear and we’ll make it!’

 

‘But sir!’ I mashed the plunger repeatedly. ‘The wind pushes it back into the downsled!’ 

 

‘My gods! We’re not going to make it!’ And the mechanical pencil descended. EVERYONE BRACE FOR IMPACT! MAY THE GODS —”  

 

BAM!

 

“Jaime, what is the principal meaning of Destargus when it is brightest in the constellation Firaghana?” Miss Banbal asked.

 

The whole class was silent, and everyone looked back at me. I twirled my pencil. “Um… F-firaghana is one of the duality signs in the Universal Zodiac.”

 

“M’hm.” Miss Banbal nodded. “And?”

 

“And… Destargus… when it is the most prominent means that… everyone born under Firaghana is under compulsion to act according to their secondary, contrary nature. Ultimately, if applied to times of war and one of the significant higher-ups is under this duality sign, it means that they can be turned against their own people with the proper intercession.”

 

“I see. Seems you’re good at saving your skin.” She went back to her lectures, drawing on the marble with a magical cedar branch.

 

I could barely wait for the end of class. I can’t even begin to describe how tiring all this can be. Nonsensical theories about stars and philosophies about the zodiacal influences. Really, my whole goal in doing all this was for a job. I didn’t need, nor care for, nor want all this religio-spirity… But alas, gods and goddesses mean a lot to these people. As does attempting to divine the transmundane.

 

It’s amazing they haven’t fingered me an Atheist by now.

 

Near the end of the first quarter, I sensed that Ms. Banbal was on my tracks. I was usually the last one to leave the class, taking my sweet time to execute my homework early so that during the mid-afternoon hours I could spend more time doing things that I liked, instead of studying and sleeping all day.

 

Well, this particular evening, while I was twirling my pencil, buried brain-deep in bookwork, I was distracted by Ms. Banbal’s long, thick fingers tracing along the page. I looked up, and there she was, leaning towards me, her rounded bottom and voluptuous body seated on the study bench.

 

“Jaime,” she said, her voice unusually low and smooth.

 

“Ma’am?”

 

“It’s come to my attention that your grades are slipping.” She took her glasses off and hung them on the hem of her collar. “You supply all the right answers when spotted during lecture, yet your work is minimal, if not sub-par.”

 

I felt blank, looking at her. “What do you suggest I do?”

 

She shut the book before me and struck such a pose that her breasts were threatening to burst the buttons of her jacket clean off. I knew where this was going. “I’m going to be frank with you, Jaime, unless you step-up your work, there’s no hoping you’ll pass satisfactorily. I understand Tenchius let you by on good graces, however, I’m not as generous as he.”

 

I blinked. “But I need to pass this class.”

 

“Of course you do,” she cooed, and I sat there quietly. “There is one other… option.”

 

“And that is?”

 

“For you to successfully manipulate the Apparatus.” A great sigh of relief departed from me the moment Tenchius’s voice broke the awkward sexual tension. That relief quickly turned into unwarranted anxiety the moment he dropped a smoldering, brass bowl of incense on my desk.

 

His austere gaze would send chills down even the spine of the most confidant student in his class — me — and I was no mere skinny-boots bookworm. Which is why I was among the few to demonstrate their skill at operating the Star Apparatus.

 

“Step lively,” he barked, “don’t need any of my pupils falling behind. The Mystarium would be most displeased about strays.”

 

He always seemed to have something to grumble about every time he took a handful of us out of the school hall. This time around, I will admit, was ridiculous; cradling this smoldering brass ball in my hands, how fast could I walk? Not fast enough, according to Tenchius. But I didn’t want to get the smell of ash, jasmine and lavender, or the bluish-gray of the smoke in my white robes.

 

At last, the apparatus. Its workmanship was said to be by the hands of the gods — the very massive and awe-inciting spheres that represented the planets of our system were the gems given to us by the Mother of the Heavens.

 

“Place your offerings,” Tenchius said, pointing to five pits on the golden rim of the apparatus.

