An Original Short Story Written By Jinapher J. Hoffman
I don’t know where he came from. Maybe he came by wind, magically appearing to calm my inner depression, or maybe destiny sent him by the works of some greater good. All I know is that when I met Skellar, I was in a low place. The asylum was my home, home to most actually, and every waking moment inside that four walled hell-hole was another moment of my inner self wasting away at the mercy of time. The problem was that time wasn’t showing mercy. Time never shows mercy. However, Skellar did. He understood. And, now, here I am, lying in the middle of some forbidden forest in some forbidden place, breaking every rule listed on the long sheet of paper that wraps around my holding cell. Scratch that, my “old” holding cell, because Skellar wants to take me somewhere safe. And so I lay, leaves falling around me and the dark canopy above me swishes to the sing-song sound of what swishing trees usually sound like. My eyes are closed, I don’t dare open them, especially when Skellar’s around. He made it clear that if I were to open my eyes while he was around that something terrible would happen: that this wonderful sensation of hope filling my veins and making my skin glow would disappear.
He’s here. Well, sort-of. This is where it gets tricky. Skellar has always been a polite voice in my head until recently, he developed into a shadow. His shadow follows me, protecting me, and then it fades, just like he promises every time he comes to see me, when I open my eyes. This time…this time I’m supposed to be able to open my eyes and Skellar will be able to stay. This time it’s supposed to be different.Tonight, I’m supposed to meet my friendly shadow.
Don’t open them yet. It’s not quite time.
“When?” my dry lips rasp the word as if it’s an apology, as if speaking any louder will break our forsaken bond.
That’s when something changes. I don’t know if it’s a shift in the wind or a cloud uncovering the moon, but something changes. It could be that the sing-song swish of the trees has stopped within that moment or that every leaf that has fallen beside me is brushing my arms and being sucked upward. It’s as if nature is regenerating itself, taking in a deep breath. It becomes serene. Unreal. Magical. Skellar.
“You can open your eyes, Helen,” Skellar says, his voice no longer the voice of a shadow, but the voice of flesh and blood. He’s here and he’s real.
I don’t know what I expected to see, but certainly not this. The world of cold and brittle darkness is gone. Instead, every grey leaf has become gold, every iced green has flourished, and every breath I breathe is filled with the sweet sweetness of fresh air. And, then…There’s Skellar. He’s better than I imagined; clamored in rich silks, blonde hair flopping in the most perfect of directions, and eyes as glorious as the green patch of grass lighting beneath my bare feet. I suddenly feel silly in my night gown, torn and dirty from the sleepless nights of being trapped in the asylum. I never imagined Skellar to be real. I never saw him as a human being. Quite frankly, I thought that the Professionals had been right, that I was crazy and that Skellar was just part of my crazy mind playing tricks with me. Yet, here he is: dimples and all.
“Are you ready?” Skellar extends his hand, his long fingers reaching for mine.
“Where will we go?” I ask him, because this is unfathomable. This is unreal. My shadow was just given life. How is this possible?
“The world has changed Helen,” Skellar says, “In fact, the correct term is worlds.”
“Worlds? As in the plural form of world?” I always was good at English as a child, before Silence happened and all adults died with the exception of the Professionals, who are mechanically inclined to enslave all surviving children either in labor camps or asylums. Acting crazy was my only saving grace. Who knew after eight years of being holed up in an asylum that a whole new world was formed? I suddenly feel eager, like Ariel from the Little Mermaid when she sees humans for the first time. I want to know more. I want to be more.
“I come from No Name, a world ruled by my father King Trickett. We have watched over you,” Skellar talks like he’s assuring me, although I have shivers at the thought of being “watched”. He continues, “You’re strong, and only the strongest humans can be accepted in No Name.”
“So, you’re human then?” Because that’s a normal question to ask.
“Of the Forged, created by the remains of our ancestral warriors, but yes, I guess you could say human,” Skellar smiles, and then he leans forward to whisper, “I’m not a Professional if that’s what you’re asking.”
I nod, because that’s exactly what I’m asking.
“Come with me,” he extends his hand once again, “We are running out of time.”
I take his hand, his grasp firm.
“Close your eyes, Helen,” Skellar whispers.
“You said I could keep them open,” I immediately recall from a conversation from a previous night, “In fact, you specifically said to not close them after you told me to open them.”
“I lied,” Skellar says apologetically.
“You lied?” I purse my lips in defiance.
I wait for a long time for his answer. It never ever comes, his answer as lost as the grip that once held firmly onto my hand, protecting me from this world’s devils. Abruptly, as the sing-song swish restarts and the worlds become a world, I wonder what else Skellar has lied about. Did he lie about No Name? Did he lie about not being a Professional? I don’t know and I never will and that’s when I go crazy. When Silence happened, I lost my crazy while everyone else gained theirs. When the Professionals happened, and I was the last of the normal, I was for some reason “crazy”, “insane”, “weird”. When Skellar happened, I began to “think” I was all three of those things. I mean, I was hearing voices. But, no, I was never crazy. Crazy is a small word. Crazy is a kitten, fluffed up and no hard edges. I was and still am not crazy.
Because just like anything else in life, with or without an apocalypse, when things happen they never truly hurt as much as when those things leave. Skellar was my shadow friend. But, with a simple sentence, he became a liar and with his growing silence, he became an enemy. As I stand here, Professionals surrounding me with needles glistening in their palms, watching me with conquering eyes, I do what they’ve wanted all along, because what is worse than lying to yourself?
I plead insanity.
This short story was brought to you by Jinapher J. Hoffman. All rights are reserved to the author. If you wish to share the story, all credit for the writing must be given to Jinapher J. Hoffman. Thank-you for reading and be sure to come back for more short stories by this author.