Broken Promise

They announced the winners. Don’t think AJ will be printed in their little trophy anthology so we are going to throw it out to you. There is a possible few more parts we could write to this. Though AJ isn’t sure.

Here is a story about my mother’s origin story.


A white puff of air left his lips in silence. A thick net of branches obscured the stars above. The moonlight cast an eerie glow in the shadows on the fallen snow. Michael looked up; the moon waxed just past full. The third and final day to find Bobby Cox.

Michael Donovan tracked sunken paw prints through the backwater mountains near Pagoda Peak. A branch snapped in the darkness, followed by a low rumble. His prey was nearby.

Michael turned towards the sound, but a large, shadowed form pounced on him from the side and they both tumbled to the frozen ground. Snow crunched underneath them.

“Why, Hello Bobby Cox.” Michael taunted between breaths. His heart pounded in his chest. Michael fought to keep the jowls of the larger-than-normal wolf from his throat — any bite could kill, Michael reminded himself, remain vigilant. Slobber dripped from the creature’s fangs as it towered above him. Michael’s shotgun, the only barrier, kept the supernatural strength of the werewolf’s jaws from snapping his neck in half. His arms shook with the strain.

Michael summoned his own supernatural strength. The power flowed through his veins, and he rolled the two of them across the snow-covered land. The momentum of the roll carried the wolf into a tree with a blood-curdling snap and squelch of flesh. It yowled in pain, but the impact didn’t kill the former man. It ran off at neck-breaking speed and vanished into the darkness. Dark spots of blood trailed in its wake. 

Michael’s chest heaved with exertion. He patted his arms and legs through padded gloves, checking for any bites or scratches on his person before he dove off into the woods after the beast. In the moon’s light, the drops of blood glimmered in the night like sick rubies on a silk curtain. Michael followed the foul creature at superhuman speed, but it remained out of sight in the distance ahead. 

Michael crashed through trees and bushes. The snow fell to the ground in giant plops as the branches snapped back into place.

Screams rang through the night air like banshees. Michael ran faster. 

A strange buzz filled the air, and Michael shivered as it ran across his exposed skin. Something else watched, but the screams drew Michael onward.

Panting, he broke into a clearing. A lonely cabin stood in the center. A man ran towards the hulking beast with only a stick for a weapon. The wolf’s enormous jaw clamped down on the man’s shoulder. He screamed in pain. The creature flung him into a nearby tree like he weighed nothing. The beast continued his path towards the weak and easy prey.

Bobby Cox’s four-legged form towered over a mother huddled over two small children. One of the small girls, the one with mouse-colored hair, bolted away from her mother. Both Michael and the wolf moved in unison. But the creature reached the fleeing child first. His enormous mouth engulfed her shoulder, grabbing her. The little girl’s scream rang into the night.

The woman threw stones to distract the beast. The other child clung to her mother’s legs. Bobby Cox flung the captured girl into the forest, his attention on the child’s mother.

Michael took three steps, but the werewolf was faster. A giant paw side-swiped the woman, and she flew into a tree with a loud crack and squelching of flesh splattering. The werewolf’s claws sliced the girl from stem to stern with the same swipe. 

Michael aimed his shotgun and fired. And with a second shake of the loading mechanism, he was firing the second shot before the first was even a meter away.

The first round of silver pellets scattered across the werewolf’s back. The burning flesh hissed as Bobby Cox turned and charged at Michael. The second shot scattered across the face of the werewolf at point blank range. The creature’s momentum carried its fallen form into Michael. The pair tumbled to the forest floor into a bank of snow. 

Michael shoved the dead weight of the creature off his body. A small whimper in the frozen bank pulled Michael’s attention. A tiny girl bled from the shoulder. She didn’t cry. Michael offered her a small smile. She reminded him of his son. He was about her age.  

“Everything will be alright.” He stood up and offered his hand. “Come with me.”  

She looked back at the cabin in the clearing, a weighted look cast in her eyes, but she took his hand, wincing in pain as she stood up. A look of fury came over her as she looked down at the creature. She kicked the fallen form with her tiny foot. The creature’s body didn’t budge, and it only fueled the little girl’s rage as she kicked it again and again. 

Michael pulled the child into his arms and carried her away. The fury still raging in her tiny body, but she stilled as they walked away. 