 

I placed my bowl as told, and took my place on my knees across from it. At the snap of Tenchius’s fingers, he called a student up to the apparatus. “Show me what you know.”

 

She was reluctant to pull back her hood and open her cloak. Possibly because the Pupil’s attire for young women was more degrading than the clothing the temple sluts wore. Still, she discarded her robe and stepped onto the dais of the Star Apparatus.

 

Her hands trembled as she rested her palms on the balls, Ninbus in her left, and Em-Gaiea in her right. “Oh blessed and merciful Mother of the Heavens,” she began to pray, “grant me power and insight, that I may divine from your celestial bodies what the times hold secret from us.”

 

She was a beautiful ginger girl. Quiet as we were, I thought only of whether or not she was going to venerate the fertility goddesses this weekend. It was time for the Zesturnalia, and I could celebrate with other pupils my age who elected to attend; I was no longer expected at the Pedomius, where I’d have to watch the ‘kids’.

 

But all too soon my admiration of her came short. Because seconds into maneuvering the gyros, her body lit up like hot coals and she disintegrated with a loud bang and hiss.

 

The rest of us stared astonished, unable to comprehend what had happened. But Tenchius didn’t seem at all disturbed by it. He snapped his fingers and pointed at me. “Jaime, get up there. Show us what you know.”

 

Like her, I was hesitant. How did I know if this wasn’t, in fact, an indication that the gods were furious with her — with us — with me? I put my hands where they belonged, Ninbus in my left, Em-Gaiea in my right. I thought about offering a prayer, but my lips froze. It was improper to attempt to operate the Star Apparatus without first addressing the one which these things belonged to. But I couldn’t utter a sound.

 

Then the world flashed and spiraled upwards until the Star Apparatus vanished. At first my stomach sank. Had I entered into the afterlife? I had thought someone like me wouldn’t receive —

 

— O’, NOW you’ve done it! 

 

‡ Done what, exactly?

 

— Naeyr’s going to be livid! We’ll never see the end of this. “Law STRICTLY prohibits contact with Intellectuals outside of our universe, blah blah blah naggity-naggity-naggity.”

 

‡ Ha ha ha ha!

 

— Ais!

 

‡ Iiji, you know I don’t care about Nae-nae. If Tyourii said that, of course I’d feel the need to cover my —

 

— Wait.

 

Silence.

 

— Do you think he can hear us?

 

I haven’t the faintest clue what’s going on. But apparently I’m ‘hearing’ voices now.

 

‡ That’s progress.

 

— I bet he’ll be wanting an explanation.

 

I do.

 

— Hold on.

 

My surroundings flash. Then I’m on my back, staring at softened florescent lights. Sheets were drawn over me. What happened? Had I come back from the dead?

 

My skin was hot. So hot that the salty, cold sweat I was laying in wafted up in icky plumes of steam.

 

The grating sound of metal legs on linoleum made me grit my teeth. I sat up. Tenchius had pulled a seat close to the narrow bed and was sitting backwards in it, his arms crossed over the back.

 

“So,” he said, “I bet you’re wondering what happened.”

 

I’m wondering many things. I nod.

 

“Not even the Psychs can tell you.” He grinned. “If they couldn’t, normally I could. I’ve never seen someone spontaneously faint at the Star App. though.”

 

“So I’m not cut out to divine the Zodiacs?”

 

He shrugs. “Or you were too nervous to handle the machine. Regarless, the Mystarium are convening a tribunal.”

 

What? “Why?” I haven’t committed an infraction. At least, not ot my knowledge.

 

“Something about the gods. You know how these things go.” He patted my knee. “Maybe they’ve finally figured you out.”

 

What’s that supposed to mean? “What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

He gets up from his seat and returns it to where it belonged. Tenchius never looked back, he walked off with his hands stuffed in his pockets.

Mystarium.

 

 

 

My stomach churns. Restlessness torments me every night. By day I can’t function, because at night I haven’t slept. Every time I close my eyes, my mind reels back to that incident with the Star Apparatus.

 

‡ I wonder if that thing had to do with it. 

