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ILLUMINATION: Chapter One, The Mystifying Murder
To those living there, it was an ordinary neighborhood. Rows of mansions stood closely together, the vine strangled walls lingering tall against the stormy, night sky. The children within it always found their way safely to the playground at the far end of the road – each of them knew, however, never to stray near the Stone's Mansion. The Stone family ancestry had been littered with mean and obnoxious offspring, earning the property a bad name. But now, it was only the memory of the manor's past owners that worked against it. The new owner, Cabren Stone – a young, friendly man – had possession of the mansion now, living there with his younger sister.
Cabren hurried along the sidewalk, eager to get home before the street lamps burned out for the night. Most of the neighbors nearest him had turned off their lights, retiring early from the cold, gloomy evening. He removed the bag fastened to his back, holding it in front of him. It was mandatory he hadn't forgotten any supplies. He couldn't risk having left anything behind – his plans for the night were too important. Lifting the top of the pack, he counted everything with his free hand, checking to make sure the items were all there. He sighed with relief, realizing that everything was ready.
He saw the entrance to his manor up ahead, drowned in rain swimming over the cobblestone steps. What clouds the moon broke through brightened the tombstones along the perimeter of the property. Cabren looked away, not wanting to read them as he made his way to the entrance path. Walking through the graveyard of the mansion's past owners was depressing. He felt the pressure of eyes against him, as if each grave stone had a set belonging to their dead owner.
Gazing aimlessly toward his mansion, he saw the windows glowing like holes cut from a black mask. The houses nearby were squeezed so closely together the light pouring from his neighbor's windows penetrated the green, leafy screen of brush. Out of all of Cabren's neighbors, the Conkles had to be the most suspicious. He'd often seen them taking late night strolls past his house, occasionally finding their way within his growing garden. Even though, to him, their behavior was slightly humorous, he was unable to answer why they were so hateful toward Cabren, and those like himself.
The only logical theory he considered was they were possibly jealous of his talents... or, even afraid. Cabren was born into a world where regular humans weren't the dominant race – teleclipts were. Teleclipts were the rulers over the majority of the world; they were just like humans, except for the fact they had mental powers a normal person did not. Parents possessing this gift wanted nothing more than to pass on the astounding trait, for if one was conceived with such ability, it would grant the skill to perform marvelous mind powers – for instance, telepathy. But Congenia, the country he lived in, still had a small group of people who disliked the growing teleclipts.
He was almost there, he said to himself, looking up at the mansion. The rain fell around him as if an invisible umbrella was hovering up above. He knew the Conkles would be watching him through their cracked blinds. It was a usual occurrence. Nothing stood out from the ordinary until something spoke into the thick blanket of dark. Standing in the archway at the beginning of a rocky path leading to his mansion, was a tall woman. Her voice stirred gingerly into the air.
“I can see your neighbors dislike you a bit,” began the lady, casting a wary gaze toward the Conkle’s house. “I wouldn't pay attention to them.”
“You don't have to worry about me – I don't,” smiled Cabren, moving closer to the woman. Even though he'd never met her, he felt at ease in her presence. She, too, had an invisible shield from the rain.
“They're, uh... just a little judging toward our kind,” she sighed, shifting her weight.
“Toward our kind?” Cabren crossed his arms. “It's us who should be a little more judging against them – they think we're all some kind of demon.”
She began circling Cabren as she spoke, still not having introduced herself. Her words were kind to him as if she were speaking to a man of higher authority. He took notice of her slim figure; her pale skin magnified the intensity of her large brown eyes, and amber bangs swept across her face.
“It's been thousands of years since the first teleclipt was born,” she sighed. A small frown pierced her expression. “The tiny percent of the population that hasn't been born with telecliptics can't seem to accept the new ways of Congenia.”
“Well, they'll learn to accept it once their children are born with our gift,” nodded Cabren.
“Gift? They see it as a punishment.”
