The Secret Sellers

Once upon a time an old woman foretold a world where monsters ruled. And they did. The fairy tales from history seemed to foretell the mutations of the future. Forests grew large and dark and within them, creatures thrived. Avis Eldred is one of the few surviving humans; she should be grateful for that. But she's not grateful for killing in order to survive. Now she faces a choice - take a leap of faith and defy everything she ever knew, or keep being a murderer and a coward.

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1. Prologue

 

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Dear Reader,

The universe is full of untold stories; the universe is also a cruel mistress that restricts these stories from being voiced. Nevertheless, let me tell you one of those stories in regard of your safety and your life. Learn from my mistakes. Find the moral within my story.

My story is the story of monsters which began with the following ideal; the mind is a maze.

In this case that statement referred to my mother who had become lost within hers. No amount of stitches and sutures, maps or copious amounts of string were going to make her find the correct passage out. But my mother was not broken – never say that – she was just…crooked in her way of living.

Growing up, my mother was the most fascinating person that could have ever lived. She had been brought up in an orphanage, had crossed all the seven seas by ship, knew at least three other languages that weren’t English, knew survival skills, and has been on some of the most exotic, whimsical and hard to believe adventures.

But that was the thing; she was hard to believe.

As a kid, I lived a relatively sheltered life in a rural village and so asked my mother to regale me with as many stories that she was capable of. She had always obliged, whispering them in the dead of night like they were secrets taking flight for the first time.

“When the moon is full that is when the Howlers walk across the earth. With their fangs sharp as razors and their claws as big as your arm. Their terrible eyes glowing icy blue and blazing gold in the darkness.”…

But it wasn’t enough that these stories were just there during the night. I had to amerce myself into those worlds and expeditions, those failures and those successes. So, I used to act them out during my waking hours, every moment was pretending I was the heroine or the enemy in the story, the beast or the human. I was not only Oliver Wilson but a hundred beings trapped in one body.

I felt trapped – trapped in a world that I did not belong and trapped out of a world that I did.

I felt even more trapped when I realised that the stories weren’t true. I was trapped in a lie. As I got older I asked about monsters and the details always changed, they always got shorter and were more alike to those of modern day problems then actual monsters.

…“Awful hunched bear like things, with a thick matted coat of tawny hair and eyes black as coals,”…

That ‘bear like thing’ was an old creep of a man that we had seen walking down the street earlier that day.

…“Beautiful women from afar but a close eye would reveal wire for hair and rotting skin, contracting muscles on show as they smacked their tight, pink caterpillar lips.”…

That woman was one we had seen in the burn unit at the hospital one day.

I began to be doubtful of the great tentacle monsters who ruled the sea, and the owls that read books but were as big as dinosaurs, and the shadow wolves who were a third wolf, a third human and a third shadow.

I began to be ridiculed by other children for my belief in these beings.

And so, at some point in my teenage years, I gave up on fantasy and made more room for reality.

As soon as I flipped that proverbial switch my mother knew somehow; the light in her eyes dimmed somewhat and she stopped telling her stories. Despite that, I always found her sitting on the window seat reading her notebook full of hand written stories as the sun set. Without the bond that the stories had provided, a wedge was driven between us. As I got older that wedge became more like a chasm and it became larger with each tense shared interaction.

Nevertheless, we both loved each other dearly; it just became too hard for us to look each other in the eye for too long knowing that I didn’t really believe in my own mother. That is probably the main reason why I got her put into a group home once age took her mind on too large of a wander.

It was only as my mother knew that her days were coming to an end that she truly started to live.

If you haven’t really been listening closely by now then you should definitely pay attention to the next half of my journey. It’s important to know how the world got into the mess that you’re living in so that you may be able to fix it.

One night, when I was in my early twenties, I got a phone call from the home and it was my mother. Now, this was a strange occurrence because my mother only called me once a week every Monday and that night it was a Thursday.

“Ollie is that you?” My mother had whispered down the line,

“Yes, mother. What’s wrong? How did you get to the phone?” The home only had one phone which was authorized by the nurses who allowed the patients to use it every week with their supervision. For my mother to have the phone meant that she had somehow got to it without authorization.

“Ollie, thank God. I need the box. I need you to bring the box to me.” She sounded desperate, a lace of horror hanging on the end of her words.

“Mother, it is the middle of the night – “

“I need the box Ollie, right now!” She snapped,

“Did you take your nightly pills mother?” I sighed, believe it or not the box was a regular occurrence in our weekly conversations. The box was an old ornate thing that my mother had had since childhood, she claimed that she was given it in the orphanage by an old friend, and it was filled with notes, letters, old photographs, a flute, a map and a dagger. I found it too dangerous for my mother to keep and so kept it in the safe in my study.

