a short story
by Rachel Vincent
Riley Farling had a good life. She lived with her aunt and uncle, as well as their son, Christopher. They were all nice enough, not like in Riley’s favorite book series, Harry Potter.
There had been no trace of a father and her mother had passed away when Riley was five. But Riley didn’t miss them…how can you miss someone whom you never knew?
She lived on 342 Marrington road, in the country, where the sun rises early and leaves late. The farm where they were lived was large, an estate, her Aunt Darla would tell her.
The brick farmhouse was surrounded by trees; evergreens, oaks, birch, and all sorts of produce. The grass was always a bright green. The fields were also large and produced plentiful crops. An apple orchard grew west of the house.
Her Uncle Rick spent most of his time in the fields or away at the market, and Riley’s only friend was Christopher, who didn’t much care for books like her, but instead for trucks and planes; Riley understood.
“Christopher, will you please play with me?” Riley would ask.
“Naw,” he would answer, looking disdainfully at her dolls and teacups.
That was why Riley was sitting under the willow tree, her favorite place of refuge. Nobody would look for her here; she was small for being a twelve year old girl and could hide well. There were great puddles around her, for the sun never reached this place and it rained often. Riley sat there, alone in the world she had once thought so highly of.
She came out only when the moon did, she found it calming.
“Oh, why did my father have to leave?” She asked in despair. This was a ritual-crying and wondering, and she’d done it for all of her twelve years. There was no comfort though. There were no answers, either. Except this night was different.
As the wolves howled, the moon shone down on her blonde head like a radiant smile. She felt comforted for once, though she didn’t know what by. She felt…love. Not her aunt’s love, which was surreal, fake; not her uncle’s love, for he seemed to have a grudge against her; not Christopher’s love, for there was not any room for her in his small heart.
“Riley,” a voice called out, but it was not her Uncle Rick’s. Nor her Aunt Darla’s and not even Christopher would be out playing at this time of night.
“Hello? Who’s there?” She called out, blue eyes shining, looking to see who was speaking.
“Riley,” the voice said again, this time accompanied by a long shadow. But the shadow was bright and shining, not dark and dull like a normal shadow. Riley looked around. She then noticed her shadow was shining too. It was bright, and Riley went to cover her eyes.
“Stop,” the voice, which now seemed vaguely familiar, called out in such an icy tone that her arm froze, only halfway up.
“Who are you?” Riley asked bravely.
“Your father’s servant,” the voice answered solemnly. “He wants to take you back.”
The sun was rising now, and the shadow began to grow dim. She noticed her own was going back to its normal state. She willed the sun to rise faster, maybe scaring this strange…shadow…away. And somehow, it did. The sun shot up into the sky, blinding Riley. Then the shadow was gone, in an instant, and everyone came rushing out of the house.
“Riley,” her uncle roared. “What have you done?” His face was intense and he stared at her angrily, looking around at the light-covered farm.
“I…I don’t know,” Riley trembled under Uncle Rick’s authoritative gaze.
She saw him look over at her aunt and whisper a few, quiet words. Aunt Darla went pale. Her face was as white as the moon, ashen white, sheet white. She fell in a dead faint.
“You go upstairs, in the attic right now” Uncle Rick barked, his voice cold as he held his limp wife.
Riley ran, seeming to be transported to the cold, dark room in a moment. Riley was surprised to see her shadow, bright once again, reaching out behind her. The day was already halfway spent. Riley wished it were over-then it was.
Riley was surprised but it felt…right. She had already loved the transition of day to night, two opposites that were so right. She had already loved thinking about time-it was just so strange. Now, being able to…control…it felt normal, like it were meant to be, in her bones and blood.
She stayed in the attic for the week, playing with her newfound power. She made less time for Uncle Rick’s farming by bringing the sun down, and her lack of water made it easy to create a lack of water on the farm.
One day, as she sat contemplating whether to let it rain on Uncle Rick’s head or not at all, she heard the very man stomping determinedly up the stairs.
“Come,” he said. That was all. He turned around, paused, and walked down the creaking stairs.