“What’s your name?” Michael asked. 

“LeeAnn,” she whispered, “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.” 

“My name is Michael. I’m not a stranger, anymore.” Michael said, “I’m going to take care of you from now on. Nothing like this will ever happen to you again. I promise.”

Until Death

My nights were filled with a healthy Kate and my Pretty Boy. Both of whom I loved more than I knew how to say. I couldn’t sit by and watch Kate die, but I stayed with her anyway. My heart breaking each day that passed. There was resentment in my heart, but so much love. 

Before too long Kate was in the hospital — a place I couldn’t visit easily for fear that Kate’s children would find out about me. Kate understood why I didn’t visit. I called her; we chatted for hours, but it wasn’t the same. Her voice was weak, and she was tired all the time. But in the dreams she was lovely — healthy, and we had a great time. It wasn’t all about sex, but it was a lot of it.

I took Kate to Paris and London. We visited the Sydney Opera house, Big Ben, and so many other places she wanted to see again. 

I spent my days and nights in my dreams when Kate slipped into a coma. I knew before the doctors called me to tell Katie had passed in the night. I was with her. I held her as she faded into nothingness. Her light left the world and took a piece of my heart with her. 

My son was born. Katie’s daughter spirted him away before I could see him. But why would she let me see my son, when she didn’t even know I existed?

New York was hell. I packed up my things and left the same night Katie passed. I drove until I couldn’t drive again. I had nowhere to go, and when I fell asleep in a hotel room, I expected to drift in nothingness like I felt all day. 

But the nothingness wasn’t empty. A lone figure stood standing next to my Pretty Boy’s sleeping orb. He called to me and I didn’t go. I didn’t want to be with him. 

“Hey, son.” The man said staring into Pretty Boy’s dreams. “He’s so young.”

I laughed, “He’s got issues. He’s a few years younger than me. He always starts like that, since I’ve known him.”

The man turned to look at me, his eyes pierced my soul. “Dad?” I croaked out. How?

“Dream Walker.” he said, simply answering my unasked question.

I nodded like I understood. “I knew there would be a time when you would need me. So I cast a dream to find you when you did.”

“How?” I asked.

He smiled, “I’ll tell you. But you have to find my journal first. It’s all in there. Things I learned about myself, about being a dream walker.”

“Where is it?” I asked. I knew dreams could be real. I wasn’t asleep completely, I knew that. I had expected to sleep, not dream, but here I was dreaming.

“Do you remember where your mom took you? The old man Solomon who taught you how to dream?”

I nodded.

“Good.” He smiled. “Underneath the stack of wood outside his house, I dug a whole, wrapped the journal in an old raincoat and buried it Only Solomon knew it was there. He’d have left it. He told me to pass on my knowledge to my son. I knew I’d never make it to see you born.”

“How did you know you would die?” I asked.

“It’s part of my line’s curse. I hate you are born of it. Live a good life, son.” And with that, my dad faded from my dream. 

What the fuck!

I woke groggy from no sleep, but more out of confusion than anything. How could my father talk to me from beyond the grave? What curse? At least I had a destination now — Ward, Colorado, here I come.

Hard to Watch

Kate deteriorated fast. Six months into her pregnancy and the doctors prescribed bed rest. She kicked me out of the room, said she didn’t want me to see her like that — all the time. It was hard to watch. The perfect child growing insider her womb made her glow with happiness. Her hands resting on her growing belly as she watched me from across the room.

“Oh honey, please don’t be upset with me.”

“I’m not upset with you.” I growled, “I hate this. Why won’t you let me take care of you.”

“You are young, my dearest. You don’t need to deal with this. I got it.”

I spent more and more time in the dream world searching for ways to break my Pretty Boy free of his dreams. It was so hard to watch her dying because she was protecting the unborn child inside of her. Our child… I still couldn’t wrap my head around it.

In the darkness of Erebus, I stared at the shimmering orb. His orb. It glowed with ephemeral light and was laced with black tendrils that pulsed and devoured the glow. It was like a parasite sucking him dry.

