Here we go again! Welcome, welcome, welcome, faithful reader, to another week of Left Of Midnight! I’m Timothy Scott Purvis and I do hope you’re enjoying these selections of my latest novel. True, I’m still in the midst of making corrections to it, and true this is the rough draft as I’ve written it and presented it up front. Yet, I feel like my writing is getting to the point where my rough drafts are nearly complete drafts with minor corrections required. I hope that you agree. If you have thoughts, opinions, and ideas, feel free to share them in the comment board below.
Okay, let’s just get right into it. Enjoy!
JANUS STOOD THERE on the shoreline of the beach nearby Pearl Harbor. Avery had never served at Pearl. Oh, he’d seen pictures of the base, but he’d never been there in person. His training camp was in Anchorage where he learned all the basics in survival and aircraft maintenance. So he’d never been able to properly pay his respects to his long fallen brother (and he was sure their mother would have been disappointed in this development; was certain she was looking down upon him with that pitiful gaze of hers with her arms crossed just beneath her breasts; That gaze saying, ‘Look what an abject failure you’ve become, Avery. It’s no wonder I slit my wrists you pathetic bastard.’). Janus stood there with his back to Avery who was at the head of the beach, which was really just a tattered shoreline of pebbled stone and washed up detritus. He knew this without really looking as he was barefoot trying to walk across the tortured terrain towards his brother who was merely a faded silhouette standing against a sunset falling across the seas far to the north.
‘Janus,’ he called trying to walk. ‘Janus, brother! Are you well?’
Are you well? What kind of question is that? He’s fucking dead! Avery walked, his feet crunching into the shell pocked surface. They dug up into the soles of his feet helped further by the stony rocks that seemed to guide those tattered shells towards their intended targets. His soles.
‘Janus! Say something! Anything!’
Janus didn’t turn around. ‘What would you have me say, Avery? That you failed me? That you weren’t there for me? Well, you weren’t. And you didn’t. I made my bed. I chose my course. And I don’t regret it.’
‘What are you talking about!?’ Avery took another step and felt a long shell drive deep into his sole. He did his best to ignore it but it hurt like hell. It was a pain bordering on a misery he’d never yet known. Even though he had been in a state of rage for the last few years. He took another step and he grimaced. Janus’ left hand rose up and made a fist with his index finger pointing straight into the darkening skies. The orange yellow kaleidoscope of colors on the horizon line seemed to make Janus an even darker silhouette.
‘If you keep at it that way, there’ll be nothing left of your soles. Perhaps you should just stay still for a moment. Stop forcing your will so hard.’
Avery paused, staring at his brother’s back. He wanted to cry, wanted to wail out his misery and fall to his knees. Let the tortured landscape claim all of his body for all that he cared. What was there left to fight for? He’d already lost everything.
‘Brother… God, I’m sorry… If I…’
‘You haven’t lost everything, you know?’ Janus said and then slowly turned towards him. Avery couldn’t make out his features, but he saw the outline of his profile, his eyes and nose, clear enough. Saw his eyebrows and his eyelashes fluttering under a slight breeze. It was a definition of context he’d never thought possible. Yet, still, his brother’s dark brown irises he could not see even if he knew they were there. And, though he couldn’t see it in that black silhouette, he felt it deeply in his soul that Janus was smiling. ‘Brother. Sweet, little brother. Always struggling to keep up with me. Yet always refusing to recognize there’s a strength in you I myself never held.’
Avery shook his head. ‘No. There isn’t. I’m weak. I’m a prisoner. Lost and forgotten on some island far in the South Pacific. The fleet has gone on. They’re likely pounding Okinawa by now.’
His brother nodded. ‘Yes. That’s true. That they’ve moved on that is. But you’re not forgotten. And you’re not alone. Your story… well, the path you find yourself on now is no longer what is happening with the fleet. Their tales are yet to be told. Yours, though, yours is threatened with a great shadow. Midnight falls across you and you are all too willing to give in to its embrace. And for what? Self-recrimination over a matter you were never privy to? I died, Avery. Sacrificed myself. Because I knew you would follow. Because your quest…’ Janus pointed out across the ocean, ‘lies out there. Because you are not weak. And you are not me. Because you can see through the darkness and eschew its deadly embrace.’
Avery looked out to the orange and yellows enhanced by a red aura saturating the merging colors forging some sort of white glare. And then those vivid colors began dimming as a deep shadow grew across the horizon. Before long, it was the blackest void he’d ever seen and it filled him with a treacherous fear. One that threatened to engulf his own aura. Yet, he sat staring at it, refusing to let it destroy what he was.