 

— Thing?

 

Not again. Please, please no.

 

‡ Hey, kid.

 

Kid?

 

‡ Yeah, you. What does that thing do?

 

The Star Apparatus predicts the celestial movement of plants across the galaxy according to their orbits, and other heavenly bodies per their trajectories. That’s really it. It consists of a bunch of gears and crystal spheres on concentric rings.

 

Oh.

 

Also constellations and Zodiacal stuff.

 

‡ Right… Hm. How is it made, and what is it made of?

 

— You’d think Omniscient Beings would know the answers to that.

 

Pf. Like I’m hearing gods talk in my head.

 

— Well, not ‘gods’. At least, not in the religious sense.

 

‡ Look, kid.

 

Jaime.

 

‡ Right. Jaime, look, I’ll trade you forty-eight hours of sleep if you can get me the schematic for the Star Apparatus.

 

That’s restricted to Engineers and Master Operatives. I won’t be able to get my hands on it unless I finish top of my class.

 

‡ I’m sure there’s another way.

 

Like what? Throw on a magical cloak and waltz right up to it? Things don’t work that way around here. Sure there’s different manifestations of magic, but I’m not gifted like that.

 

I’m a dude. Just a regular dude out of place in an obsessed and deluded world. Unless I can prove I have some sort of zeal for all this nonsense, I’m going to be ‘purged’.

 

— Tell you what, Jaime. We will help you.

 

And just who are ‘you’? You’re disembodied voices in my head. Voices that I ought see a psychiatric for.

 

— Listen, please. My name is Dyiij.

 

‡ Aischen.

 

— We’ll convene with our fellows.

 

‡ There’s nine of us.

 

— And see to it that you don’t get ‘purged’.

 

‡ Since you’re not one of ours, we’ll only do this once. After we’ve seen you through, you’re on your own.

 

— You understand?

 

Oh, sure I do. Nine disembodied voices are going to help me survive meeting with the Mystarium. Don’t for a second think that I believe you. I am NOT a man of faith! 

 

After that, they… The disembodied voices in my head go quiet. In the silence I’m left with only my thoughts, and the disquieting knowledge that I’ll be facing my inevitable demise. It was bound to happen sooner or later. No one persists in mainstream society without conforming to the wills of the divines.

 

That’s the way of Em-Gaiea.

 

Only those with faith or ‘gifts’ survive. Ones such as myself who don’t possess either of those qualities are entertainment; death fodder; amusement for the Mystarium and the scores of the faithful.

The hours drag on. My heavy eyes keep wanting to close, but pain keeps stabbing my guts, and my stomach churns. Every half hour, I rush to the lav, only for nothing to happen. I hover over the sink and drool, waiting to give up the acid of my stomach.

 

Nothing happens.

 

Then there’s dawn.

 

I lay, spent, on my bed, facing the light that peeps over the horizon’s edge. Adoration; for once in my life, the pink-orange that peels back the black of night is something that I appreciate. Sunrises are beautiful. How have I taken them for granted?

 

Like the air, the ground, the water, and the things in them, I’ve expected them to be there. To be present at my beck and call, during my every waking hour, whether I needed them or not.

 

A woman calls out to me. “It’s time.”

 

I roll over the side of the bed, and climb up from the floor onto my feet. I don’t bother changing, just cinch my pyjamas around my waist and throw on a white tee. At that I fall in step behind the sentinel.

 

My gaze stays fixed on her heels. The tail of her dark robe shimmers a deep scarlet with every step. She’s barefoot as we traverse the halls, her footfalls silent. The only noise is the soft echo of my slippers while I drag my feet.

 

She pushes open the lofty doors, a hand on each one. They groan as they open. A swift breeze floods the chamber of the Mystarium. The flames belonging to scores upon scores of candles flicker in the wind. At the far end, the ten of them are stationed.

 

I swallow. I step to the semi-circular podium. The doors creek as they close.

 

Silence.