I’d spoken to Kish of the vision, but she knew nothing more of it either. The connections to his friends and family pulled tight and thin because of the drain on his system. The only strong cords lead me to his friends — a hacker with haphephobia — a hacker I used. And a Venatori girl. I should have avoided him when I discovered that fact. I don’t know why I had never followed his paths before. Maybe I could have escaped the drama of falling in love with him. But every night he still called to me. He was the only distraction that pulled me from the thoughts of Kate dying.

How could I love two people and never have either of them?

A tinkling bell sounded in the emptiness of Erebus, and I opened my eyes to attend to Kate’s wants. I was nothing but a glorified servant now. I resented this predicament I was in. “How can I help you, mistress?” I gave Kate a flourished bow with all seriousness in my face.

She smirked, but it quickly faded into a frown when I didn’t return the emotion. “I was hoping you could order some food, I’m starving.”

“Of course.” I said and turned to leave her.

“My love…”

I turned to see what she wanted. “Are you angry with me?”

“Never with you, Katie. Never with you.” I didn’t wait for her response as I left her room. I ordered food and when it arrived, I brought it to her room. Her eyes were red and puffy and tears streaked her makeup. “Katie, why are you crying?” I sat down on the bed placing her tray of food across her lap, but I leaned into her and kissed the tears that slide down her cheeks.

“I don’t want you to live like this, honey,” she cried.

“I’m fine.”

“You aren’t fine. You are angry all the time.”

“Of course I’m angry, Katie. You are dying. You are leaving me — just like my mother. Everyone leaves.” I growled. “I hate seeing you like this. I wish you’d get treatment. There has to be something you can do that won’t harm the baby.”

Kate sighed, “There isn’t. I’ve looked. You’ve looked.”

I hung my head, “Then promise me, soon as the baby is born you will do something.”

Kate pulled me against her chest — her entire body was weakening, she was nothing but skin and bones. The cancer was eating at her. There would be nothing left of her soon. “I promise,” Katie replied in my ear, “I promise I’ll do something after she’s born.”

“She?” I asked, “You know?”

“A feeling,” she said, running her fingers through my hair the way I liked. I growled, we’d not had sex in a month, her body too fragile now — I was afraid I’d break her. “I love you, baby.”

“I love you too, Katie.” It was the truth — the whole truth. I loved her, and I loved him. But to him I was just a dream — this was real, and she was leaving me.

I pulled away and pressed a kiss to Katie’s cheek, “Don’t worry about me, Katie, I’m fine. Eat, then take a nap.” I moved around to the other side of the bed and I laid down next to her. I watched Katie eat meticulously. What little she got down, she was puking into the bucket next to her. Nothing was working.

She curled down under the covers and when the rise and fall of her chest told me she was a sleep; I slipped into her dream.

Kate dreamed of her late husband — a handsome man who was nearly 10 years her senior. He had married a young Kate. Fell in love with her when he met her as his secretary — now Kate was heir to his throne. The whole reason I had met her in the first place. Now, like her, I had fallen in love. I let her inside.

She dreamed of his funeral. Of her children crying for their father. I stepped into her dreams then; I wrapped my arm around her shoulders and comforted her. Took the pain away as she wept for the man who she had loved.

“I’m so glad I met you, my love,” she said. Her lips touched my cheeks, “You make me so happy.” I turned to look at her, her eyes still wet with sadness. We were in a hospital room, no longer by her husband’s grave. “Thank you, my love.”

I grinned at her, “Anytime, Katie. I love you.”

“I love you.” She kissed me like the woman she used to. Her body pressed against mine. I don’t know if she knew I was here, or if she was just this happy to see me. We made love under the stars in her favorite spot by the tree where she carved her name into with her highschool crush. It wasn’t New York City. It wasn’t home — it was Kate’s memory of her first time. I evoked strange things sometimes.

We lay naked in the grass on a red checkered blanket. My hands straying across the beauty that was the woman I loved. “I wish we could live like this forever.”

Katie smiled, “Wouldn’t that be nice.” She rolled over on top of me, her naked flesh pressing into mine. “To make love over and over again.” Katie’s appetite for sex had been one thing I loved most. She was always ready to go — she only had to wait on me. But in the dream it wasn’t a problem.

I woke to a smile on my lips, Katie was still asleep when I crawled out of her bed. At least I could give her that. Sleep, my love, you need it.

The Truth

Kate continued to lie to me for a week. I walked into her office in our apartment while she was on the phone with the doctor. “There is nothing we can do?” she asked sadly.

