A small cabin stood at the end of a long winding driveway. Its windows were mostly shattered and covered with rotting boards. Life seemed to have abandoned it at first glance. A faint light shone in one of the windows, however.
Sean thought it looked different than he'd remembered. It was a gloomy and dreadful sight. Abandonment. He sighed quietly.
"Looks like we're here," his voice broke an uneasy silence.
Matt hesitated, "It doesn't look right."
Sean nodded and put the car in park. He pulled up the emergency brake and sat staring at the cabin for a long moment.
"This is where she said. The old hangout."
"It sure does look old now." Matt shook his head slowly.
"Guess we should head in." Even though I think I'm going to regret it, Sean thought.
"I really don't know. This party doesn't look like our type of thing."
Sean turned off the engine and opened the door. Faint sounds of music leaked through the cracked wooden boards of the house. Several other cars were parked carelessly in the yard. He made sure to lock the door. Normally he wouldn't worry about anyone wanting his car, but of them all, his looked the most like it would run without breaking down.
"Think we'll have fun?" Matt asked quietly.
"I hope so. Not too sure, though."
Sean started down the gravel driveway with Matt following close behind. Matt carried with him as usual, a sketchbook with a very worn cover.
He had a bad feeling about the night. There was a disgusting feel about the place. He'd had the feeling before about other places, but this was the first time it was from a place he knew.
The porch creaked with each footstep Sean took. He stepped up to the door and knocked. The only sound was that of the music. He was about to knock again when he heard a lock click from the inside. The door flew open suddenly, almost hitting Sean in the face.
"Guys!" Ashley ran out the door and threw her arms around Sean. Her brown hair hung in disheveled strands down to her shoulders. Brown eyes surrounded by a ring of redness locked with Sean's. He looked away quickly. It was disturbing to see such emptiness. Her clothes were soaked with something. Whether it was beer or water, he couldn't tell. The reek of smoke and alcohol poured out the door.
"Ashley," Sean forced his voice into a tone of happiness, "how are you?"
"Great as always," she giggled, "It's been awhile since I saw you."
Sean nodded slowly, "I managed to drag Matt out here too."
Ashley seemed to notice him for the first time and ran over to hug him. Matt's face turned red. "Hey Ashley. It's been awhile."
"Yea Matty. I missed you too."
"Ashley," Sean put a hand on her shoulder, "I thought you said this would be our kind of party."
"Oh Sean! You have to try new things every now and then. You would of never come otherwise."
True. Very true. "I know, but...I believed you."
Ashley smiled, "Well, don't worry. Won't force you to do anything you don't wish."
Matt sniffed at the air, "What is that?"
"Oh. Like the smell? Some of my friends brought a few gifts."
Matt shook his head, "Doesnít smell too nice."
"Well, you'll get used to it." She grinned.
"I hope so," Matt muttered.
"Come on in and have some fun."
Sean followed Ashley inside. The smell was overwhelming. His eyes watered from the cloud of smoke, which filled the house.
Matt coughed slightly and leaned over near Sean, "I don't think I can stand this for long."
"Me either." Sean was having a hard time of breathing without gagging.
Ashley looked at the two for a moment, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing much," Sean said, "I just think I'm going to head outside for a little."
She nodded and smiled, "Yea, it is a pretty night. I'll come with you."
Matt half-frowned, "I'll come along too I guess."
"You two can head down," Ashley grinned, "Have to go get my jacket. Meet you out in the field."
Sean turned around and stepped back outside, relishing the sweet clear smell of the air. He hopped off the porch and started walking behind the house. It still looked the same as he remembered.
The field was a wide open space with only a few patches of trees within its borders. There was a fallen tree near the center that they'd used for a bench when they were younger.
Sean sighed. It was the sight of a thousand adventures of good against evil. Whatever had happened to those times? Everything changes. Ashley proves that.
Matt took a seat on the bench and pulled out a pencil. He started to scribble something down onto it.
"How can you even see what you're drawing in this light?"
"Haven't you figured out my secret? I just guess, thatís why what I draw is so horrible."
Sean smiled, "From what I've seen that must mean you'd make a nice gambler."
"Don't give me any ideas. I don't want to lose the few cents I have left in slots."