 

I remember from my formative childhood years the song that my kindergarten teacher made us done on. Like the ABCs, it was a means of teaching us something that was — is — important here. The Mystarium; the Ten Spirits of Em-Gaiea:

 

Volkuraidos, Tsuord, A’esh, Gehadra, Sariel, Fjoulvach, Pephistofar, Mabichfalam, Be’erchebad, and Kagene.

 

“Young man,” A’esh begins, her voice sultry and smooth. “Why are you not dead?”

 

Do I have an answer for that? I open my lips to speak, and she cut me off.

 

“Since its creation, the Star Apparatus has overturned lies and revealed truths. It is a trustworthy device since the days preceding your ancestor’s ancestors,” A’esh continues. “Not once has it failed in its duties as predictor of things to come, and purger of worthless ones. So why are you yet alive?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“I think you do,” Fjoulvach says, his voice, though calm, is weighty and cutting like a claymore. “Have you heard voices? Ones that do not belong to you, or to the Heralds?”

 

“I’ve never heard the Heralds,” I openly admit. “My voice has always been mine.”

 

Fjoulvach narrows his eyes at me. “But of course. Leave it to a snake in a pig’s filth to have a tongue more twisted than a tight-wound coil.”

 

What?

 

“The Apparatus has revealed your nature, Jaime.” Gehadra extends an accusing, dark-skinned finger towards me. He continues, “You’re an Atheist. Do you deny it?”

 

“No.” Quite frankly, I’d give anything to get out of Em-Gaiea. The idea of being put to death comes as a notion of sweet release to me. Though they may feed me to a hydra, to watch it pull me pieces between its many heads, or find some sick way to torture me and put it off for as long as they can, I welcome the idea.

 

“Since I’m here, I’ve been aching to see you lot in action. You’re gods, are you not?” Never a good idea to taunt people as revered as thee of the Mystarium. What do I have to lose, though?

 

They exchange glances. Some sit back; others lace their fingers and rest their chins on their hands. One of them looks intently into my eyes.

 

“We are,” answers Mabichfalam.

 

“Then why convene and try me at all? Why bother using the Star Apparatus to avow truths and predict the future? You know what I am, that I’m guilty of faithlessness. If you’re truly divine, end it right here, right now.”

 

That’s the beauty of mortality. I can only die once.

 

Volkuraidos rises; Kagene silences him with the swift rise of her hand. There is no utterance from her lips, just the flash of her eyes.

 

I cringe, expecting my flesh to become ablaze at once. Because that’s what the legends tell. That since the beginning whoever displeases the Mother of the Heavens, Kagene, she melts their flesh right off their bones.

 

What feels like an eternity passes. I open my eyes. I straighten. I look at my hands, at my pale flesh. Nothing has happened.

 

Nothing at all.

 

I look up at them. The lot of them are aghast, except for Kagene, whose eyes are like slits.

 

“You’ve come into contact with foreign gods,” she hisses. “That’s why the Apparatus couldn’t purge you. You’ve sworn a binding oath with them, haven’t you?”

 

“I thought I was an Atheist a second ago.”

 

“Hmph.” I watch her ruminate. Am I going to be exiled instead? I mean, what happens when it’s a conflict of ‘divine interests’?

 

The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I feel as though I’m being watched, intently, and not just by the Mystarium.

 

“Whoever you are, O Foreign Divinity, since you have taken an interest in this man’s life, I present you with a challenge,” Kagene says. 

 

That sensation of being scrutinized magnifies.

 

“Make yourself manifest, that we may meet one another eye-to-eye and reason in the way that gods do, by proving whose godship is greater. Otherwise, abandon your stance over this worthless filth. You have until next dawn to make your decision known.” Kagene’s gaze never lets up. “Throw him away.”

At that the sentinels blind me with a hood and mask. They bind my wrists behind my back, and silence me with a ball gag. I drool uncontrollably as they lead me away.

Nine.

 

 

 

Being hurled into a deep pit of salt, sand, and mud hurts more than I would’ve liked. It’s not something one just gets up and brushes themselves off over. No, the mud is hard, and something snaps.