I couldn’t hear the other side of the phone, but I listened to Kate’s thoughts. Fear permeated them; thoughts of death and cancer rolled through her mind, and I collapsed in the chair opposite her desk. Fuck me!

My entire body shook with the anger and sadness. How could this happen — again!

When Kate hung up the phone I asked calmly, “What’s going on, Katie?” I let her hear my fear, but I wasn’t mad at her, so I kept it to myself. She didn’t need to know that part of me. Not now.

She moved between my legs and knelt down. Pressed her head against my chest. “Oh honey, I didn’t want you to find out like this.” Or at all echoed in her head. I hated being in her head, but I had to know.

Kate lifted her head and looked at me with sadness, “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?”

“There is good news?” I asked, sounding incredulously. How could any of this be good news?

“Yes, my love. I’m pregnant.”

“What the f…” I saw the hurt in her eyes when my reaction wasn’t ecstatic as she had hoped for. “I’m sorry, I’m not the greatest father, Katie, you know this.”

“You’ll be a fabulous father.” she said.

I sighed. “What’s the bad news?” I knew the answer, but I needed her to say it. I needed to hear it from her own mouth.

“Cancer.” She said flatly, “I have cancer.”

I let the tears fall, and I placed my forehead on top of her head and let out a slow, soft breath. “There is nothing they can do?”

“Not if I want to keep the baby.”

“Why would you…” I growled, but as she looked up at me with tear-filled eyes, I stopped, “I’m sorry. You know…”

She nodded, “I’m sorry, but I am keeping the baby.”

I took a deep breath. “I understand. It’s your decision. But, Katie…”

She wrapped her arms around me, “Oh honey, please be happy for us.”

“I’m going to lose you, how can I be happy for us.” I said. I wanted to stand up — to walk away, but Kate clung to me. I didn’t want to hurt her further. I loved her.

“Please, honey, be happy for us. We’ll be a family. A proper family.”

I smiled, though I knew it didn’t reach my eyes, “I’m happy, Katie.” I pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I’m happy.” It was a lie. I was not happy. I didn’t understand how she could sacrifice her own life for the child that wasn’t even born. She was going to leave me for what? And leave me with a child I didn’t want.

Tears fell down Kate’s cheeks, and I wiped them away. I pushed my selfish thoughts away and focused on Katie. That was all that mattered — I wanted Katie happy. And she wanted me happy. I could pretend for her. “Let’s go out to celebrate.” I said with feigned happiness.

“Really?” Kate’s voice echoed in my ear.

“Yeah.”

****

Dinner, celebratory sex and now I’m lying awake in bed fighting the urge to go to my special place in the dream, but my Pretty boy was calling, and I didn’t want to make our time about me and my depressed self. But the nagging, tingling feeling didn’t fade. The black blur would rip him away into his oblivion and I’d not see him till the next night.

I closed my eyes, and I faded into the darkness of Erebus. I didn’t need to seek his orb in the abyss; I was already in his dream. I opened my eye to see him lying on the bed reading a book, fully grown. “Hey,” he said without turning to look back at me. He looked like the boy he always started with, but grown, the thick eyeliner and crimson dyed tips in his chocolate brown hair. He was gorgeous.

I smiled, “You remember?”

He shook his head, still reading the book, “Remember what?” He flipped on to his side and looked back at me. That bright smile he gave me in recognition. “I just had a feeling.”

“What kinda feeling?” I asked, sitting down next to him. He folded the book closed and set it aside, and it vanished in the dream — no longer needed. He wrapped his long fingers around my waist and pulled himself closer to me. His fingers trailing under my t-shirt but not in a way that said let me take your clothes off. My disappointment didn’t last long as his fingers feathered across my skin.

“That there were things bigger than me.” He shrugged, he really didn’t know what to say, which was unusual for him — a man of many, many words.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

He grinned up at me, “I know, but I’m here when you do.” He rolled over on to his back and lifted his arms over his head, a slight slip of skin shown above his jeans. God, he was fucking gorgeous. “You look sad. How can I make you feel better?”

I laughed, “Oh Pretty Boy.” I leaned over him and pressed a kiss to his lips. “I can think of so many things. But I need you naked for that.”

