I almost missed this topic, given to me by the amazing Caryn! But here it is, and one of the best topics to cover when you are feeling down, chocolate.
(If you are joining Emmeline’s story today, welcome! It might help for you to begin here.)
Sweet like chocolate. J R Manawa.
“Something is wrong,” Emmeline said, as her eyes fluttered open. It was morning on the 4th of January, and the sun was streaming in her window. She had been passed out cold on her bed the whole night, too tired even to kick her slippers off after the shower before she collapsed.
“You really are starting to feel, aren’t you?” Charon commented, closing the book of hers that he had been casually reading. He had been awake all night, sitting on her bed beside her while she slept.
She remembered offering for him to wake her halfway through so he had a chance to sleep too. But he had clearly declined the offer.
“I don’t know,” Emmeline replied, but her hair was standing on end.
“I’ll go take a look.” He got off the bed and walked out of the room.
Emmeline got up and got dressed as soon as he left. As she did, she considered that today may be her last day alive, so she wore her favourite jeans and t shirt for good measure. She threw her jacket into a pile for the bin, but not before removing the little iron box. She decided resolutely that she was opening it today whether Charon liked the idea or not. It was her box, anyway. Once she had made her bed she placed it down on the duvet, and went downstairs to see what was taking him so long.
He was standing at the bottom of the stairs by the front door. As he heard her coming, he spun around and folded his arms behind his back. He watched her walk down the stairs, and the storm in his eyes was the lightest she had seen it. Caught in the daylight, spiralling and dancing as it swirled within itself.
“Tell me,” Emmeline said as she came to the second to last stair, where she stayed. “I’ve had a thought. Can Melek open the gate without you?”
“No, he cannot,” he replied.
“Can he pass through it without me?”
“So, he needs both you and I to get what he wants?”
“It is true,” Charon replied sombrely, his hands still clasped behind his back.
“Then its simple. Let me get on a plane today, and go somewhere far away. By the time he realises, I’ll be too far away for him to get me before the full moon. Meanwhile you will return to your world as soon as you can open the gate so even if he does find me again, he won’t be able to use me.”
“He will still kill you.”
She shook her head, “No he won’t, he will wait forever in hope of opening the gates again. He will wait for you to return, and that is why you must never come back.” It seemed like such an easy solution, though it wasn’t a nice thing to say.
“I can’t promise that,” Charon said, obstinately.
“Yes, you can. Just because you are able to cross between worlds doesn’t mean that you have to do it.”
“But what do you expect that he will do when he does find you?” Charon asked.
She shrugged, “It won’t matter. We will have taken away his ability to get what he wants.”
He sighed. “You do not know the origin of the name Melek, do you?”
Emmeline shook her head.
The second time he pronounced it, his accent was heavier, Molech. “When my father first brought him through the gates, he became known in the east as Melekh, or Baal. Because of his hunger and his power, they gave their children to him, and he gave them magic in return. As with most magical things, he eventually became legend. Right through into biblical times there are records of thousands of children being sacrificed in his name,”
“So he is the same kind of creature as the eater?” Emmeline asked, horrified.
“I am the same kind of creature as the eater, and yes so is he. But the eater had no self control. He quickly became overpowered by his desires and needs once he came through to this world. He destroyed and consumed without discrimination. Melek is more, selective,”
Emmeline nodded, “He prefers children.” She swallowed uncomfortably.
He nodded, “He made himself the ‘god’ of child sacrifice. He had the same hunger in the other world, except we age much slower there, so his needs were not so obvious. Emmeline, you must understand that he will only retain his power over you before you mature. There is no way he will let you live that long, even if he has not crossed the through the gate, because there is a chance that you will be stronger than him when you do, because you are his offspring. Worse still, there is no way to tell how long you will live or at what age you will mature, because you are only half a monster.”
“Wait, so you are saying there is a chance I could be stronger than him?”
Charon shrugged, “There is no way to know, but he will suspect it. I quickly became stronger than my father once I matured. That is why I am known as the ferryman, not him.”