“Why?” Riley asked, causing him to stop. “You shut me up here with little food and water and now you expect me to follow you?” She was indignant.
“I know what I’m doing,” he came and roughly grabbed her hand, pulling her towards the door.
Aunt Darla, sewing in the living room, barely glanced up as Riley passed by.
They stepped out of the house, Christopher looking on with astonishment from afar.
“What are you doing?” Christopher asked, running as fast as his chubby legs could carry him, up to his father. He showed the most concern he had ever shown to anybody and Riley was surprised.
“Taking Riley to…her home,” Uncle Rick answered.
“I thought this was her home.”
“With her father,” Uncle Rick held up his hand to stop further questions.
They traveled on through a deep green forest. Someone had made a trail, but it was overgrown. They came to a clearing where light shone through the trees. Holding a lantern, Riley ran ahead into the clearing. An indent, no doubt the continuation of the path, was across from her. Shadows lay in deep contrast to the sunny grass. Riley knew she had to go there. She had to go on. She stepped towards the shadow, Uncle Rick following.
Natural night soon fell, and the journey had been long. Riley was feeling tired when they arrived. It was a home, indeed. The tall towers were smooth and glossy, intricately carved windows were placed generously about. There were bright depictions of happy scenes; dark illustrations of angry fights looked so real Riley jumped in horror when a scene of a raging battle came into view. A tall spire made of intricate glass mesmerized Riley. Uncle Rick, though, walked through it as though he had seen it millions of times, not stopping to study the intriguing murals.
“Uncle Rick,” Riley began, but was quieted.
She realized why he had shushed her: they were at the door. He took the knocker in one hand; in the other, he grasped Riley.
The resounding clang of the knocker against metal was deafening.
Riley was afraid nobody would answer. She was also afraid somebody would.
“I’ve come to see my brother,” Uncle Rick’s cry pierced the night. The door opened and Riley was pulled in.
The darkness could only be described as inevitable, incalculable. Riley took a while to adjust, but Uncle Rick barely blinked; it was if he knew the darkness. The quiet was just the same. All that could be heard was the steps of two people. The halls seemed to extend forever and ever into great expanse. Soon, though, there was a turn. A fork in the road of fate.
“Riley, stay back!” Uncle Rick tried to pull Riley back as she tried to turn left.
Riley had felt a pulling sensation and could not stop, “No, Uncle Rick. I have to, it’s-it’s unexplainable. I have to go.”
“You don’t know, Riley, I do; this is a dangerous place,” Uncle Rick tried to explain.
Riley did not listen. She ran, her feet pounding against the carpeted floor. She did not know where she was going, but she felt like she had to get there as fast as she could.
“Riley, no!” Uncle Rick ran after her into the unknown.
The corridor went on endlessly, winding and twisting. Many doors stood on the walls, but no attention was payed to them. Riley didn’t stop until she came to a door that was different. It was tall, oh so very tall; it loomed above her, carvings etched deep into the dark wood. Carvings of the moon and the sun and an old stopwatch, and two halves of a heart, split apart. Riley felt like she knew the design. Why did everything seem so familiar? She hadn’t been here before…right?
“Riley, stop,” Uncle Rick huffed. “You can’t…go…in there…never,” he said between breaths.
“Why? Who is in there?” Riley said it with great force and passion, throwing everything she had into her words. “Why can’t I go in there? I have no reason to obey you; all you ever did was lie. You told me my father was gone, that nobody could ever find him. You kept me back from him, from knowing my true power,” Riley held up her hands as if she could show him the power. “I’m going in. You can’t tell me what to do,” with those final, fateful words Riley put her hand on the knob and turned.
The door swung open- no creaks, it was opened and closed often-to show a room. It was bright in there, in deep contrast to the corridors. There was a great throne inside. It was a magnificent setting. Even more magnificent was the man on the throne. He sat there and you could feel power around him. You could see it in his face as well. His face was worn and weathered, but kind, wrinkles lay across his forehead; his hair was still a dark, glossy gold though. He had large hands that he rested on the throne’s arms. He looked just like Riley.