Janus still stood. His silhouette turning a negative of the shadow he was mere moments before.
‘What… what is it?’ Avery looked to his brother and queried.
‘Midnight,’ Janus answered. ‘And you must seek out the Cth’vit.’
‘The… sill… vet? I… I don’t understand. What is that?’
‘A conduit to the light. To the aura. You know where to find it,’ he felt Janus’ eyes widen and his smile grow. ‘Yet, you can’t do it alone. Neither could they… before…’
‘You know who. They’ve been speaking to you. Now, your task is a simple one. Listen. And learn. When the time is right, you will know.’
‘Know what? Janus!’ Avery stood up not realizing he’d actually fallen to his knees. He took another step forward hearing a crunch. The shells at his feet shattered under that step. But he didn’t feel it. ‘Just tell me what I need to know! Need to do! Why all this secrecy!? Why all this vagary!?’
Janus laughed and threw his head towards the voided heavens. His laugh was jovial and loud. Piercing through the blackness. A happiness that was vacant against the hate surrounding them.
‘Why, Avery, it’s simple, isn’t it? Because if I tell you the path you take, then you won’t really walk that path, will you?’ Janus grew brighter in his white aura and took one step forward. ‘Already you grow stronger and more determined. Already you want to do what is right. Already the shadows shirk away from you,’ Avery looked down then and saw the beach he stood upon clearly. A circle of color surrounded him. The shadows beyond retreating by inches. Hesitantly and reluctantly. He looked back to Janus and Janus lifted his right hand towards him, palm up. ‘You’re a guiding force whether you realize it or not. You just have to… wake up.’
No… No… I don’t want to wake up. Not yet… I love you, Janus! I love you, brother! Don’t go! There’s this ache in my heart! And it won’t go away!
The darkness engulfed him and soon a bright light was filling his eyes and he lifted his hand to his face hoping to wipe that light away. He just wanted to remain in the darkness with his brother. He didn’t want to wake up knowing then and there that it was little more than a dream. And he felt on the cusp of crying then wanting nothing more than to remain in that dream and not let it go. But he froze when his brother spoke to him again.
‘I love you too, Avery. As did our mother. And our fathers,’ the voice faded as the light grew brighter. ‘We will always love you. And we know you will always fight. Let the shadow up off your heart. That ache that lingers there… will fade away with it.’
Avery awoke then, his eyes fluttering open under the new day’s sun. A great burden, a weight even, had lifted off of him and he felt, for once in a very long time, well rested. His arm came away from his face as he looked up into the sky. It was a pale blue and the sun was rising higher above the valley edge. The trees wafted in a steady symphony of rustling gentleness. The birds cawed to one another in a joyous splendor free from any sort of agony. The lake water splashed along the shoreline, the smell of its freshness singing into his nostrils.
And standing nearby and to his right, the Japanese pilot staring down at him, a long bladed instrument in his right hand. There was a grimace on the man’s face as he stared down at Avery. Avery leaned up into a half seated position, curving his back so that he could raise his bound hands before him.
“Look, friend, I didn’t do anything this time. I was just sleeping…”
The pilot knelt down and pushed Avery to the ground. He struggled for a moment before realizing the man was cutting off the ropes that bound his wrists and his ankles. He stared at the man as he stood back up, the grimace deeper than ever, and took a step back. After a moment, the Japanese pilot tossed the blade to the dirt beside Avery and made a gesture that suggest he either run or slit his own throat. Then went to sit down next to the stone wall in the tiny alcove where he pulled that jacket of his closer around his shoulders and then proceeded to stare off into nothing.
Avery sat up rubbing his wrists and stared at the man for a long moment. Then, after a few minutes had passed, hesitantly took the blade and made to stand up. It took a few moments as he felt woozy in the first effort. He almost fell back to his butt. However, he managed to stand up and stretch his back.
“So,” Avery managed looking to the sullen pilot whose pallor was paler than before; he looked like a person on the verge of death, “are you letting me go, then? Not worried that I’m going to slit your throat or something? Or was that the intent? You’re not looking so well there, buddy.”
The man said nothing as Avery looked around and took a few steps towards the pilot. “Okay. So, I guess I’ll just get going then. Maybe you can chase me for old times sake, yeah?”
Avery made to run away, his arms in a huge gesticulating motion, smile on his face. He looked down at the man and saw that he seemed to be wavering. He didn’t like how that look was creeping across the man’s face. Now that he thought about it, the pilot hadn’t been eating much as of late let alone engaging in that meditative situation of his where he drew his legs up under himself and propped his hands on his knees to close his eyes. That peaceful person was now missing.