As she spoke, she held her hand out for him to shake. He obliged politely. Curious, he stared at the woman. Her hand was firmly within his; it was a short, professional introduction. She smiled as their hands left one another's, their fingers gently brushing together. “It's an honor, by the way.”
He wasn't quite sure what she meant by that remark, and cast her a puzzled gaze. She seemed unaware of his confusion.
“Excuse me?” he asked, softly. Her eyebrows rose, tilting her head toward him with a gentle, feminine giggle.
“I'm Evonne Quirin,” introduced the woman, becoming friendlier with every word. She rubbed her arms in the cold, evening air.
“Well, my name is -,” began Cabren, but was interrupted.
“I know your name,” laughed Evonne flirtatiously, smiling as if meeting someone famous. “Who doesn't by now? I mean, quite a bit of responsibility was placed onto your shoulders a couple hours ago.”
Evonne began her stride again. Her shoes were clicking on the pavement overgrown with weeds and grass. She didn't turn back to look at him until he called out.
“I'm not sure what you're talking about – what do you mean?” asked Cabren. He raised his voice so she could hear him properly. Evonne, however, continued speaking as if she didn't hear Cabren's remark.
“Well – I guess I'll be talking to you rather soon then,” hinted Evonne. The conversation had not made any sense to him. She left him feeling rather open as he stood in the front yard, nearing midnight. “Good luck,” she said, waving to him one last time.
A loud crack emerged from the stillness, and a smoky image of Evonne's contour appeared where she had once been. The breeze began to suddenly pick up, ringing several sets of chimes in the distance. The lingering smoke was carried away.
The woman had vibrated his senses, almost as though her beauty had been some sort of firework. The conversation left him intrigued, and he continued to stare at where she had disappeared, hoping that she would return. However, after realizing that he was the only person left out on the street, he let out a quiet, disgruntled moan.
Shaking off the random confrontation, he turned back toward the manor. Arriving at the entrance, he jingled a set of keys in his hand, removing them from his pocket, and unlocked the front door. Warmth met him at the entrance. It felt good to be back inside after being in the rain-slicked street. Unforgiving weather was always a strong reminder of how pleasant it was to return home after a rainy trek along the sidewalks.
Cabren removed his icy coat, feeling the hefty weight lift from his shoulders. After feeling the frigid fabric pull away from his back, he felt alleviated. His hand turned the door next to him, unveiling a muddled closet. It was cluttered with random objects. He took a moment to extricate the items into a disheveled form of organization, preparing a spot for his thick, frozen jacket. Looking forward to his glowing living room, he shut the door and turned down the hallway, happily setting his sights onto the fireplace.
He knew he needed to make use of the golden locks he'd just purchased, eager to get started on his experiment. Everything was ready in the kitchen – the brullochs, the resistors; all of them were packed away in the cabinets, waiting for tonight. Cabren had plenty of confidence in himself, but still wanted to look through the directions one last time before diving into his task.
Seeing that the fire was still burning brightly, crackling and roaring, he fell upon the cushioned, scarlet. His hand reached for a book waiting on a coffee table. Acute Syschemization was handwritten across the cover. The pages were tattered and stained with age and the book's spine was cracked in several places. It had obviously been repaired at one point or another, only to have the tears open back up.
His mind often traveled through ideas as he read, resulting in his needing to turn back several pages and reread. He had at last become genuinely engrossed after an hour or so of relaxation when he remembered the golden necklace wrapped around his neck. His fingers gently trembled along the circular medallion; it was engraved with softly carved images of five people, each in a heroic pose. Their names were faintly carved beneath each person's portrait.
Cabren looked up from the book, remembering his plans for the night. His back cracked loudly as he lifted himself from the couch. He felt as though the cushions had slowly started digesting him into their pillows. Grasping the book tightly in his hand, he exited the room at a leisurely pace.