The night was quiet. They were too far away from the cabin to hear any of the music. Sean looked up at the sky and tried to count the stars. He'd attempted it before, but never quite got past 100. They all blurred and blended together when he tried.
He wandered out away from Matt into the darkness. It was peaceful being alone. He could just forget who he was for awhile and let the world slip away.
A twig snapped nearby. Ashley came up beside him and leaned against his shoulder. The peace was shattered.
"Isn't the night nice?"
Sean nodded, "You can just let everything slip away."
"Sounds like a good idea."
Sean winced as he felt a pair of arms wrap around his chest. The touch was empty, meaningless. He glanced into her eyes for a moment. Her pale brown eyes were so shallow. She didn't seem to be focussing on anything.
"Doesn't this remind you of when we were kids?"
He shrugged, "In a way."
"You used to protect me," she said dreamily, "I was your Lady."
Don't bring this up. Please, not now. "I remember."
"I want to be yours again," her grip around him tightened.
He shook his head, "No, you don't."
"Of course I do Sean. I care about you so much."
"Please Ashley. Don't say this."
Her grin turned to a glare, "I see how it is."
"No, you don't. Not any longer." Did you ever? Was I always nothing to you?
A slight shock rippled through his face. He barely felt the slap, but it was still painful to him. Ashley turned and stalked away.
Why do dreams always shatter when you need to believe in them most?
Hesitantly, he walked back to Matt, where Ashley was sitting nearby. A sharp pain ran up through his leg.
Sean cursed silently. He'd banged his shin off something. Reaching down to the black ground, his hand wrapped around something wooden. Lifting it up, he inspected it. It looked to be a roughly carved sword. He wondered if it could be the one he had years back. His fingers traced the figure of the hilt. There was a small triangle etched into it with a large circle above. It looked to be cracked in places from harsh weather.
Sean reveled in all the memories it brought back. He had always a special love for the sword. The gracefulness of it had captured his heart. Ever since he was small he had convinced his parents to let him take fencing courses. He might not have been the most skilled of the people he knew, but the grace of it captivated him. Every kata he knew, he strove to perfect.
Matt barely looked up from his pad of paper. Ashley stared wonderingly at the relic of the past, but said nothing.
A strange sound echoed through the field. It sounded like a man's voice. A deep low voice that called out something unintelligible.
"What is that?" Matt asked.
"Don't know," Ashley glanced around, "We're the only ones out here for miles."
"Sure it isn't one of your friends?" Matt set aside the sketch pad.
The strange voice echoed again. It was long anguish cry that seemed to waver in and out of existence.
"I'll go see what it is." Sean walked back further into the field, still holding the wooden sword.
There was nothing there. It was dark, but the stars and moon cast enough light to see by. He wondered if it had only been the wind playing tricks. The wind doesn't sound so low.
"Find anything?" Ashley shouted.
"No, there's nothing-" A swirl of movement caught his eye. A strange instinct took hold of him. He dived to the ground as a flash of silver swept above his head.
"Run!" he shouted.
Sean rolled up onto his feet. There was a man standing there, above him. Shining steel armor covered his body. A long sweeping cloak hung from his shoulders. A bronze helmet covered most of the man's face. But the eyes, they burned with hatred.
"It is your time," the figure said in his deep voice. With no other warning, the armored man rushed forward. His hand raised above his head, a long curved sword in his hand.
Sean knelt and in vain brought the wooden sword up to block. It would never hold against the steel. There was a sharp crack as the two objects collided. Sean glanced up. The stick had held against all odds. He didn't wait for the man to recover.
In one movement, kicked at the man's ankle, sweeping him off his feet. It was luck more than anything that caused the man not to fall on and crush Sean under the heavy armor.
He ran as fast as his legs would carry him. His eyes searched for Matt and Ashley. They were surrounded by men on horseback. Where did they come from?
The two were scooped up onto the horses and held. He could see them both squirming, but to no avail. Instantly, there was a blinding light that erupted from nowhere.
Sean ran toward the riders as best he could. They had disappeared in the face of the blinding light. Without thinking, he charged ahead.
The light was everywhere around him, but he still rushed on. Spasms of pain coursed through him. The world shattered into splinters of light and darkness. He felt himself falling into a deep void of nothingness. Everything vanished.