Today, my late husband would have been 47. I thought to share a scene where one of my main characters dies. I have two “go to” scenes. One I believe I have already shared, and one which I don’t think I have. As I was searching for one of those two scenes, my eyes landed on “Book of Worlds” which is a work in progress that needs a lot more to be anywhere near complete. But it’s a book of short stories that takes place in a book store that has doorways to other worlds, if you know how to find them.
I decided to share one of the two stories I wrote for this book. It is a story of renewal. Perhaps that is what I need more than a story of loss. Perhaps you need it as well.
Mervin: Losing the Darkness
The bell chimed softly over the door. Leonard looked up and his smile faded, but his kindness did not. His latest customer was not unwanted, just sometimes disliked. As if understanding the mood of the customer and the owner, music started to play. The store seemed to have a mind of its own sometimes. Music would start unbidden when certain customers came in. This time, it was two soulful, mournful cellos. They seemed to be pulling the music from the night, as if alone and crying their pain. It was beautiful but tugged at the air as it thickened it.
Mervin looked around as the music started and he closed his eyes at the sound. There were always tendrils of black smoke swirling about the dark wizard. Humans of this planet could not see it but gave him a wider berth. People not of this Earth or trained to see such things, were quick to give him room. The darkness clung to those who practiced the dark arts. The more smoke that swirled, the deeper the person had delved.
As Mervin paused at the door, another bell sounded. Leonard looked to another entrance in time to see white armor disappear from around Maurice. The knight of Galing was not an innocent, but he fought for the innocent. Leonard smiled again and waited to see which of the two customers would arrive at his desk first. He smiled larger as they both arrived at the same time. Leonard looked to Mervin first, as he had entered the shop first.
“How can I help you, Mervin?”
Mervin turned his head to regard the man beside him. The knight looked back, and Mervin nodded. The then turned to Leonard. “I need passage to Darvim.”
“That is not asked lightly.” Leonard offered with a bit of tenseness in his voice.
“No, it is not.”
“What do you need from Darvim?”
“The last component to a spell that may ease my lifelong suffering.”
Leonard knew Mervin had been at the black arts for a long time. He started when he was seven. He was tired of being abused by his family. “Suffering is sometimes earned Mervin.”
The tired looking wizard bowed. “I understand that, Bookkeeper, but there are some things that must be done.”
Leonard gave him a hard look then held up a finger. He turned to Maurice and smiled. “And how can I help you? He may take a while.”
Maurice smiled. “When I was trapped here for three years, I kept coming to your bookstore in search for a book for my daughter. Though I didn’t remember I had a daughter, I remembered that I wanted a book. I’m here now for that book.”
Leonard was surprised that Maurice revealed so much in front of Mervin. Telling a dark wizard too much might allow them to trap a person, if they were of a mind. Leonard realized that Maurice probably saw something in Mervin that allowed him to make the decision to talk. It helped Mervin’s case greatly. Leonard nodded to Maurice and called to his daughter.
“Allysa. Come help Maurice.”
The woman appeared as if from nowhere and smiled to Maurice. She saw Mervin, held his gaze for a moment and smiled to him as well. A slight blush appeared on her cheeks as he smiled back. Leonard didn’t like the blush but held his tongue. She was old enough to make her own decisions, good or bad.
Allysa turned back to Maurice. “How can I help you, Sir Maurice?”
“I’m looking for Darque Falls by Sir Francis of Dertain. Do you happen to have it? My daughter wanted to read it.”
“We have six copies in three different languages. Come this way.”
Maurice nodded to the two gentlemen and followed Allysa. Once they were gone, Leonard turned back to Mervin, who was giving him a tired look.
“That wasn’t necessary old man. I know you wanted me to know a knight of Galing was here and I know you wanted me to see that exchange, but you seem to forget. I’m not able to harm you or this store. If I did, I would die in moments. Please don’t dishonor me again with petty actions such as this. They’re beneath you.”
Leonard looked to Mervin during this soliloquy and saw how tired Mervin really looked. “I did not do it to remind you of what you could not do. I did it to see what you would do. In the past, you threatened to launch spells at the establishments next door. That would harm the store and there would be nothing I could do.”
Mervin shrugged. “I’m tired of my existence, Leonard. It’s why I ask for passage.”
Leonard gave him a hard, long look. “What do you need?”
“The final component for my spell.”
The look became harder. Leonard’s usually kind grey eyes had a sharpness to them that cut Mervin to the core. “Let’s try this again: what do you need?”
Mervin hung his head, and the black smoke around him seemed to thicken. “The heart of an innocent.”
Leonard pulled back visibly in his chair. He cringed at the thought. “You take the heart of an innocent trapped in Darwim, realm of Demons and you trap the soul there.”
Mervin looked at Leonard with tortured yet bored eyes. “I am well aware of that, but the only innocent hearts in Darwim were trapped there during the War of Purgo. So many died, the Soul Catcher was not able to keep up. Many souls were thrown in the wrong direction.”
“Most were returned to their rightful place after the war.” Leonard reminded him.
“Some were not. Some still remain in Darwim. I will find one of those and take its heart.”
“It will be trapped.” Leonard stated to try and remind Mervin of the consequences.