 

I bite back my screams, though the tears trickle down my cheeks. The sun pours down from the narrow mouth of the pit, barely pushing back the dense shadow that surrounds me. The mud is thick and moist in the dark.

 

There’s the sound of something scraping, like the skittering of large insects. Flesh-devouring arachnids, maybe? There’s clicking. I get my legs underneath me. The moment I try to stand, a piercing pain jolts up from my ankles into my spine and the rest of me.

 

No good.

 

Well, I had said that death would be a ‘sweet’ release to me. Perhaps I was being too poetic.

 

“I’d agree with that,” someone chuckles. A hand stretches out from the darkness. A white hand — so white, in fact, that its florescent, and the light dims around it.

 

I take the offer. I’ve nothing better to do, and he hoists me up into his arms. “Didn’t know they kept people down here.” His strength is amazing. More than that, his height. He’s a towering white man, blond, with eyes that are… blacker than the pits of death. I swallow. “B-been down here long, huh?”

 

“Not at all.” He grins. “Good to finally meet you face-to-face, Jaime.”

 

“I know you?”

 

“Kind’f.” He pulls me into the shade. The mud is up to his waist. “Aischen, remember?” He slogs through the mud. I’m not sure what to say. “We sore that we’d convene and help you out. Remember that?”

 

I nod. He takes me into a cave hollowed out of the pit’s wall. It’s deep, a passage about a quarter mile long preceding a den alight by the soft glow of a fire pit. In there are eight unfamiliar faces.

 

“So meet the rest of my family,” he says. He steps over to some layered blankets and lays me down on them. At that he leans against the wall and crosses his arms.

 

For a moment they’re quiet.

 

One of them shakes his head. “I’m Indanne,” he says, rolling his wrist as he takes a bow.

 

Then the next man speaks up. “Siel-Ai. Pleased to meet you.”

 

Then another. “N-nallamur!” He shuts his eyes tight and swallows hard.

 

A woman giggles. “Am Dyiij,” she says. She twirls, hops, lands on one foot, curtsies.

 

With a nod of her head, another woman speaks, “Xelarc-Aishea.”

 

“I guess I’ll take a stab at this.” A man shrugs. “Jyrschornn. Pleasure’s all yours, I’m sure.”

 

One cracked an eerie grin. “Giyamagutu,” he said, with a creepy snicker.

 

And the last one, a woman, stared at me. She was tense, I could tell from how thick the silence was between not just her and I, but all of us.

 

“Naeyr,” Dyiij said, “Are you not going to —”

 

“I have my objections,” Naeyr said, her voice stern, monotonous. “Why should we Alyi help this man? This one man. What is he that I should care about him?” 

 

“Naeyr,” Aischen began.

 

She cut him off. “He is not one of ours. He has no connection to Yrell Aiene Tautom.”

 

“He’s a life,” Dyiij fired back.

 

“So because he just happened to be the one you two’ve made contact with, he matters.”

 

“No,” Aischen said. “That could’ve been anyone. But Jaime? I’m here because I want to help him.”

 

“I hope this isn’t to the end of converting me into some foreign religion.” I manage to speak up.

 

“Let me explain something to you,” Naeyr says. She sits down and stares into me from across the glow of the now small fire. “None of us are interested in your reverence. We Alyi are not gods. Yes, we are divine; we despise being worshiped.

 

“This isn’t about whether or not you have faith. It’s about the fact that two of us cared enough to spare you from becoming a maggot-laden carcass, and the rest of us want to see to their cause.” 

 

“I guess that makes me special.” No sooner have I said it than do I realize my mistake. Naeyr is critical, and by my careless sarcasm I’ve managed to offend her.

 

She doesn’t show any reaction, though she maintains that stern and unyielding gaze. “There are rules,” she says.

 

“Rules?”

 

She nods. “Being that this is not our heartrealm, frivolous use of our power will shorten our presence. Our ‘lifespan’ here is dependent on the preservation of our Aelyth.”

 

“Aelyth?”

 

“Spirit. Life Force. Whatever you want to call it, that.” 