“They’re coming for me, do you understand? I don’t know how they found me but they did. I need the box right now, do you understand?” She was breathless and I could hear the constant tap of her foot against the tiles.

“Who’s coming for you?”

“The monsters! Ollie it isn’t safe here, I need the box; honey it is the only way. Just give me the box.” She then ended the call abruptly with a half halted intake of breath. I remember that I drove to the home with the box laying on my lap, stark against my stripy pyjamas. That night, I found my mother sitting with the phone pressed tightly to her ear whispering into the device with a tongue loaded with indecipherable words. I had approached my mother carefully, holding the box outstretched and watched as she grabbed it possessively.

 Dementia was the only monster here and unfortunately it had sunk its claws firmly into my mother’s mind.

I and a nurse had gotten my mother back into her room but she still wouldn’t be put to sleep. My mother was always stubborn like that; she was the ruler of her own actions and nobody else would outrank her on that.

“Ollie, they’re coming for all of us,” she whispered over the flickering light of a candle and the sad, melodic hum of a record. “They’ll arrive with a laugh and turn the world into a green Hell; Mother Nature has betrayed us all!” Suddenly she pointed to a dark window with a trembling hand, “They’re right there standing beyond that very pane of glass, by morning they’ll be creeping down the hall, sharpening their claws, pouncing for the kill.”

“Mother you need to get some rest.”

“How can I sleep when all I hear is their terrifying screams? They say awful things Ollie, awful, bad, menacing things,” without hesitation she lunges forward and grips my arms tight enough that her nails draw red half-moons on my skin. “Don’t make me sleep. I won’t sleep. You can’t make me sleep.”

I apologise to her as the nurse pushes a sedative into her veins and she slumps on my shoulder. For once the roles are reversed, she is the child and I am the carer.

The next morning, I walk into her room to find my mother still sleeping slumped on the armchair by the window. The window was open and a light breeze rustled a note onto the box on the table. At first there was nothing different but upon further inspection the notebook of stories had been added to the selection of oddities. The note on the top was unrumpled to reveal the slanting words written by my mother:

We are the darkness all of you hide: we are the secrets you try to bury; we are the words you cannot say. We are nothing. We are everything. And we have arrived.

I remember shouting something because I knew. I knew that my mother was dead. I didn’t need to lift a shaking hand to her neck to confirm it. I didn’t know how she had gone but she was simply that: long gone. She was trapped in her maze and she was never going to come out.

*

As soon as my mother was put in the ground and the box of oddities was buried in the library at the home to collect dust, it all turned to Hell.

They came just like my mother had suggested. The monsters of fairy tale myth and legend arrived with a vengeance.  It seemed that the fairy tales written in history foretold mutations of the world reborn from ashes. This new Mother Earth seemed more determined than ever to defend herself and her children against the hubris of human kind. Forests have grown vast and dark, within them, creatures thrive and humans are hunted.

Our numbers even dwindle now.

I ran for my life.

I’m sorry for being brief. I’m sorry for having to sum up the next ten or so years of my life in such synoptic lines.

Do you want to hear what it was like?

Every day I pushed myself even harder, gasping as my lungs ached for oxygen. I had to run: if I didn’t I would be on the receiving end of the animals teeth. As long as my arm and as sharp as a knife just as the old storybook had said. Every day my thoughts were jagged messes of scattered memories and overwhelming feeling, nearly crushing me with a force that was almost physical. I didn’t ask myself why I was running; I already knew the answer to that question. Fear was what propelled me forward, taking no need as brambles caught at my clothing, as branches stung my face with their biting blows. But stronger than the fear was the desperation – it was what really fueled my frantic departure.

I will tell you that it will get better in a way. In walled cities, protected from the forests, humans live on what they can find, grow and trade. Our ‘domes’ are protected by a loyal witch’s magic who dealt out favours upon her resultant refuge.

Somewhere along the way I found love.

Somewhere I found safety.

Somewhere I found a family.

I’m not going to tell you every detail because some details need to be lived in order to be understood. Although I don’t think that this monochromatic world can be understood anymore.

The point of this story is to always be on your guard, to not let yourself become a fool to your own head and heart. But the main thing is to live. And to live is to endure whatever is thrown our way, to accept ourselves as well as one another and finally, to evolve.

Dear Reader, I hope that you live a life better than mine even if you don’t know all about my story. I hope you listen well to these warnings and I hope that someday the world will one day not be Hell. Maybe, you will even fix it one day. You will never know until you try.

With high regards,

Oliver Wilson. 

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