He turned into a long, dusky hallway. Eerie, candlelight fixtures lit the windowless walls. Cabren's feet softly sunk into the emerald carpeting, matching with the dark maroon wallpaper. As he passed through the corridor, portraits of his ancestors stared blankly into the hall. He noticed one of the portraits to his right; a golden frame outlined a picture of a middle-aged woman – Luella Dimeling.
In a few days, he'd be off in secret – rather reluctantly – to visit her. She was aging quicker than she was supposed to and had lived the past thirteen years of her life in hiding from sinister teleclipts. He thought highly of her accomplishments and Congenia honored them greatly, but people tried to avoid talking about those dark, sad times.
Eventually, he passed by a door with bright light seeping from its corner's. He could hear his teenage sister, Celine, banging around her room. Curious, Cabren's head poked in to see what was going on. His sister's bed sheets were wildly flipping through the air, resembling a wide, open mouth.
“What the -,” cried Cabren, shocked at the sight of hostile blankets.
“I was pr-practicing my telekinesis and – I don't know what happened!” she yelled, waving her arms through the air with each word. Her hands gripped her hair with tight, clenched fists.
Cabren sighed and moved to the center of the room. His forceful hand commanded the blankets to stop their endeavor, and they proceeded to ripple like waves, as if trying to take flight. As his hand pushed through the air toward them, they writhed, finally dropping lifelessly onto the floor. Only a bit still remained on the bed.
Celine breathed heavily. Her head banged against the wall with relief as her eyes closed. “Yeah, uhm... thanks.”
She laughed. Her beautifully blond hair was in a mess, which was unusual to see, especially for her. She combed it as soon as the excitement died down.
“What were you doing?” smiled Cabren, laughing at the oddness of the scene.
“What d'you think? I was trying to make my bed without having to touch it, but... I don't know what went wrong. It had, like, a mind of its own or something.”
“That happens sometimes,” explained Cabren. “That's why I don't like you using telekinesis without me. At least wait until you get better, all right?”
“I thought I could handle it,” groaned Celine, who began making her bed by hand.
“Well, that turned out well, didn't it?”
“Yeah, yeah...” she mumbled, sitting on her messily made bed. “Okay, well, I've got homework to do, so I probably won't get to bed until late.”
“It's already midnight!” Cabren pointed out, making reference to his wrist even though he had no watch on it. “You do have a curfew, you know. Being thirteen years old doesn't mean you can choose your own bedtime.”
“But it's for homework!” said Celine. Her arms acted out her words, pretending to write on paper.
“That's why you can stay up – just tonight… but don’t get used to it,” allowed Cabren, nicely. He always wanted to be the strict role model since their parents were never around. However, he often found himself sliding the rules, never following through with punishments.
“Sure,” she laughed, knowing he'd let her stay up the next night, regardless.
As he left, he closed the door behind him. The sound of his sister in her bedroom cluttered the silence. However, the scene had put a fresh step into his stroll to the kitchen, opposed to how tired he had been before. The candles along the wall glowed brighter with his mood.
Entering the kitchen, he dropped the book onto the island counter in the center. He once had telemaids who cleaned the house, but they had obviously lost their edge since their last visit. The sparkling counter tops were dull and the waxed floors were glazing over.
The island counter had a snow bank of papers oddly organized on it, some of which were hovering in the air. There were several ingredients left out, along with a couple recipes. With one delicate swipe of his hand, the papers parted like the opening of a book, leaving space in the center of the counter. He had bigger plans tonight and needed as much space as possible. The large anthology of recipes he'd been reading began flipping open on demand, his fingers guiding the pages to a certain chapter. His other hand lead supplies out of the over-stocked cabinets.
The kitchen was happily alive with the sound of opening and closing doors, the rustling of paper and his excitement for starting his first Syschemy experiment. He hoped for the best. After all, Cabren had been studying the subject since he had received the book ages ago.
