It was gone. Michael Wolfe’s business empire had collapsed, his homes and possessions were controlled by banks, the yacht had been sold, the bank accounts frozen. All because of a goddamn feather.
“Welcome to my shop, please ask after anything you wish.” The shop was small, cramped and filled with old junk. The owner could have been mistaken for one of his pieces of junk, a shrunken old man in clothes that had never been in style.
Mike entered the shop, mindful of how narrow the path between the shelves was. He had few hopes, the trash to treasure ratio of the average antique store was high. But it was always worth a look, maybe one in forty shops would have an interesting piece worth the investment.
He stopped, stunned, by a small glass jar which contained a single white feather. The jar’s label “Feather of Fortune - $20,000”.
“Excuse me, but I don’t understand this joke,” Mike called to the owner. “It’s just a feather.”
“It’s not a joke, and it’s not just a feather,” replied the old man as he shuffled his way through the shop. “It’s a magic feather.”
Mike laughed. “Now that is funny. A magic feather?”
“It is said that the feather will give you the life you deserve, all you need do is touch it.”
Mike motioned around at the dingy shop and its contents. “This is what you deserve?”
“I have never touched the feather. It has always been in that case.”
“You’re asking far too much for it. I’ll give you $200 and that’s generous.”
“No, I can tell you have money. You can have the feather for $2000 and not one cent less.”
Mike grinned, the flavour of victory sweet to his soul. He pulled out his wallet and paid with a card then turned to pick up his prize. Purchase complete, he headed to his mansion.
Once home Mike pulled the feather from the case. There was no flash of light, no random music, no tingle in his fingers. “Well, that was a lot of money for nothing.”
Half an hour later, Monica came home, furious. “How dare you! I was shopping when you cut off all my cards, without so much as a warning.” Her flamboyant scarf floated behind her, the red and yellow intertwined. “I’ve never been so humiliated!”
Mike raised his hands in surrender. “I did no such thing. I’ll ring the accountant, he’ll straighten everything out in a few minutes.”
Except the accountant didn’t straighten anything out. “You should have fled the country by now.”
“Everything has been frozen. Corruption charges, bank fraud, bribery, you name it and it’s on the list of why your assets and every company you own has been frozen.”
“Bill, how about the offshore…”
“International agreements, they are gone too.”
Monica stormed out. Mike had no idea where she’d gone but he expected divorce papers as soon as she could find a lawyer - assuming one would take the case.
She rolled over and found that there was something hard in the bed. It was cold as well, even the brief touch chilled her to the bone. She flinched back from the object, rolling as close to the edge of the bed as she could.
“David,” she whispered, not wanting to wake the children. “Is this some kind of a weird joke?”
But David didn’t answer. The object was so cold that even though she no longer touched it, she could still feel it absorbing all the heat from where David should have been sleeping.
Still disoriented from waking in the middle of the night, Mary whispered again, “David? Where are you?”
There was no reply. Mary tried to get out of the bed, but found that the blanket which had been draped over the top of her when she went to sleep was now tightly tucked into the side of the bed. She tried again to struggle upwards and felt the hard object touch her again. It pulled so much heat from her body that she began to shiver all over.
“David?” She shrieked, no longer caring if she woke the children. There was no answer, Mary heard nothing at all. The object pulsed light; once, twice, thrice. On the third pulse, Mary died, frozen solid in bed.
Creatures of the night are calling me
Monsters in the night roam free.
They hide behind trees and under rock
While I stay at home and that they mock.
There are those whose bite is much worse than their bark
The werewolves are those who always leave their mark.
But the fangs of the vampire will hold sway
Over any throats that become its prey.
The witch may cast her spell to harm
Which indeed should cause you some alarm.
The hag on the other hand is less than fair
On your chest, she gives nightmares.
The ghoul feasts on the already dead
But your living flesh it may shred.
The ghost haunts the place it met its fate
Tread lightly there or become its mate.
Zombies stumbling through the night
In large armies will give you quite a good fright.
Demons come straight from hell
Which is where you’ll go if you don’t watch well.
The gnome dwells in the ground
But when it comes out, it certainly gets around.
Last and least is Will-o'-the-wisp in the bog
Don’t follow their lights when lost in the fog.
It was the final trial of the assassin. The trial of the desert.
The markers leading to the centre were clearer than Asherak had ever dreamed. The tall, dark pillars that pierced the sky were obvious and easy to follow. In the distance, the mountains were huge vague shadows in the distance beyond. There was even a faint structure that could be seen, looping between the mountains. The structure was his destination, the headquarters of the assassins, La Mort.