“Father,” she breathed. She knew it was him; it was her father.
“Riley? Is that you?” he asked. It was like a book, perfect and right.
“Father!” Riley exclaimed. Joyful tears ran down her face as fast as she ran towards him. He swept her up in his arms.
“My Riley is home,” the man wept great tears of happiness. His daughter was home at last.
Note: Sorry something happened to the dialogue format. I tried to fix it but it wouldn’t work, hmmm…
Riley knew this was how it was meant to be. She was with her father at last. Then Uncle Rick had to ruin it.
“Let her go, little brother. You have no right to her and you know that,”
“That isn’t true. You lied to me.”
“Oh, little brother, we all know that isn’t true,” Uncle Rick retorted slyly.
“You told me she’d died. Here she is, though, alive and well. I only signed the documents in depression. I thought she was dead; because of you. Trickery takes all value away from those documents, they are worthless,” Riley’s father said.
“That, dear brother, is where you are wrong,” Uncle Rick said. He raised his hand. A nearby lamp rose from its place and was crashed against the wall.
“Rick, no! That was Mary’s!” Riley’s father roared.
“Mother?” Riley asked. It was the first thing she had said for a while.
“Shall I do more, dear brother?” Uncle Rick’s voice dripped with sarcasm and malice. He picked up the stand the now crushed lamp had stood on with sheer force-he was nowhere near it.
“No! Stop, you can’t do that!” Riley’s father yelled in distress. He rose from his throne, Riley tumbling forward.
“Can’t I? The girl is mine. Her power is mine. The world will be mine. You and your little night and day power can do nothing. Time waits for no man, not even you, little brother.”
“That will never happen!” Riley’s father cried in distress.
Uncle Rick laughed at his brother’s anguish. “Please, spare me your of your complaints. You know the throne truly belongs to me. It was our father’s silly decision when he was vain and sick. I could take the throne now if I wanted. Lucky for you I am going to let you keep it-for now. I can…what do you humans call it? Ah, blackmail…I shall blackmail you with these thoughts. Give me the girl, young brother. Hand her over,” Uncle Rick held out his hand expectantly as if the girl would land in it.
“Not my Riley. Not my dear, dear Riley. You can’t take her, anyone but her, please!” Riley’s father pleaded.
“Father?” Riley said, touching her father’s hand. She felt unbelievably small at that moment. She knew, though, that she had to do it. “Let him take me. I can do it. He will not win, I promise. I’ve made it this far.” Riley said quietly. “I can do it.”
“Listen to the girl, brother,” Uncle Rick growled. “I think she is the wiser,” he laughed maliciously.
“You don’t know what I can do,” Riley said defiantly.
“You don’t know what you can do either,” he spat. “I am the one with the most power. I can control everything. Night, day, weather, time, they are worthless.”
Uncle Rick grabbed the young girl. He stared ruthlessly at his younger brother. He extended his hand. “Pleasure doing business with you,” he paused, and then added, “Partner,” with a teasing glare. He then turned and swept out of the room.
“My daughter,” the king said, trying to rise. His brother’s force, though, held him down. It seemed that all hope was lost.
The time it took to get back to the castle’s entrance was a third of the time it took for Riley and Uncle Rick to get from there to the throne room. That had been before Uncle Rick had unleashed his power though; before he had changed Riley’s life.
They practically flew from the castle where Riley’s father now sat in despair; Riley’s feet barely touched the ground. They went far into the thick green forest. Everything was dark, not a firefly flew, nor did the moon shine through the layered leaves of the towering oak trees. Riley was so confused she could barely think. It had all happened so fast; she’d found her power, then her father, and now this: she was being taken away from it all.
After what seemed like hours of traveling through the dense woods, they came upon a large clearing.
“What is-?” Riley began.
“Your father isn’t the only one with a castle,” Uncle Rick boasted, spreading his arms out, presenting the mass of stone and wood. What lay before them was amazing. The castle was huge, much larger than that of Riley’s father. There were spiraling steps and numerous looming towers. It looked like it was out of a book: all its features seemed as surreal as Aunt Darla’s love had been. There were even a few stray crows flying about, their cries echoing eerily. The clearing was more of an expanse, and structures jutted into the trees. It was all so overwhelming.