Once each of the ingredients had glided onto the counter, they lined themselves up. After all of the elements had been accounted for, the experimentation was ready to be started.
He paused for a moment, thinking about what he was about to try. If he made a mistake experimenting on the necklace, he'd be in more trouble than he could imagine. Removing it from his pocket, it sparkled brilliantly as though it was the shining eye of the country. Slowly, he began, making sure to take his time; if he made the potion too strong, it might yank him along with the whole house into it.
“Here we are… a few brullochs, a couple resistors,” narrated Cabren, cheerily. A brulloch was a small plant that grew from old metal. Last night he had pulled several up from a rusted shield in his garden
Turning to look at his book, he flipped to the next page and glanced at the proceeding step.
“... And add four tablespoons of Syschemized locks.”
Cabren grabbed his bag. He removed each of the golden locks he'd just purchased on his way home earlier that night. A large, stone oven was built into the wall, a shell of dust and dirt around it. He carefully aligned the golden locks onto the melting table. The heat from the oven coursed through the kitchen as soon as the door was opened, adding a layer of sweat to his forehead. He needed to make sure not to burn himself as he lowered the locks in.
Before they made it fully into the confines of the oven, he saw the locks begin to sizzle. Smoke fumed into the kitchen, filling the room with a golden haze. A couple more seconds, he assured himself, knowing they needed to be completely liquidized. But he couldn't withstand the pressure of the heat any longer, and slid out the melting table. Better less than more, he thought – he couldn't take the chance of the locks evaporating, which often happened with Syschemization ovens.
Cabren reached over and gently grasped a tiny vial. Golden, wispy fumes escaped from the tip of the glass as he poured the locks in, slithering into the air like serpents. He poured half of the vial into a mass of items stirring in mid-air. It appeared as though an invisible cauldron held the contents.
At last, he was finished with the toughest part. Almost done with the experiment, he wiped his hands and sighed with relief, making his way out the kitchen.
Cabren froze – a large crackling sound emerged from the living room down the hall. His body moved backward, leaning against the wall as he peered down the corridor. Raising his hand in the air, he readied himself, prepared for anything that might attack. He was skilled in the art of telekinesis, and he felt no guilt in using it for protection if needed.
He slowly strode through the hallway. The crackling had apparently been so loud the dust along the walls had been disturbed, flowing through the air like pollen. Squinting his eyes, he tried to see what was happening through the cloud of dust. He was unable to make out the tall, dark figure that was standing at the end.
Finally, he saw it – a shadowed man peered in his direction with a thick, heavy hood.
It darkened any discernible features on the man’s face. His eyes were like suns in a dark cavern, staring at him with brutal intensity. Brushing the cape away from his body, it hung near his feet, barely clinging to his waist as he walked. The trespasser began to step closer, lowering the hood framing his face.
“Cyrus!” swore Cabren under his breath. He knew exactly what the intruder was here for. Cyrus had been trying to obtain an item from Cabren for years – something he desired, but more importantly, something he needed. Perhaps Cyrus was here to steal it, instead of waiting for Cabren to hand it over. “What're you doing here?”
“I've come to see you. It's been a while,” gnarled the visitor, bearing his teeth. “How have you been since I last made your acquaintance?”
Cyrus began walking vigorously past Cabren. His left leg was stricken with a horrible limp.
“You know how it's been, Cyrus,” spoke Cabren, gritting his teeth. “I've seen your eyes following me everywhere I go. You don't think I see them, but I do. It's not long until I make sure you're blind from it.”
Cyrus stretched out his arms, as if egging Cabren on.
“You know perfectly well why I'm not standing here with open arms, happy to see you, Cyrus,” bellowed Cabren, straightening his back to appear as tall as possible. He looked into his enemy's eyes; they were glaring back at him like a well-guarded bank of information. His mind strained with every muscle, trying to see what might be waiting within Cyrus' head. Even so, it wasn't good enough. Cyrus had a brain that remained a barred fortress, protecting his pool of thought.
