If you’ve missed any of the previous chapters, you can find them all here.
Chapter 8: Rules like Chains
Cheshire looked on from a cluster of bushes at Madnes’ shout ringing the night. He turned his furry head away. “The one thing I hate about this job….” Gray fluffy forehead crinkled. “The necessary price.”
The rest of the evening past Madnes by in a fog—as if someone else were moving his legs, vaguely waving “bye” to Harrey, and walking him home. Into his room, and plopping onto the bed. He curled up, trying not to eye the ink clock staring obvious from beneath his sleeve. Trying to shut his eyelids when every inch of him screamed restlessly. Trying not to think, but his mind was a locomotive racing through a grim valley sullied in images of death.
The pale breaking of dawn was small relief. He worked to get himself back into a normal state of mind for school. His hands shook and his heart rate wouldn’t mellow, but at least he was making it through the day. He had to hold on until he found Cheshire—then things would be different. He had bones to pick with that snazzy-dressed cat.
It wasn’t until he moseyed over to the Madness Solver “mushroom” office building that afternoon that he, at last, laid eyes on the gray tabby. He pushed back his shirt’s white sleeve and held up the inked wrist, staring intently and accusingly down at him. “Explain.”
Paws motioned for him to cool down. “Yes, I was going to get to that once it showed up.”
“And no sooner? This is my life. I have a right to know what’s happening to it!” he held the clock above the cat’s brow. “Auntie Rose died young—too young. She was the previous Madness Solver,” he said. He had to swallow, even though his throat was beyond parched. “Is the same thing going to happen to me?”
Cheshire eyed up at him for what felt like a long, somber minute before answering carefully. “The Madness Solver power puts great strain on the body. And it…has rules.”
He looked with a question, but instead jumped to the first answer he needed. “Is their a time limit on it?”
“The power survives by feeding off the life of its host. Depending on how strong the life force of the host is determines how long it will take before it’s all consumed. And how frequently you draw large amounts of power from it. It all factors into how fast or slow the clock ticks,” the tabby explained, and pretended to clear dust from his brown top hat.
“And when the hand reaches 12:00 again?” he tried to hide the tremors shaking his throat. When Cheshire hesitated to answer he shook his head knowingly. “It’s ticking down my life. This thing I wanted nothing to do with is slowly killing me. And I never had a say in it, did I?” He glared fiery.
Cheshire frowned just as deeply back. “The Madness Solver must always exist. For the sake of Okinala and everyone on it. It is a price that must be paid.”
“And it must be paid with my life?” he exclaimed, rage shuddering his fists.
“I won’t pretend you should be glad of this—or not resent me for it—but you must accept it. Or else you won’t be able to move on and fulfill your duty to this island and Wonderland.”
“Why me?” he strained through clenched teeth.
“The power has rules, which even we in Wonderland do not understand,” Cheshire explained like a teacher. “1) Life is the price paid for wielding the power. 2) You cannot tell anyone that you are dying from this. If someone figures it out, you must keep them silent. 3) The host must be mostly human. 4) The one chosen must have the right heart and spirit for the job. A determined will that cannot be shaken, and a caring heart.” He placed the hat back on his furry head. “Those are the qualifications for being the Madness Solver. And those qualities tend to run in your family.”
He faced Cheshire squarely, “And you really think I’m any of those things?”
“You will be—if you shape yourself up, and stop dwelling in self pity.”
“Self pity?” he guffawed. “Excuse me for being down that some crazy cat came along, changed the world I live in, and cut my life in half!”
He didn’t wait—he didn’t want to hear any more from Cheshire—In a rage he stormed out the office and down the town’s sun-baked streets.
The sea merrily splashed up against the coast, several kids in the water squealed delight in the waves. Above an airship veered past the island, and seagulls lazily rode air currents brought in from a faraway storm.
How much longer before he would never see these sights again?
He would miss it. The dusty purple sunsets as they colored the waves lavender. The children in the playground who always found something to giggle about. The airships’ fireworks at Christmas. Mom’s crazy laugh, and her homemade soups. The lantern festival—putting together paper lanterns with Alice and Harrey. The yukata dress she would probably wear. Harrey’s grin as he showed off his next new and flawed invention. Madnes getting his drivers license, and one day his very own steamcar—or better yet, a high-powered enginecycle! Graduating, and having to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life for work. And Oz—helping him, fixing the severed bond, so they could all find happiness and be together the rest of their lives here: Through every cherryblossom spring, every heatstroke summer, every rainbow-leafed and hot chocolate autumn, and every snow blast winter wrapped in hand-knitted scarves from loved ones…
How much longer before it was all taken away from him?
“I thought…” fingers dug into crossed arms, and his teeth threatened to chatter as he stared out across the future he once took for granted. “I thought I would have forever… Heh, heheh,” he chuckled, a dry laugh lacking mirth, and nothing but despair while his vision watered over. “What a child I’ve been. I’m not some invincible character in a story.”
It was too blurry for eyes to see the sea anymore, or for a spirit to see where he should go from here. The ink clock was a grim display and reminder through the tears.
*Author sheds tears* I’m so cruel to my characters sometimes. But there is a purpose. 😉
Now that you’ve learned what the ink clock means, how do you feel about it? Share your thoughts!
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Thank you for reading, and check back next Wednesday for Chapter 7 and more Okinala madness! 😀
© copyright 2015 Rawls E. Dreamer, All Rights Reserved
This is my entry for this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by the wonderful Rachael Ritchey, where the challenge is to write a short story based on that week’s chosen word. This week’s word was: “Rage.” Check out the link if you are curious and would like to join in the challenge.
Come back to Okinala Island (here) next Wednesday for the next chapter!
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