 

I raise my hand. “Question —”

 

“It means that we won’t be showing off.”

 

Okay, she’s either good or omniscient. 

 

“We will help you in powerful ways. On the condition that you cooperate with us. We’re not asking for faith and reverence. We want your mutual trust.” 

 

I nod. “I can do that.” I think? My stomach grumbles. “Where do we start? With a way out of this pit?”

 

“At dawn,” Naeyr says.

Volition.

 

 

 

For ‘divine’ ones, they make no effort to miraculously heal my ankles. Instead they wrap them tight, with strips of cloth, and case them in mud. A shoddy, temporary cast.

 

Aischen kneels, and I wrap my arms around his shoulders and pull. He rises, and takes hold of my legs just under my knees. The nine of them are quiet as they approach the cave wall.

 

You know, I’d have thought they’d have more sense than to walk up to solid rock —

 

Then the cave wall shifts, and the canal that had led into this place closes like a mouth. It’s as if the rock had become spongy, more malleable or capable of being manipulated.

 

Am I with psychics?

 

“Safe to say that we know things,” Aischen says. 

 

The eight of them gesture and utter their agreement.

 

“Such as who you really are.” Indanne stops and falls in-step with Aischen, who’s at the flank of them all. He stuffs his hands in his pockets and glances me over.

 

I’m forming my rebuttal to whatever he’d have to say next. Instead I give him a curious look. “Go on.”

 

He rolls his wrist, as if thinking of what to say next. “You want something ‘better’, Jaime. It’s at the core of your being, what makes you sick to your stomach from how hard you’ve yearned for it.”

 

“What are the lot of you offering?”

 

“Possibly another life. Possibly.” 

 

As if to imply that plans may fail?

 

“You have to understand, we’re out of our element. The idea itself may go horribly, horribly wrong.”

 

“Yet you’re here…”

 

“Because we were working on inter-dimensional travel. We believe in different realities other than our own. Not just perceptions, per se, or parallels, but entire universes with constructs and persons unlike those of any other.

 

“Diverse and unique realities; worlds undiscovered; frontiers that have yet to be tamed! Not for the sake of conquest, mind you. But for mutual exchange and enlightenment. The experience, you see, is what matters most.

 

“Though.” Indanne bobs his head. “Like-minded intellectuals of a ‘higher existence’ are hard to find, evidently.”

 

Perhaps he has a point.

 

The path that opens before us ascends to the surface. The Salt Flats. I’ve read that eons ago it was a flourishing rain forest. Somewhere between then and now, it was settled, and became a center of industry.

 

Now, it’s a cracked, thirsty, opaque white surface, pleading to come alive again. The hollow husks of what had been trees jet out from the ground. They walk in the searing sun. Not once do they stop, marching steadily towards the horizon.

 

Eventually, as in by the time the sun is setting, we reach the outskirts of an abandoned metropolis. The cityscape is drunk, buildings overturned, some leaning into each other like lovers in a woeful embrace. The ragged skyline is a dirge, singing woefully as a testament of what used to be.

 

Vehicles clutter the deformed, broken roads.

 

Jyrshornn hesitates. “You sense that?”

 

The eight of them pause.

 

“Sense what?” I ask.

 

“If they’re really divine, they’ll know we’re here,” Siel-Ai says.

 

“Keep Jaime in mind,” Indanne says. “It’s best he rests for now.”

 

The only viable place, at least the nearest one, is an abandoned motel. It’s a single floor arrangement with several suites. A humble building, filled with dusty old beds that survived the city’s destruction. There is no electricity, and as the dark of night creeps in, the wind howls like a pack of bloodthirsty wolves.

 

Aischen pulls back the covers and lays me on one of the beds. “I still want to know what it was that you had ‘sensed’.”

 

“The Mystarium has spread out across this world.” Dyiij glances at her contemporaries. “If we take them on together, we can —”

 

“No.” Naeyr’s gaze is glacial when she looks up. “We should separate and put them to shame. Let’s lead earthly lives, and grant out favor to someone they won’t anticipate.” She stares me down.