“So this is where you went,” Riley mused.
“Huh?” Uncle Rick asked, confused by the remark.
“When you were away all that time you weren’t selling the farm’s crops. You were here, weren’t you?”
“Yes, of course, Riley. I have no need of those frivolous crops, or the money. I have all I need, especially now that you’ve unlocked your power for me. I’ve been waiting for a long time.”
“You mean all that time you were caring for me you were just waiting for me to unlock my power?” Riley asked incredulously, aghast.
“Of course we were just waiting! Why else would we care for you? At first it was for your father’s sake and we were going to leave you at the nearest orphanage when you turned ten. But when we found out you had powers we just had to wait and see what you could do. I can sense power, and could tell you had it. If only Darla hadn’t been so human; we would’ve had Christopher be the master of immense power. Your mother, Mary, was the only girl like us though, with these powers, and your father took her. It was all so unfair,” Uncle Rick complained.
Riley didn’t say anything. She felt something inside. She knew what it was: she missed her mother.
Inside Uncle Rick’s great castle, Riley lay on a bed with black sheets and a dark wooden headboard, staring at the wall. Nearby, a single table stood on four shaky legs, barely supporting a glass of water. There were no windows and the only bit of light came from a few flickering candles that were scattered precariously around the room, looking like they could fall over at any moment and engulf the room with their hot flames. The room had thick stone walls on all sides. In a corner, a broken chair wobbled, only held up by three wooden legs. Faded green fabric wove in and out of the seat, strings and threads shooting up in every direction. It looked to be very old and seemed as though many people had sat on it.
As she lay in the dreary room, she contemplated this new feeling of loss. She’d never felt this way before; it was overwhelming. She didn’t remember her mother, only fleeting images of an older looking Riley. Riley did remember her mother’s gentle hands and kind laughter. She remembered going on long walks with her mother. That was all, though, nothing else. She’d been killed by a strange sickness no doctor could cure. This new feeling of…missing someone…was so strange and new that she couldn’t stop thinking about it.
“Uncle Rick!” Riley called out on sudden impulse. “Uncle Rick, come here! Uncle Rick where are you? Uncle Rick?” she repeated his name over and over again, willing him to come.
“Riley, I’m very busy! I have no time for children,” Uncle Rick swept angrily into the dreary bedroom, his foot still lingering outside so as to get back to his work as soon as possible.
“Wait, Uncle Rick! Tell me about my mother, please!” Riley asked.
“Your mother? Your mother was a vain woman, she chose your father instead of me. She had you and then six years later she got,” Uncle Rick paused. “sick.”
“You paused. What do you know? Do you know how she died?” Riley asked impatiently.
“Oh, well, I suppose you ought to know the death of your own mother. Yes, I know. I did it. That was no sickness; it was my poison. I had been saving it for something useful, the time was right, it just happened. Then she died,” Uncle Rick said, all matter of fact.
Riley felt lightheaded. Her uncle had killed her mother. It was too much to take in at once: this abduction, this new feeling, and this news. It was incomprehensible. Riley felt a sudden rush of emotions. She could not control the power. Anger, fear, and hate surged inside her. “No!” she screamed. Then she let it out. Objects, the table, the broken chair, the bed, flew across the room, breaking and crashing, a sudden wind whipped up inside the secure walls, rain came down and burned like acid. The stone walls that had looked so strong began to crack, and cries of unseen, distressed servants could be heard. Riley could not stop it now. The rain turned to ice and pelted everyone and the sun blazed through cracks of the collapsing room. The wind blew harder and huge trees that’d survived great hurricanes fell to the ground with an almost deafening roar.
“Riley, stop!” Uncle Rick yelled, but Riley payed no attention.
“You,” she began, “killed my mother! She could’ve been alive, she could’ve taken care of me and it would’ve been-it could’ve been how it was supposed to be. But you killed her,” Riley broke down. Things stopped flying, wind stopped blowing, and the sun sunk to the ground with Riley’s spirits. “It’s all you fault,” she whispered.