“Hey, man. You’re not looking so good. Maybe we should get something to eat into you, yeah?”
The man said nothing as he shivered and wavered. And, after another minute, fainted flat onto his face.
“Ah, shit,” Avery mumbled and made to leave. He stopped and looked back at the pilot. “No. I don’t suppose this is how I should leave it. Despite our previous animosity. Guess the tables have turned.”
Avery chuckled as he went to the pilot, turned him over onto his back, and checked his pulse. He also laid the back of his hand on his forehead. The man was burning up. He repositioned the man so that he was laying on his back with his jacket rolled up under his head. Avery sat there for a long moment trying to remember his field medic training. He never was very good in that part of his training regimen. He never figured he’d be having to take care of anyone else.
“Well, no time like the present to refresh myself on those tactics, now is there?”
Avery smiled and clapped the man lightly on his shoulder. He stood up and took extra time to remember the first part of first aid deliverance.
NOBODY EVEN KNOWS
WHAT DAY IT IS ANYMORE
HE WAS IN Hell. The place was a raging inferno. Fire rose up all around him engulfing his village from the bottom up. Every paper thin wall vividly burning under the flames taking their time eating away his entire history. Shōtō stood there in the middle of the street watching it all collapse around him. The flames licked the skies voraciously. The buildings crackled and boomed as structures fell, support beams burst, and lakes boiled. There were screams. Oh yes, Shōtō could hear the screams. Of his people, his neighbors, maybe even the voices of his family.
Yet, all he could do was stand there staring at the carnage around him. The skies above were a black void. No moon. No stars. No lights. Nothing. There were just the burning buildings babbling incoherently in their death knells. The heat roasted his flesh and he pulled off his shirt. He couldn’t speak but he knew his eyes were wide.
What’s happened!? What’s happened!? Okasan! Shōtō screamed in his head but his lips wouldn’t work. They wouldn’t even stammer in a quiet speech. They were locked tight under fear and shock.
Shōtō twisted behind himself, a blast of fiery hot air pelting his cheeks making him feel as if standing in the midst of the bonfire himself. It raged all around his flesh and he clawed at the buckle on his pants intent on ripping them away as well. The heat was just too much. His eyes were on the verge of rupturing from his skull. He paused, though, in the process of unbuckling and saw a dark shadow amidst the burning embers of buildings across the street. They were shops once, he realized. Shops that he visited in his youth. Some selling the sweets and rice treats he had always savored. Yet, in the wall of brightly red, orange, and yellow abyss, there stood a shadow. Its eyes cobalt blue. Singing in their manic means. Its finger pointed behind Shōtō. Its arm outstretched. The voice falling from its voided maw a deep resonation in his head. ‘Take a look for yourself, Shōtōsan…’
Shōtō hesitantly turned around. Looked up and into the skies. Where there was once a black void, now was full of bright, pinpoints of light. A loud whirring buzz like the sound of a million hornets swarming filled the air. It was a constant, droning buzz reverberating in his body and his ears. And from the belly of those black beasts he saw the heated carnage falling towards the earth, towards the village.
No! Its Tōkyō! Why!? Why Tokyo!? Why!!? Tall buildings fell. Somewhere he thought he heard the emperor crying. Shōtō fell to his knees. Make it stop! This is foul! This is blasphemous!
‘It is they who bring you your hated pain…’ the voice boomed in his head and he raised his hands to his skull and pressed as hard as he could. He screamed then. Screamed long and hard as a high whining noise overrode every other sound already laying siege to Tōkyō. Explosions rose into the air. Great swathes of the city simply evaporated. And then, the greatest explosion of them all occurred.
He rose to his feet still holding his head and took a step back. A bright light (brighter than even the sun itself, he thought) filled everything the eye could see. And when his eyesight returned, a great cloud billowing up into the heavens reached for the cloudless stratosphere. And the heat grew fiercer until it reached him and disintegrated everything he had left he could call his own.
His soul burned.
‘You know who your enemy is…’
And we find ourselves at the end of another offering. Hope it was a good read for you. Come back next week for some more Left of Midnight. And, of course, stick around for Fridays with my Story Time With Tim series. I think you’ll enjoy it if you haven’t already been reading. Have a good week and read to you again soon!
~Timothy S Purvis
PS: While I have your attention, why not check out one of my books, writings, and other offerings over at my personal author site on Amazon? https://www.amazon.com/Timothy-Purvis/e/B085Q62XRP?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2&qid=1603106069&sr=8-2 There, you can find a good offering of my other works that I’ve not only made available on this site to read for free but that you can purchase for yourself and support the narrative cause! I would greatly appreciate it if you do.
Here’s one of my latest books: