“Did you understand me, child? You must Remember. Now wake.”
The voice that spoke to me was as much of a question as why I woke with a mouth full of sand, in a place hotter than Hell. Okay, one question at a time. Where was I? Face down, I could notice sand and rock. White, dry, hot. Sun was just rising and I was already hotter than I had ever been. Almost as hot as in the dream I just had, of a place of permanent Summer. My memory tried to focus on a building, wide, sprawling, a place filled with the dying. Then it slipped away.
My clothes were the last ones I remember, something I put on after reaching the Nexus, something stylish and completely inappropriate for desert walking except for the new boots. I tried to get to my feet, but stopped somewhere between kneeling and standing, a wave of dizziness and thirst overtook me. Doing a quick check, I noted no injuries other than the blistering heat. There was a heaviness within my chest. Something I couldn’t explain. Something emotional trying to get out. I clamped down on that feeling and finish my personal survey.
I was armed with two silvered 9mm pistols and silver bullets with high quality loads. Both of them were enchanted, covered with runes and when I listened to them, their magic sang of the glory of death. The song was filled with arias to the subject but as to whose Death was being glorified, the wielder’s or the target’s I was much less sure of. A common failing with Death-related items, they don’t tend to care who dies while using them so long as someone does. That aside, their magic was strong enough to drop almost anything. In addition, there were runic scripts on each bullet further increasing their efficacy. The very fact these weapons were here caused me to look up and around again suddenly feeling vulnerable and paranoid. Whoever put me here wanted me to be able to shoot and kill almost anything that lived and a bunch of things that bordered the boundaries between life and death.
Looking around, I noticed a dark wide brimmed hat sitting on the sand nearby. I felt I should recognize it. It was on the tip of my tongue. I had the distinct impression that there was something I should be remembering right now. Something so important my life depended on it. If I thought for a second longer I was sure I could remember her…
“Don’t say that name.”
I heard it as clear as if someone had spoken aloud, but I didn’t see anyone for miles. I mentioned that I was standing in a desert. No people in any direction. No shade either. So, who said that?
“Don’t say the name of anyone you remember while we walk. You are able to be here because you do not remember anyone or anything. Names have power. Yours has greater power than most. For now we shall call you Adam.”
“Okay, so who are you and how can you be talking to me?”
“I am on the ground in front of you. You perceive me as a common article of clothing.”
“You mean this hat? Yes, you look like a very common, if a bit unstylish hat.”
“I will have you know I am a very uncommon and quite stylish hat. If you were around a hundred years ago.” The hat’s tone was less than conciliatory as if it was trying to appease a less than intelligent houseplant. “Put me on. You will need protection from the sun.”
“Do I have to?”
“No, you could stand out here until your brain fries, you remember who you are, shout out the Names of people who should remain forgotten for a bit longer, attract the people who are trying to kill you, and get me killed trying to fruitlessly protect someone too stupid to put on a hat to prevent sunstroke. I think that is sound reasoning. I’ll wait here.”
How did I know I wasn’t already past the point of common madness? Wasn’t I out in the middle of a desert I did not recognize arguing with what I believed to be an acerbic and style-impaired hat? Well, if I was crazed, I couldn’t be any worse off for having a tiny bit of shade in this blazing damn desert.
I picked up the hat. It was heavy. Made from a thick leather, no sand adhered to it and I turned it around in my hand. It was black. Completely black, where I expected shadows, it seemed to become even darker. Then I looked at my own shadow and realized what was wrong with the hat. It cast no shadows. My hand appeared to be empty and holding nothing.
I put it on and just like that, neither of us cast a shadow. And I was a whole lot cooler as well. As hats go, a lack of style had to fall by the wayside when you can knock twenty degrees right out of the air. Relief.
“Go that way.” The hat’s command caused a tingling sensation off to my right. I understood intuitively what it meant. “While I cannot tell you much about how you got here, Adam, I must tell you this. You are special. A person so special there are only a few dozen like you on the entire planet at any given time. Right now, you are unique and a number of people want you dead. We cannot allow that to happen. We are on our way to see a person who, while he will not be happy to see you, will want to help you because he has no choice.”
“Um, I have to ask, if we are coercing him into helping us, won’t that make him resentful and maybe kill us too?”
“That is true. And it is even more likely he has already been treating with our enemies. But we have something he wants and needs. And to get it back, he would do almost anything.”
I stopped walking for a moment. Sand is hard to walk in and my feet were already cramping. I looked in my pockets and noticed nothing but a few extra clips of ammunition, a nutrition bar I eyed hungrily, but reasoned I had no idea when my next meal might be, so I put it back. No wallet. No ID. Nice jacket and dual holsters for guns. I did not see anything I had I could bargain with for my potential benefactor to consider helping me. Maybe he liked boots. The ones I was wearing were heavy, shiny and black. Very comfortable.
“Okay, so I just took inventory and I don’t see anything I have to haggle with unless he has a penchant for really well made, slightly morbid, magical firearms or very comfortable footwear.”
There was a series of strange sounds, that took me a minute to realize were laughter. When the hat stopped laughing, it said, “No, you don’t have anything he would want, but when the time comes, you are to offer me in trade for a favor. It will require craft on your part, so don’t offer me up until you have everything you want.”
“How will I know when that is?”
“That young man, is your gift, to be between all things, to be part of everything and nothing, shadow and substance. Between wisdom and foolishness. When you see things looking completely hopeless, you will know its time. Now get back to walking, we have a long way to go before we get there.”
“Where is there?”
“The boundary between Twilight and Night. The realm of Mr. Black, Master of the Loa.”
Equinox: The Last Scion © Thaddeus Howze 2013. All Rights Reserved
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