“I know,” Uncle Rick said softly. “I know.”
Riley couldn’t stand it any longer. Now that she knew this horrible secret she had to get back to her father. She had to tell him so that they could banish him or something. There was only one thing stopping her: Uncle Rick. He’d cast some sort of spell that kept Riley from doing so much as leaving the room she was in. She had been trying and trying to get out of this prison. The force, though, seemed impenetrable. Riley had tried using all sorts of powers to open the door. Uncle Rick was the only one who could open the door. He’d told her that it was made of a very special wood from a tree in the deep and mysterious Forest of Elms, from a tree a thousand years old. Riley actually believed this-after all that had happened, why wouldn’t she? The doorframe, too, was made of a special stone from a great mountain.
“Riley, eat!” Uncle Rick called from outside of the door. He opened the door.
“What’s for dinner?” Riley asked. She planned this out; it was time to get out of here. It was time to get back to her father. It was time.
“I don’t know, nor do I care. Just eat,” Uncle Rick said coldly.
Riley looked down at the mushy sludge-soup, maybe? Oh, well, here goes. She thought. It was time to put her plan into play. “Uncle Rick?” she asked innocently.
“What?” Uncle Rick said in a tone of an annoyed two-year old.
“I need a knife and a fork and a bowl and maybe a-,” she was interrupted.
“It’s soup,” Uncle Rick said skeptically. “You don’t need a knife or fork.”
“Yee-es,” Riley said slowly, “I do need them. I like to use them because they make the meal last a bit longer, and that makes me think I’m getting more than your puny portions. Puuu-leee-ssss-uh?” Riley drew out her words emphatically.
“Fine, fine, just shut up,” Uncle Rick said, annoyed. He kicked the door open. As it slid shut, Riley slid a rock across the floor. Just before door hit stone, the rock slid in between. The door was propped open by this tiny little rock. Riley was free. “I always knew small things can accomplish big things,” she muttered to herself as she picked up the rock and flew straight out the door. Straight towards freedom.
The pounding of Riley’s feet against the cold floor sounded like gunshots to her, each step sounded amplified, someone would surely hear it.
“Stop!” a voice as cold and stony as the floor called after Riley. Some force-her uncle’s force-stopped her dead in her tracks.
“Let me go!” Riley cried, thought she knew Uncle Rick would never oblige.
“I will never let you go. You are mine and you’ll do what I say,” Uncle Rick stared daggers into Riley.
Riley felt something come into her. It was…power? She couldn’t describe it. It was like when she’d felt that horrible feeling of grief. It blazed from within, filling her eyes with a determined fire. It took over her body. She couldn’t escape, she couldn’t hide-how could she run from what was inside? She ripped away. She threw her hands out, energy emanating from them, turning pain into power. Pain her uncle had caused. She thrust everything in her towards the man, the source of all her problems. *note: sin is the source of all problems but that wouldn’t sound right J*She remembered all his bitter words, all his lies, all his angry looks, and how he’d ruthlessly killed her mother. She put it all into a burst of power and threw them at him. He flew back from her and into the wall of his own castle. He fell to the stony, cold ground. Riley’s compassionate spirit finally broke through the wall of enmity and she ran towards the crumpled man. “Uncle Rick!” she cried, falling next to him.
“Riley,” he said in a scratchy voice, his chest heaving with effort.
“You’re hurt,” she exclaimed as she noticed dark red blood coming from his slowly rising chest.
“Oh, Riley,” Uncle Rick said ruggedly. “I am.”
Riley didn’t know what to do. She’d never done anything like this before. “I-I am so sorry,” she apologized.
“Oh, Riley,” Uncle Rick repeated. His voice was no longer rugged and scratchy. “I feel no pain. I feel nothing. My power stops your miniscule blows.The pain is nothing compared to my hatred of you and your father,” with these words Uncle Rick rose from the ground.