He was the last survivor of the ten assassin trainees. The others had failed the previous trials. Three had died by blade, not fast enough to evade the assassins assigned to them. Two had died by poison, trusting others to fetch drinks for them. One died when she failed the leap between two buildings. Two were awaiting trial, captured while attempting to take out a target. He knew that they would not survive until the trial. One fled, no longer willing to risk the training after four of their fellows had died. Asherak doubted that he still lived. There was no such thing as a failed assassin trainee. Either you became an assassin or you died.
He walked. The sword was still in its sheath on his back, his cloak flapping in the wind. Sand swirled everywhere, making it difficult to breath. He adjusted the assassin mask he wore but the fine grains still found his nose and mouth.
He stopped briefly for a drink and realised that the distance he had to travel was deceptive. Two hours of walking and the mountains were no closer. The winds howled wildly as they whipped sand into his face.
The howling wind meant he was not prepared for the attack, though he had suspected that he'd face more than just a hike. A beast roared upwards from the sand, and he barely escaped the first blow. He rolled away from his attacker, and discovered that the beast was faster than he on the sand. He jumped to his feet and pulled out his sword.
The beast was half his height and had scales that were much like heavy armour. He noted that it had tiny slits for eyes, an adaption for living beneath the shifting sands. It seemed unlikely that the beast could see him, but it could still track his movements. He rolled again, sword in hand this time. Then he stopped moving entirely.
The beast had not managed to follow his movement this time and it started to hunt for him. The long, flickering tongue caught the assassin's attention. He waited, not moving and barely breathing. The beast moved ponderously in his general direction.
When it was close enough, he stabbed the tongue. The beast shrieked in agony and whipped backward. He waited, ready to stab the beast again if it persisted. Moments later, it retreated to under the sand once more.
The assassin wiped his blade and debated if he would return the weapon to its sheath. Walking with the blade in hand would be more tiring. But having the bare blade ready to use was more prudent. He resumed his cautious progress toward La Mort. Today, he would become an assassin or die in the attempt.
Damn, damn, damn. Why me? Why me?
The heist had been successful, as they all were. I’d been in, stolen the statue without a soul noticing my presence or the statue’s sudden disappearance.
I had planned the job for months. I knew every schedule down to the last second. I knew every alarm, where each and every cracked tile was. The Ghost had left behind the usual calling card. A white business card with BOO written on it. The OO did double duty, also acting as eyes for the little ghost I drew on the card.
But then I heard it. The tiniest of sounds just outside of the window I was climbing out. It was a sad little pathetic sound and I knew that I was doomed.
“Kitten, where are you?” I called out, just barely making a sound. I was too close to the building, the sound sensitive detectors installed inside could easily pick up my voice if I weren’t careful. I had about 2 minutes to spare before the next patrol came around the corner. If that happened, I’d be caught for the first time in my career.
I gave myself one minute to find the kitten.
“Kitten? Come out here,” I demanded.
“Meow,” was the muffled reply. I could tell the kitten was close.
I was down to 30 seconds to find the kitten and run. I was used to precision timing but this was so very close.
Finally, I spotted the little beast. It had stuck its head in a drainpipe near the window and couldn’t get back out. I had 20 seconds left to rescue it and escape.
The kitten didn’t react well to a sudden hand on its back legs and tried to squirm away. I held on just a little harder and gave the back end of the kitten a firm tug. We were both lucky, it came out.
I fled the scene, with a few seconds to spare. The kitten was deposited in my bag. I left the zipper open a bit, so the kitten could look around.
“You jump and you are on your own, buddy,” I told it. I put the bag down for a moment while I removed the white mask I wore and reversed my coat, changing the colour from white to black. I picked up the bag again and walked calmly to my car, parked several blocks away.
Hannibal comes along with me on all my jobs now. He is actually quite useful at distracting people and setting off alarms a long way from where I am.
Unfortunately, we were caught on camera once. Now all the papers refer to me as The Cat Burglar instead of The Ghost, no matter how many cards I leave behind.
“Sheba, come on. There must be something wrong with you. What is it?” the keeper asked anxiously.
The only answer to the question was a low moan.
Suddenly, Sheba started coughing. The tiger spat out a running shoe.
“Oh man, are we missing a guest or did someone throw that at you? Poor baby.”
Sheba yawned and stretched. She was ready for a good dinner now.
Once upon a time, there was a dragon. The dragon’s name was George. One day, George was roaming the forest when he met a knight.
“Vile serpent, you have met your doom,” declared the knight.
“You sir, are most uncivilised,” replied George. “Is it not common courtesy to name yourself before one of these conflicts? I am George the Mighty, Destroyer of the Weak, Slayer of the Noble.”
The knight blinked twice. “I am Sir George the Noble. Knight of the Realm and Defender of the Fair Sex. Is that sufficient for courtesy?”
The dragon bowed his head and the battle began. George fought George with great strength and ferocity. Such a battle has rarely been seen.
Eventually George won the battle and left his opponent, George, where he lie.—
Note, this story was originally published on my blog.
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