Emmeline nodded thoughtfully, “Running away is not the best idea,” she agreed finally. She stood there on the stair and looked at Charon for a long moment before she said, “What have you got behind your back?”
The storm in his eyes darkened as he lowered his head, “Another reason you would not have run away,” he said quietly, and handed her the paper in his hands.
It was Gulliver’s thin handwriting on the note this time.
He has death mapt, for us.
Emmeline stared at the piece of paper, her thoughts spiralling out of control, and her stomach twisting into knots again. “He has death mapped for us,” she read aloud. “What does that even mean?” she asked, her voice shaky.
“It is proof of your friend’s handwriting, and proof that he has them.”
“Death for us,” The note fell from Emmeline’s fingers, and she sat down on the stairs.
Charon crouched in front of her, “We are going to face him, tonight. It has to happen.”
Emmeline’s hands were shaking as she raised them to clutch her head, “I will go alone then,” she said, “And you will stay far, far away so he cannot use me to get through the gate,”
He clutched both her shoulders, “Emmeline, I can’t do that.” He stared directly into her eyes as he said it, so close she could feel his breath on her lips, “Even if you were actually capable of facing him alone, I would never let you do it. I can’t,”
Emmeline nodded, and bit her bottom lip anxiously.
“You must be hungry,” he said suddenly, pulling away and standing up.
“How could I be hungry?!” Emmeline asked, angry with him again. She picked up the piece of paper from the floor and glared at it as Charon disappeared into the kitchen. He has death mapt, for us. She read it again, and re-read it. It didn’t make any sense. Gulliver had a much higher than average IQ. It had caused him to be so bored in school that he was always in trouble and missed out on the grades he needed to get into university. His counsellor had eventually suggested that his IQ was tested, and he missed out on qualifying for Mensa by two marks in the Cattell Culture Fair test. Considering all this, Emmeline struggled with his spelling and use of punctuation in the brief message. Not to mention that the sentence made no real sense.
Charon returned, proudly offering her a half eaten chocolate bar, “I found it hidden on top of the cupboards,” he said.
Emmeline had to smile. “Thanks, but I am not eating that, my grandfather has been hiding it from me for at least six months. I would have said he forgot it was there, but knowing what I know now, I doubt that was the case,”
“We are still forgetful,” Charon reasoned, as he sniffed the chocolate bar.
A shadow appeared on the other side of the frosted glass of the front door. “Emmeline?” A familiar voice called out.
“Thomas!” Emmeline shouted, and jumped up to open the door.
“Emmeline! Thank God!” his face was distraught as he wrapped her up in a fierce hug, lifting her off the ground and clutching her tight.
Charon watched, and put the chocolate down on the bannister.
When Thomas finally put her down, they both started talking at once. “Have you seen Gulliver and Poppy?” he asked.
Emmeline was asking the same question.
“We came back here last night to see if you would turn up once the police were gone, but I was running late, and when I got here at six thirty, they were gone. I waited until midnight but I heard nothing, no messages, no calls. Their parents haven’t seen them either, they were going to the police this morning.” He looked over Emmeline’s head at Charon. “Why is he still here?” he asked, none too kindly.
“Don’t start Thomas, I wouldn’t be still here if it wasn’t for Charon.” She handed Thomas the note.
Charon turned without a word and went upstairs as Thomas read the note.
“What does this mean?” Thomas asked, frustrated.
“Come inside,” Emmeline encouraged him. She went to close the door behind him, glaring at the row of crows sitting on the fence as she did so. As an afterthought she paused and picked up one of the smaller pot plants from the doorstep and hurled it at them. It shattered over the bricks and they flew away, squawking angrily.
Thomas was still staring at the note in Gulliver’s handwriting. “Why would he leave this?”
“He didn’t, it came through the mail flap this morning, not long ago in fact,” Emmeline told him.
Thomas looked up at her, his eyes widening, “It’s a ransom note?”
Emmeline nodded. “It looks that way,”
At that moment, Charon came back and dumped the little iron box in Emmeline’s hands. “Open it,” he said.