Cyrus walked into the kitchen, positioning himself on one end of the island counter. Cabren waited at the other.
“Do you even have any idea what is going on in the outside world right now, Cabren?” asked Cyrus, somewhat interested. “Or do you sit here all night and day reading that book. The one that pathetic Syschemizer wrote you?”
“He is no pathetic Syschemizer!” retorted Cabren, his eyes narrowing.
Cyrus gave out a fake laugh. “What is it again? Cooking objects that remind you of feelings?”
“It is melting anything that represents an emotion, feeling, or thing,” answered Cabren with a respectful emphasis.
“It's rubbish and stupid to think of someone melting down a bed because it reminds them of resting, so that later they can drink it and fall straight to sleep,” laughed Cyrus, irritably.
“Tell me why you are here or get out!” barked Cabren. A numbing bitterness pitted itself into Cabren’s stomach, feeling as though an icy weight was inside him. The room fell silent and serious. Both just stared into each other's eyes for an intense moment. The tension had been thickened and spread over them like tar.
“Well, it is obvious you have no wish to see me after what has happened between us,” Cyrus continued. “I do come with news, however – unhappy news. It is time to decide.”
“You mean -,”
“Yes... father died several hours ago,” he cut in with a thin touch of sadness, but a thicker blot of excitement.
Cabren hadn't spoken with his father for a few months now. After strongly disapproving several of his recent choices, he felt that it was best to cut off contact with him for a short period of time. But now that he was dead... dead! He repeated it over and over again, almost sure that Cyrus was reading his stuttering thoughts. A few seconds later, Cabren replied, “How did it happen?”
“That's not important!” howled Cyrus. “He is dead and you know what that means.”
“I told you, I have no wish to rule over Congenia. I saw what the power did to father and I need to stay here and watch over Celine! Greed has more than obviously overcome you – I find you unfit to rule,” he explained, as if he had rehearsed it.
Cyrus' skin began to flame, becoming scarlet. Every wrinkle in his face deepened like ancient, crinkled rug. His hand rose up into the air and swiftly guided the pot beside him into the wall. It shattered and broken pieces flew across the room like knives, steered by the anger in Cyrus' mind until they fell to the floor in ruin.
“If you don't want it, then give it to me! Give me the power to rule – give me the necklace!” pleaded Cyrus with a hopeless expression. “It has the right to stay in our family – don't just give it away!”
“With you in charge, everything the necklace has power over would certainly be run into the ground,” Cabren grumbled, slamming his fist into the counter in front of him.
“If you won't give it to me, then I'll bring it into my possession by my own means,” roared Cyrus and his body at once teleported, making the same familiar crackling noise Cabren had heard when the intruder had arrived.
Finally, a sense of relief flushed him and rippled throughout the rest of the house. Cabren took a moment to breathe, hoping that Celine hadn’t overheard the argument from within her room. He felt a certain liability to keep her uninvolved with the outrageous politics of the situation – the outrageousness that had eaten away their family tree, limb by limb, like a horde of manic ants. Hearing that she wasn’t stirring around the house, he felt that peace was starting to restore itself, although, Cyrus' threat was still lurking over his head.
He sighed and wiped his hands clean from the sweat that had been soaking his palms, drawn there from the tension of the argument. Brushing his hands through his hair, the temperature around him was starting to diminish. However, he knew that this was no time to relax and his hand motioned toward a piece of parchment that slid directly underneath a pencil. It wrote the words coming from Cabren's mind.
He quickly trotted over to the kitchen counter. The Syschemy potion he had been brewing was finished. Emerald smoke fumed from the top, billowing to the ceiling as a violet haze cast along the walls. There was only one last step: the vial of melted locks. His hand grasped them. The locks were the main ingredients in the Syschemy potion, because they represented the feeling of security and guarded anything they were poured over. Cabren turned the vial upside down. The remaining slug-like liquid slid out of it, oozing into the concoction being stirred. The moment the creation hit his potion, the smoke rising into the air turned a bright scarlet. Every nook in the kitchen was strangely lit by the red, bubbling formula.