 

“W-wait! I’m not cut out for this!” No sooner had I said it than does she respond with:

 

“Then it’s settled.”

 

“No!” I’m just short of kicking and screaming.

 

“I want to lot of you to pursue the domains of these ‘gods’.” She looks them over, and they nod in agreement. “As for you, Jaime, be thrilled that you’re going to be stuck with me. For now.” 

 

At that, without so much as a passing gesture of ‘good-bye’ the eight of them depart.

 

She leans against the wall, her arms folded just under her breasts.

 

I’m livid. “I thought you STUPID deities respected a thing called FREE WILL!”

 

“Feel free to shut up any time you want to.”

 

“No,” I growl, “I won’t.”

 

“Suit yourself.”

 

Why, why, WHY me!? Ugh! I should’ve died. I should’ve been purged at the Star Apparatus. It’s what the damn thing is there for, because people like me exist. “I won’t do it.”

 

“You already agreed to cooperate.”

 

“Yeah, with a plan to…” Do what, exactly? “I’m not changing my beliefs.”

 

She shrugs.

 

“You won’t persuade me.”

 

She shrugs.

 

“You CAN’T persuade me!”

 

And again, she shrugs.

 

“You don’t care, do you?” Strange that my tone softens. I can’t verbally assault her. There’s no reaction from Naeyr. She’s blank. She’s cold. She’s like a concrete-reinforced steel tower.

 

What do I do? I’m in. I want out.

 

“Try and sleep.”

 

My glare doesn’t phase her. I pull the dirty cover up to my shoulders and turn on my side. I lay, wide awake. The hell was these past few days? I’m not sure how to explain it. One moment I was sure I was deluded, hearing voices. The next they’re real. They’re all real, at least the two that I had initially heard, this Dyiij and Aischen.

 

Somehow I feel abandoned. Not just by those two, or inasmuch as they’ve all left me with Naeyr. It’s more so this state of confusion and fear. My life changed. If I had known that attempting to operate that machine would’ve set this chain of events off… Em-Gaiea and its gods be damned. SCREW being an astral engineer, I’d have dropped out of college a long time ago.

 

Despite all this, I’m excited. If only I knew why.

 

“Are… you going to stand there?” Though she’s on the opposite side of the room, I keep sensing her presence. It’s disturbing me just as much as I take comfort in it. I’m not sure what to do about it. I don’t want her to leave, but I don’t want her staring at me the whole time I’m trying to rest.

 

She doesn’t say anything. She just opens a separator and plops down on the other bed. I roll over and stare at her silhouette.

 

Divine, huh? Omniscient, eh? “Since you’re supernal, what happens next? I mean, what happens to me?”

 

“You learn the meaning of fearlessness.”

 

My intestines knot up. Her monotonous, forever-serious tone does nothing to comfort me. One more time I toss-turn and face the wall. I try not to think.

 

I’m very afraid. I’m terribly, horribly afraid.

From S. R. Laubrea

[* *]

Salutations!

 

First and foremost, thank you for reading Zeal, the first segment of the series Lost Faith’s Dominion. If this was something you enjoyed, please drop a review on Shakespir or tell a friend about it. I hope you look forward to the later installments of the LFD series. 

 

If you’re interested in contacting me with questions, comments, or just want to chit-chat, feel free to email me at SRL[email protected] 

 

Thanks again,

Shiri. R. Laubrea 


Zeal

Going through the motions of college for the sake of securing a mundane job as an Astrological Engineer, Jaime anticipated a normal life. As normal as life could be on Em-Gaiea, for a faithless young man. When it comes time for him to demonstrate his skill in order to pass in the top percentile of his class, his hope for a 'normal life' is obliterated. Confronted with truths and delusions, he finds himself in the company of the most unlikely and implausible of allies; to his dismay, this is only the beginning.

  • ISBN: 9781370464890
  • Author: S. R. Laubrea
  • Published: 2016-08-10 02:20:17
  • Words: 5477
Zeal Zeal