The world fuzzed a little, and he was naked. I don’t know if was my desire or his dream world manipulation that did it, but he was naked. He was the perfect distraction from all my problems. So perfect…

Diagnosis

Kate had been feeling ill, so I drove her to her doctor’s appointment. I waited in the small waiting room while she went back. I wasn’t officially her spouse; they didn’t let me in the back. Not that Kate needed me, but I felt like I should be there to support her. It was a nagging feeling. The same feeling I had the day my mother died.

I couldn’t shake it. A sense of dread filling my body.

Kate walked out from the back rooms with a feigned smile on her face. To the casual by-stander, everything was alright as I rushed to her side. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

She shook her head, “Nothing, my dearest.”

I wanted to call her out on her bullshit. But that wasn’t for now. I could let her be, let the lie that sat between us fester until I was ready to blow — which was right about the time we were alone in Serenity, on our way back to the new apartment we shared. “Tell me what’s wrong, Kate.” I demanded.

“Nothing.” She said sweetly. “Nothing’s wrong.”

“You know damn well I can see a lie, Kate. It’s part of what I do.” I didn’t dare pry into her head. I promised myself I wouldn’t do it. 

“Nothing. is. wrong. Alex.” Kate declared. The way she said my name, I knew I’d better drop it, or I’d be on the couch that night — and maybe every night after that. Fuck, it was bad if she wouldn’t tell me.

****

Three days had passed and the lie still hung between us. Kate had another appointment, one she didn’t want me to come to. Her daughter was taking her. Which meant I had to be scarce, since her grown children didn’t know I existed. Kate lived alone — still in mourning over her late husband, who had preceded me by at least ten years. But her kids still thought she was a solo lady. And she didn’t want them to meet me — I was younger than her youngest. She was a cougar, and I was her lion cub — or so she always claimed. 

I paced in our empty apartment. Like me, this place was unknown to her children. It was ours. It had been since shortly after we met. Kate tired of meeting in hotels, so she bought a new apartment, gave me a key and said, “This is our home.” And I’ve been here for the past year — living in the lap of luxury that I didn’t provide. I could, and Kate knew it, but she paid for everything. She was my sugar mama. It was a funny thought — how the tables had tipped on our relationship — the only genuine relationship I’ve ever had, other than the pretty boy in my dreams.

Waiting was never a strong suit. I growled and threw a pillow across the room. I rushed to the offending article of decor and picked it back up, fluffed it and put it back on the couch where I’d retrieved it from. I hated waiting.

I wished in that moment I could talk to my pretty boy — wished that I could summon him like he did me. But our connection didn’t work that way. I was a dream walker — he was just some random human with whom I connected. He was my first connection. The first shared dream, and the first of many things I learned about myself. Liking men hadn’t been something I was one hundred percent with when my mother tasked me with making a mark mine. I’d done it, I had enjoyed it. But it was the dream that followed that made it worth the while. 

My Pretty Boy played with his box like he always did. He was just five — the same age when we met. He’d always felt like this little boy — always a monster. And I wished I could free him from himself. He was beautiful in every aspect. His heart was so large.How he could open up to me without remembering. He recognized me but remembered nothing we’d done or said. 

And out of the blue, my Pretty Boy asked, “How was it?” He looked up at me with big chocolate colored eyes in the face of a child.

“I’ll tell you when you grow up.”

A shimmer in the dream and he was himself. I knew it was him, and not a guise. The eyes fit the face. He was beautiful in all his self doubt. “I’m grown up.”

I smirked, “Elaborate on what you want to know.” I knew what he was asking.

“Did you get your mark into bed so you could take what you needed to?”

I nodded, “Yes. He was more than eager to bed me.”

“So how was it?” His eyes dropped to the floor and red rushed to his ears, “How was the sex. Did you like it?”

“It was different, and new, and I enjoyed it.” I took a few steps closer to him and lifted his chin so he’d look me in the eyes. He was cute when he was shy. “Why do you ask?”

He tried to drop his gaze, but the result made him stare at my lips. “I…” he stammered.

“You what?”

He shook his head and raised his eyes to meet mine. “Would you do it again?”

“Why?” I smirked, I could feel his thoughts in my head. The pressing desire to be naked with me. To feel what I had felt with another man. He shook with desire for me to take and ravage him wholly.

