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Ave atque vale

This is for the final prompt on the site Flash Fiction Friday. From the site:

Through many countries and over many seas
I have come, Brother, to these melancholy rites,
to show this final honour to the dead,
and speak (to what purpose?) to your silent ashes,
since now fate takes you, even you, from me.
Oh, Brother, ripped away from me so cruelly,
now at least take these last offerings, blessed
by the tradition of our parents, gifts to the dead.
Accept, by custom, what a brother’s tears drown,
and, for eternity, Brother, ‘Hail and Farewell’. 

 The challenge asked for a story with a goodbye, in a crime fiction genre, 1300 words or less. I did another 'chunk' from an idea for a novel about a portal to another world. I've been using some flash fiction's to explore this story idea - they are great for that. Mine is just under 1200 words.


An Unfinished Goodbye 

"Honey, I'm home."

She'd almost fallen asleep in the warm bath, surrounded by candles and soft music, waiting for Dave. Lately he was always away somewhere on a trip to some remote area, sometimes for weeks at a time. He made a lot of money troubleshooting development projects, and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately it seemed to be his one passion in life. She did have a beautiful home and an adorable baby, but this was not the marriage she'd dreamed of. Luckily she'd found another world to visit, something to fill the boring days, with new people to meet and friendships to forge. She'd kept that other life a secret from Dave though. Even if she could convince him it existed, she knew he would prefer her to stay at home and play her role.

Dave had sent her a note to say he had a surprise stop-over between assignments, and would be there mid-afternoon. He'd said that they needed to talk, but she hoped to get more than just talk out of him. Maybe finding her like this would rekindle their fading romance.

Danny was down taking a long afternoon nap, dead to the world, so she just lay there quietly, waiting for Dave to come upstairs and find her. She listened as he moved about downstairs, talking to the dog, a cupboard door closing, a quick little yap from Sparks, then nothing.

"Dave? Up here, honey." She couldn't hear him any more. She hadn't heard the front door again, so maybe he was looking through the mail. "Dave?"

She sighed. The water was cooling, the moment fading. She climbed out, wrapped her robe around her, and tip-toed downstairs. It wasn't a big house, so it didn't take long to see that Dave was nowhere to be found. His small bag sat by the door, an empty pop can on the table with an envelope propped against it, but no husband. She glanced down as their little terrier barked at her, then stared back at the doggie door.

Oh no, not the portal. The enchantment was supposed to control who could use it to pass between worlds - either way. She and Danny could even feel a subtle pull from it, but for Dave it should be the opposite, a mental push away. Even if he did look through, all he would see would be their tiny suburban yard, not the forests of Combermere. Unless someone had tampered with the spell - someone like Lord Derek.

She poked her head through. "Dave? Dave!" The forest was strangely quiet. She pulled back into the kitchen. "Shit! Shit-shit-shit!" He shouldn't have wandered too far – being more of a city person he'd be cautious. Maybe Brom or one of the other Rangers had found him already and brought him to the Manor House.

She looked again at the table - the envelope was addressed to her.

"Dear Mary," read the note. "I'd sent an email that I was coming home early, but I guess you didn't get it. Or didn't care. Lately you always seem to be out somewhere when I call, but you're evasive about exactly where – always just out shopping. You've seem a bit preoccupied and cool lately too, so I got a little paranoid and asked a detective friend to check it out. He confirmed that most days that he dropped by you were not at home - although he never did manage to catch you leaving. My fear is that you've met someone else. I realize I haven't been here a lot for you and Danny – I'm working with my boss to change that.

I can't stand the idea of your sneaking around, I wanted to talk about it but you're gone yet again. I don't know what I want to do now. I'm off again for a week, in the meantime I think we both need to think about what's next.

PS - OK - this is weird. I felt a sudden compulsion to look thru the doggie door. I can't explain what I saw on other side. It's certainly not our barren back yard, it looks like another world. Is this is where you've been going? I'll take a quick look and see what's there. Now we really do need to talk.

She shook her head. Maybe she could have been more honest with Dave - he seemed more open minded about this than she'd thought he'd be. For now, her priority was to find him and bring him back. She raced upstairs and dressed quickly: jeans, sweater, warm socks, a jacket, her hiking boots. She woke Danny from his sound sleep, and managed to rush him into his clothes. "Hurry hun, it's a special trip, we're going to look for Dad in the forest."

"Our forest?" said Danny. "Is he hiding?"

"Yes dear, it's a game."

But it wasn't a game. She searched around the portal and called out, over and over, but the only answer was from Brom as he rode up. He'd been hunting nearby, and had noticed the strange quiet too. In a few minutes they found the signs of a struggle - some scuffed up leaves, a broken branch, and a pool of blood. A lot of blood.

She pulled Danny away. "Just some hunter," she said. "Killed a deer probably. Like the one we got last week."

There were clear tracks from several horses, heading off to the east, toward Lord Derek's holdings.

"I'll take you and Danny back to Lady Malkyn," said Brom, "then collect the other Rangers - the trail will be easy to follow."

"I'm going with you too," she said.

He didn't argue. They'd hunted and fought together, so he knew that she could hold her own, and was one of the keenest archers in the fiefdom.

They lost the trail after only a few hundred yards, all traces just vanishing into thin air. More of Derek's sorcery. Emissaries were sent to his keep, but he denied all knowledge of any stranger wandering around, even denied being near the portal. She wasn't ready to give up though, she didn't want it all to end like that. They'd never had a chance for that crucial talk, and for, hopefully, a fresh start.

After a solid week combing the woods, searching, calling, Lady Malkyn finally managed to persuade her to take a break. Mary was watching her bounce Danny on her lap, when Brom poked his head in.

"Excuse me, "he said. "It seems Mary's little dog has found something."

She smiled. Somehow when her little terrier used the portal it would transform him into a dire-wolf. Complete with sharp teeth, strong muscles, and a fearsome growl, a killing machine that also liked to be cuddled, and chew on shoes. Which he seemed to be doing now.

"That's Dave's shoe!" she said. "Here Sparks, come here boy, give it here."

"I found him coming over the border from Lord Derek's," said Brom. He nodded to Lady Malkyn. "With your permission, I think it's time we put together a little raiding party."




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Joyce Juzwik

Wow, Mike. This one came very close to breaking my heart. It still may though. At first, I thought Dave just walked back out and wouldn't return because he believed there was an affair. But knowing he went to the 'other side' is still just as heart-breaking, but also frightening. Who has him? Is he alright? Does he realize what's happening? Send me the link with the continuation of this. There has to be a continuation of this. I've said this before and I'll say it again. With each story in this subject matter, it just opens more and more doors to intrigue and fascinate. Love this series!


Comment from a friend - Joyce J -

At first, I thought it was going to break my heart since I believed Dave simply walked out and away due to suspecting his wife of having affairs. But now with him 'somewhere', it is still heart-breaking, but also frightening. Who has him? Where exactly is he? Does he understand what is really happening? I have to find out, so there had better be a continuation of this! I love this series since each door that opens leads to dozens more. Superb, Mike!

I wanted to leave it open a bit - he WAS going to walk out, and she was certainly going to feel bad for not just being honest with him, but then he saw the world beyond the portal and realized maybe she was doing something other than having an affair. So went to see what was there - and was lost.

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