Previously in Madnes Solver:
Madnes and his friends Alice and Harrey were enjoying a typical evening, and making fun of Harrey’s latest invention, when Madnes discovered the image of a clock inked into the skin of his wrist–a clock that was ticking down time. After confronting Cheshire what it meant, the cat confessed that the Madness Solver power Madnes now possessed required a terrible price to be paid. The power has rules, and one of those rules is that it needs to feed off the life of its host to survive. The clock is ticking down the time Madnes has left to live before all of his life is consumed by the power. Learning this, he fell into despair, thinking of all that he would miss and the life he could no longer have…
If you’ve missed any of the previous chapters, you can find them all here.
Chapter 9: The Road Ahead
“Well now, that be a fine confession, if I ever did hear one.”
Madnes’ eyelids whipped open and his neck swiveled to stare at the person who had interrupted his grim thoughts: a rough, rugged man leaning on the railing causally beside him, dustcoat ruffled by the sea’s breeze blowing in.
“Uncle Cosmic. How on earth did you find me here?” he gaped, and tried to wipe away any traces of shed tears with a sleeve.
Cosmic Hunter shrugged broad shoulders like it were obvious. “I ain’t a world renowned Hunter for nothin’, boy. N’ besides, you were supposed t’ meet me to begin trainin’.”
At the word “training” he grumbled and looked away. What was the point of training? For what? It meant nothing if he was going to die by this blasted power. He could have years or no more than months left to live, and then what would have been the point?
“Ya don’t have t’ hide your fears and pain behind a mask, Madnes.” Rough fingers clasped his shoulder, and deep chocolate eyes forced him to meet Cosmic’s gaze. “I know what’s goin’ on. Same as what my sister Rose went through. Though I didn’t find out about the power sappin’ away her life until it was too late…”
“There’s no way out?”
Cosmic hesitated. “Far as I know, no Madness Solver’s ever been able to survive the power’s ticking clock. But…that don’t mean there’s no way t’ be found—”
He threw up his hands and wanted to scream, instead it came out as a loud, frustrated sound. “They died because they didn’t have enough time to find a solution—if one even exists! My chances are the same as theirs. How can I expect to be any different? Just…leave me alone.” He made as if to leave, but the fingers wrapped around his shoulder anchored him to the spot. He shot a glare at them.
“You don’t wanna die, and it’s gatherin’ turmoil inside ya; I won’t blame you. It ain’t somethin’ you asked for,” said Cosmic. There was a touch of encouragement behind his gruff voice. “But there’s more t’ life than that, lad. It don’t just all end when we die.”
“How would you know?” he said bitterly, chewing his cheek to keep back the wells in his eyes from spilling over again, resisting against the hand keeping him there.
“Tell me,” his uncle leaned back lazily, but his hand’s grip never easing, “When you put loads of effort into writin’ those short little stories of yours—when yer finally finished—dontcha care about ‘em?”
He nodded slightly, unsure where his uncle was going with this. And how did he know about his secret hobby, anyway?
“A painter cares about his paintings, a sculptor his sculpting, a musician his music, ‘n so on,” he said. “A creator cares about his finished work. How much more do ya think our Creator cares about us—especially us being livin’ breathin’ creatures, n’ not some stiff painting?”
He eyed his uncle uncertainly.
“That’s why life don’t end when we die, lad. That’s why He wants to take us back to His home, like a guardian does his child. No matter what happens here, we can be reunited there. So quit moppin’ about life!” He flashed a lopsided grin. “Use what you’ve got, and get things done! You were chosen for a reason. It’s time ya figured out why. Maybe you’ll be the Madness Solver t’ change things, eh?”
He wasn’t sure he fully understood Cosmic’s words, or if he believed the Creator actually cared about him, but something about it made his mind stop sinking into the quicksand of despair he’d felt trapped in.
“C’mon, let me take ya out for some Italiano spaghetti.”
“Spaghetti?” he spluttered. “Food? At a time like this?” His frown stared up at his uncle like he was crazy. The guy’s tough hand slapped him on the back, knocking the air out his lungs.
“Yer a growin’ lad. And it’ll make ya feel better. Food soothes the soul as well as stomach—every man who’s a man knows that!”
“…If you say so.”
Cosmic ordered before he got a chance to look at the menu—not that he would’ve looked anyway. He wasn’t in the mood for eating. Especially pasta. And “meatball surprise” unnerved him. He didn’t like surprises.
The Italian restaurant was a quaint place, with red tiles for a floor and fish catcher hanging lights for individual table lighting. Their table was round, metal, and decorated along the sides with clock gears—That made him grimace, a reminder of time passing by. Once the food arrived, spaghetti covered in cheese, sauce, veggies, and dotted in oddly shaped meatballs, the aroma did for a moment distract his mind.
Cosmic dug into his dish the second it hit the table. Madnes watched, then sighed and poked at the spaghetti with his fork. He tasted it. Yes, it was good. So was the meatball—it’s surprise a liquid egg yoke.
“See? Food’s good for a moppin’ soul!”
“I wasn’t mopping.” He grumbled. “…I guess nobody lives forever. I just didn’t realize it, and it came as a shock.” He turned the fork around and around gathering noodles. “I don’t know how long I have, but I don’t want it wasted. I promised Oz I would help him. If I fail at being the Madness Solver, and everything else, keeping my promise to him is the one thing I cannot fail—no matter what.”
A wolfish grin creased his uncle’s face.
Cosmic shook his head full of rugged curls, “Nothin’. Heheh. Good to see ya have a goal t’ live for, again. It’s a wonder what a meal of fine Italian food can do for ya!”
“It wasn’t the food!” he protested, and sat back with a huff. But a change of scenery, and a reminder that he wasn’t alone—that there was more beyond this life—he could feel it slowly bringing him back from death’s bleak pit. “It’s not as simple as just saving Oz: I have to keep myself alive until I can save him. Question is, how?”
Cosmic finished slurping up noodles, and dabbed a napkin at his lips. “Tis a mystery, kiddo! Uncharted waters. But,” he held up a finger, “one thing is sure: Don’t use that power often; and when ya have to, use it wisely.”
“I don’t mean to use it ever. But it forces me. I can feel it—it’s like a part of me—and I can’t help but use it. Just like you can’t help using your brain to function.”
“Hmm…not much choice then.” He pondered, rubbing his stubble jaw. “But if we can build up yer body and mind, n’ make ya more capable, maybe the power won’t feel like it has t’ do stuff for you. That might buy ya some time—maybe enough t’ find a real solution, one of these days.”
A weight of worry lifted off his mind—a small weight; but once it left he could feel the difference. The world looked brighter, shedding its glum cloak. He had a future; he had a purpose.
Is Madnes finally becoming more positive? And will it last, as Oz schemes behind the scenes, waiting to make his move?
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Thank you for reading, and check back next Wednesday for 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: “Spaghetti.” 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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