“You-?” Riley began as she noticed a fresh scar form across her Uncle’s unkempt face which was filled with hate and anger.
A battle began, within and without. Riley struggled with each blow that was thrown at her, as well as with hurting her uncle. Her heart was thundering as the battle became more intense.
“You are too kind, you’ll never win!” Uncle Rick yelled with fury over the raging noise of flying energy and power.
“I’m not, though, brother!” a voice, a glorious, welcomed voice, yelled from above. Standing on a wall that encircled the castle stood Riley’s father. He stood confidently, a look of grim determination on his face.
“Little brother has come to save his little daughter,” Uncle Rick said mockingly.
“Father! What are you doing here?” Riley asked as her face lit up with hope.
“I’ve come to avenge my wife, Mary!” he called, floating to the ground on a strong and magical gust of wind.
Enough hate and anger to fill all of the seas in the world encircled the group like a hungry lion. Uncle Rick went first, and then a flurry of power came from each side, good and evil, like snow.
The battle was over as soon as it had started. No time seemed to elapse during it. The sun stayed in its place in the sky, but the moon did rise. They came together as one, burning down heavily. When the battle was over both went down and the sky was really, literally clear.
Uncle Rick lay on the ground where from he would never again rise. It’d been hard for Riley to see him fall-he too had a family-but it had to be done. Riley’s father had promised that they would bring Aunt Darla and Christopher to the castle where they would be well cared for. A funeral would be arranged.
The day was soon over and the moon rose as it always did. Riley, with her father’s arm around her, walked home. They didn’t use their powers; they enjoyed nature, well, naturally.
“Father?” Riley asked, looking up at the king.
“If you’re a king, am I a princess?”
“I, well, I guess I never really thought about it. Then again, I thought you were dead,” he gave her a faint smile, “I guess that would make you princess though. Why?” Riley’s father asked.
“I really am a princess,” Riley said quietly, almost to herself.
“What? Oh, yes, that is what I said,” the king said, bemused at her words.
“I used to pretend, when I was little,” Riley explained, “I would pretend that I was a princess and that Uncle Rick kept me locked up, and that he barely fed me. That I was going to someday be rescued; I guess that’s now all true, in a way.”
“You and your mother were always imaginative. You both used metaphors a lot,’ Riley’s father ran his hand through his daughter’s hair. “I loved that about her, and about you, too.”
They reached the end of the forest-as well as the end of their adventure-and found the castle that reached to the sky they controlled. They walked through the ornate doors of which Riley had once been afraid of. She now walked through them with joy and confidence. This was home.
The walls murals had somehow changed-magic, no doubt-to happy scenes of hills of daffodils and roses; scenes of wild ponies running on green islands surrounded by a clear blue sea, and of beautiful sunsets on green hills by silver lakes. No more pictures of battles, anger, or hate. The door that les to the throne room had changed in a small way, but it meant a lot: the two halves of the heart were now one, joined together. Riley opened the door. Servants and guards, only bright, shimmery shadows, stood at attention near the throne.
“Looks like we’ll need another throne,” Riley’s father said, looking at the empty space next to his kingly seat.
“Really, I get my own throne?” Riley asked, hardly daring to believe her father’s words.
“I can’t make all the decisions around here, Riley, someone needs to help me. Somebody with a young and fresh mind,” the king said, looking down at his long-lost daughter.
“I have a few ideas,” Riley announced. She raised her hands as though presenting something. The domed roof above them fluttered away like a butterfly in glittery cloud of dust. The night sky was perfectly visible now. The stars, there were a great many of them, glittered and shone down on the pair. Riley and her father looked at each other, the power of love stronger than any other they could ever have.
Such a display of father-daughter affection the Man in the Moon had never seen before. He smiled down on the pair. Riley felt a sensation of peace, joy, and love. At last she was home with her father. And best of all: they had all the time in the world; time waited for no man. It did wait for her.
Hope you enjoyed, Samantha! Tell me below that you have read it (when you have) so I can make it public! Thanks for suggesting “Messy Bun” as the winning name. My tagline is:
Worshiping. Writing. Wondering.