We had kissed before. It was sweet and gentle, and I knew there were more feelings than when we were kids. He turned away from me — embarrassment crept through his emotions. His mind was an open book to me here, unlike anyone else I’d ever met.

I wrapped my arms around his waist and pressed a kiss to his neck. He tilted his head to the side to give me access. I pressed the palm of my hand against his cock and he groaned. “Please.” He begged.

It was better on the second go — though that was probably just the dream. He was perfect — and I was perfect. Everything about that night was perfect — except the black blur whisked him away to be tormented by whatever kept him from remembering me.

I tried night after night when it started. I tried to find him, but it was pointless. I could see his shining simmering bubble in Erebus, but I couldn’t enter, it was like a wall and I couldn’t break in. I tried now and again to mend it, but I was unsuccessful.

The door of our living room opened, snapping me from my memories. “Kate. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, my dearest.”

Nightmares

Crash! The car spun out and crashed into a light post. The flickering light and sparks decorated my vision with dim hues of yellow and blue. I ran over to the car and saw my mother’s body riven apart by the car’s impact. She turned to look at me with dead glazed eyes and said, “This is your fault.”

I bolted upright in my bed, my heart pounding, my face wet with tears. Movement beside me drew my eyes to her. An angel lying next to me. “What’s wrong, Alex?” Her hand searching for me across the bed from her. Finding nothing, she opened her eyes and looked up at me, “Did you have another nightmare?” She scooted under the covers to sit up beside me, holding the blankets close to her naked chest. It was a cute thing to do considering all the dirty things we’d done only hours before.

“Yeah.” I said with a shake of my head. My mother had died over a year ago, and I was still waking to the same nightmare. I rarely dreamt of anything I didn’t conjure myself — a perk of being a dream walker, but this followed my Pretty Boy’s flight every night. The dark blur leaving in his wake my personal hell.

“Forgive yourself.” Kate whispered in my ear as she put her arms around my shoulder, pulling me close. “It’s not your fault, she died, you weren’t even there.”

“That’s what bothers me most. I should have been in that car. I should have been driving.”

“Alex…” Kate said with exasperation. We’d gone through this every night for the past week. The same thing.

“What does the boy in your dreams say?” Kate asked.

“I haven’t told him I feel guilty.” I lied. I told him everything. He never remembered our conversations, it was safe. And the look from Kate’s sweet face told me she knew it was a lie. “He says nothing, he just listens.”

Kate smirked, “And stares at your mouth, and you go off and do what the two of you always do.”

I rolled my eyes. I didn’t regret telling her of the Pretty Boy in my dreams. She was the only other person I had ever told of his existence. She thought he was just a figment of my subconscious — a method of self reassurance and healing. He was all that, but he was real. A boy living somewhere who, if I knew how to find him, I would. At least before I met Kate, I would have.

“I should never have told you that.” I smiled at Kate. 

“Is he hot?”

“I don’t want to talk about the crush I have on a guy in my dreams.” He didn’t always come as himself. He mostly came as a little boy I had to talk into showing his age. He had his own nightmares and personal hell. The self doubt that raged through his dreams was deafening on a good day. Sometimes, though, I knew he came as himself. He colored his hair with a wave of his hand and drew eyeliner so thick his long lush lashes got lost in them. It was his mask, and it only made him more beautiful to me. If only…

I didn’t know how to finish that thought. If only what? He was real. He was. If only he was here? But he’s not, and he would never tell me where he was. Or his name. No matter how hard I dug, I couldn’t get that information. And he didn’t remember me from night to night — though we had been dreaming together since I was seven. He drew me to him every night. A tingle in my head when he slept. No matter where I was, or what time, I knew when he slept. Knew he was waiting for me. And if I didn’t show, the only thing he’d have was that black blur to visit him, and that darkness was never a good thing. It gave me shivers when it passed by me. Cold run though my veins as it touched me to get to him. It was worse than my nightmares. And it came every night and whisked him away.

Kate snickered and pulled me down into her arms. I rested my head on her bosom. “From the look on your face, my dearest Alex, he’s gorgeous.”

I sighed, “He is, but he’s not here.” I looked up at her, “You are. You are what matters…” I pressed a kiss to her lips, and I pushed away everything else. I had a beautiful woman in front of me.