Mervin looked to Leonard again and this time, he let the old man see the pain in his eyes. “Leonard, I will only take the heart of one that has been there long enough that they will not know the difference. I know the consequences. I am tired of my existence and need a fresh start. Too many have been promised a part of me. I wish to let them have it.”
Leonard sat taller in his chair. “Suicide is not dishonorable on many worlds.”
“If I take my own life, I will be sent to Darwim, where my soul will be ripped asunder for generations. Then, I will be made a demon to help recruit others to the path I chose.” He hung his head and shook it. “I can’t allow that to happen, Leonard. I don’t want to continue down this path of pain and torture.” He looked up to Leonard as a tear rolled down his cheek. “I need a new beginning. A chance to change myself. A chance to break free.”
Leonard saw nothing but the truth in Mervin’s eyes. He nodded reluctantly and pulled a folded piece of paper out from the top desk drawer. It was sealed with black wax. On the wax was written Darwim. He handed it to Mervin. “Take care to bring nothing back through.”
“They won’t have time to follow me. They will have everything they want.”
Leonard did not let go of the paper as Mervin took it. “Why not?”
“In exchange for the heart, they will strip me of my magic, my heart of its hatred and my mind of its memories. There will be nothing left of me.”
“What happens if it doesn’t work?”
“I die there.”
“If it works?”
“I will come back through and give you final instructions.” He took the paper as Leonard finally let it go. Mervin reached into his cloak and laid several gold coins on the counter. “Thank you, Keeper of Gates.”
Leonard watched as Mervin left the area. He opened the paper and followed the instructions. He went down and up and across many landings. He went up, up, up a few staircases, and down a few more. Finally, when he had taken the right path, he walked into Darwim. There was no hesitation. As the passage closed behind him, Leonard could swear he heard the screams of the damned.
Some time later, it might have been hours, it might have been days, Mervin stumbled back through the portal. Leonard was waiting for him to show, but his daughter was on duty when he came through. Smoke, white as clouds, came off him as quickly as a hot cup of coffee just warmed up in the microwave. Heat was rolling off him as well. Allysa caught the wizard as he stumbled and yelled for her father.
“Dad! He’s through! He’s hurt. Where do I take him?”
Leonard knew there were no other customers in the store. He sealed all doors and looked to his daughter. He couldn’t see her from where he was, but he looked in her direction nonetheless. “Take him to the back study.”
“Dad, which one?” She asked in a frustrated tone. There were three back studies.
“The one with the couches and don’t get an attitude with me young lady! I can still take you across my knee!”
“But you won’t,” she mumbled under her breath.
Allysa picked Mervin up in her arms, stunned by how light he was. He also seemed younger. The laugh lines on his forehead and near the corners of his eyes seemed to be fading as she watched. Allysa shook her head and carried Mervin to the back study, the one with the couches. She placed him on one of the couches as her father appeared. Leonard waved her away and went to kneel by Mervin.
“Mervin? Can you hear me?”
Mervin turned to the old man, and Leonard did a double take. He looked much younger and his body was shrinking. “It worked. They took everything that they could…. magic, hatred, memories, and left me this shell. I can fill it again, once it’s completely empty.” He looked Leonard in eyes. He was frantic. “When this is done, take all my clothing, all my possessions and burn them! Leave nothing behind for me to find! I need a clean slate. Give me to the authorities and tell them whatever you want, but please make sure I have nothing of mine on me.”
Before Leonard could ask any other questions, light burst from within Mervin as the spell reached the final transformation point. It was bright enough to make Leonard and Allysa shield their eyes. They uncovered them when a baby’s cry filled the room. Leonard looked back to the couch to see a small shape under Mervin’s clothing. He moved everything out of the way and saw Mervin. He was a baby now, as tiny as a newborn. His eyes were closed, and his mouth was wide open, to allow the cries to leave. Leonard picked him up and held him close. He looked to Allysa.
“I’ve heard of this, but never seen it. He gave up everything he was to start over again. He wanted a clean start. Take all his clothing, all his possessions and burn them. Should he come into contact with anything in the future, he will revert to his old self. Keep nothing for yourself Allysa. I know you loved him, but if you have anything of his, please get rid of it. He needs this clean start.”
“What are we going to do about a diaper?”
“Call Chen’s. See if they would be willing to bring a small box of diapers and anything else we might need for a baby. Say someone abandoned the child here with no note. I’ll call the police.”
He stood with the child in his arms as Allysa ran for the phone. She had a cell phone, but it was best to use the landline in the store. Leonard took the child to the front of the store and used the second extension to call the police. He knew someone on the force and told her the story he told Allysa: someone abandoned a baby in the store.
A few minutes later, the police, an ambulance and the youngest Chen showed up at the same time. Leonard let the EMTs check out the child and gave them the baby items from Chen’s. He paid for it as he talked to the police. No, he didn’t see the person who left the child behind. No, nothing was left with the child. He even showed them the couch on the first-floor landing where he found the child. There was no note, no belongings, nothing. The police told him they would fingerprint the child and even run his DNA to try and find a match. There wouldn’t be one. The spell removed all the old life.
Mervin was a new child now, a new person. He would be free to make new choices and new mistakes. As the police took the child away, Leonard hoped that Mervin would have a good life. He looked to his daughter and hoped that his youngest was not foolish enough to keep anything of Mervin’s. Old things had a habit of coming back at inopportune moments, especially if one was trying to change their life for the better.