Removing the necklace Cyrus sought from inside his pocket, he held it into the air to look at it one last time. He hoped what he was about to do was the right thing, and, if it worked out, it would solve many future problems. Taking out some of the potion, he poured it onto the golden necklace until it glazed over like a pure, white coating, drying as a clear shell.
“There we go,” he exhaled, happily. “Finally finished.”
The pen that had been writing his letter finished scribbling a few last words. He read it just before the parchment folded itself into the shape of an envelope.
Dear Garret Light,
The time has come to secure Cyrus Stone. I feel the
knowledge of my father's death might have exposed the gr-
eed in him to the bone. I made a choice not to give him the
necklace and have decided to give it to somebody whom I
trust will make the right choice.
Whoever has the necklace has right to rule over the
Congeni Companions or gets to appoint the next ruler. I
have faith in your family, and that they will make the right
choice for the country’s sake.
I sense Cyrus will be visiting you soon. He will rea-
lize you have the necklace and, if I am correct, he is reading
my mind now and is on his way to claim it for himself. I
fear he will not hesitate to kill any one who steps in front of
Please, dress your boy with it around his neck, and
it will give him better luck than Jared had. I promise you,
it will keep him safe.
Your Life Long Friend,
That's when Cabren felt a tingling sensation in his head. A message – no, a command – was imprinting itself into his mind. Feeling faint, he tripped over his feet several times, catching himself. He walked down the hall as he held the letter wrapped around the necklace. Every couple seconds, his vision would blur and he saw what he thought to be the inside of Cyrus' house, only to fade back to what was in front of him.
Cabren held onto the walls for support as the floor beneath him began to drop from his feet. He fell backward until he hit the wooden floorboard so hard that splinters pierced his face. Cabren tried to keep his eyes open, attempting to see what was happening, but the ceiling above him appeared to be running in circles
Before he knew it, he was leaning over a cold bathtub; water that smelt of iron was pouring out of it. It had clearly been filling up for several minutes already. Each passing moment, he could feel more and more of his free will leaving him, like a punctured bottle of sand. Some one else's mind power was controlling his nerves and actions. It hurt his eyes to keep them open for too long. After a while, he couldn't close them and they were being stretched open, as if some one behind his eye sockets was trying to look through.
The image of his sister in her room burst into his mind, abating the pain for just several, heavenly seconds. If only she could know he was a just room away, sprawled across a porcelain bowl with streams of water gushing over its edges.
Finally, feeling no control over his body, he dipped into the tub before him, splashing the water to the floor like shards of glass. Fully clothed, he sunk in, struggling to breathe. His left hand slowly rose from his pocket.
With his last effort, his fingers writhed to point at the parchment letter wrapped around the necklace. It was resting on the counter in front of the mirror, just barely visible between the visions of Cyrus' house and the water drowning his eye sockets. On the verge of giving up, the letter and necklace dematerialized loudly, and Cabren knew it had been teleported safely to where it needed to be.
With that last bit of satisfaction left in him, the unseen force controlling every movement began vibrating his body. He could feel his brain begin to crawl within his skull. Every inch of him jerked and kicked. His own mind seemed to be attacking him with such severity it felt as though his brain was getting a violent massage. A vision of Cyrus angrily scraped into his head, clawing like an infestation of rats.
In the culmination of his protesting, the room around him fell silent. Every sound that had been swimming into his ears ceased to exist in one single moment. The image of his wavy ceiling became distorted as his face sunk beneath the surface. Before his eyes shut for good, he saw Celine run in. As she looked toward him, her eyes became as wet as his own were, and the room faded into a black abyss, with Celine as his final sight.