1 ... 2 ... 3 ... *click* ... *slide*
*slide* ... *click* ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
1 ... 2 ... 3 ... *click* ... *slide*
The man quietly watched his reflection in the blade when a loud knock on a wooden door interrupted his thoughts.
A voice behind the door said, with a thick Emnikatian accent, "Mr, Smythe, last carriage arriving soon. "
"I’ll be there momentarily, Ivan, thank you for letting me know," he quickly slid the blade back into the cane ...
*slide* ... *click* ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
... counting the number of turns needed to
release or lock the blade in by rotating the cane’s headpiece. It was made of
the finest quality ebony, polished to a mirror sheen, and topped with a golden
handle in the shape of an exposed brain.
Pushing himself up from the red satin recliner, the man barely stood up and leaned on the cane, limping toward the door. He turned toward the room once more as he stepped through the doorway. His yellow eyes fell on the decorated table on which lay a letter. In beautiful, female handwriting was a reply signed: Annabella.
His white glove brushed back through his unnaturally blue hair, typical for the natives of the
The door shut behind him.
* * *
The horses’ steady gallop through the thick fog was interrupted by the coachman, pulling on the reins, and they slowed down, letting out a sigh of relief.
"Whoa! Whoa, whoa!" the coachman shouted stopping the carriage in front of the small seaside motel.
Ivan opened the carriage door and held out his hand. A woman accepted his help and got out, stepping into the mud.
"Terrible day," he remarked, justifying the muddy road.
"Ah, it’s fine," the woman scraped off the mud off her boots, relieved none of it sullied her stockings. She looked up into the man’s eyes. He was much taller than her and built like a rock.
"Annabella," she held out her hand, "A pleasure to finally meet you in person, professor."
"Ivan is not professor ... Oh, you confuse Ivan with Mr. Smythe!" he started laughing and hitting his strong stomach.
"Oh! My apologies! I thought he would come to greet me—"
... Mr. Smythe not rude.
"Excuse me?" Annabella lifted an eyebrow behind her glasses.
She was a well-shaped young woman with chestnut hair that well-rounded her oval face. Her green eyes were in contrast with her freckled cheeks. Holding a book close to her chest enveloped in a dark green turtleneck pullover that reached almost to her knees, she tilted her head in order to emphasize the question.
"Ivan mean what Ivan said. No animal allowed on trip," he looked into the carriage behind her where a guinea pig was trapped in a cage.
"Oh ... I see," the young woman frowned, "Well ... you know what? Tell the professor that I and Mr. Puffles come as a package. If he wants me to come along, he’ll reconsider."
Ivan let out a deep sigh. He was bald and his face was scarred over his right eye and his lips. The black suit he wore didn’t fit him one bit.
"Ivan no thinks hamster can come, but okay, Ivan ask ... Miss Annabella coming in, yes?" he gestured toward the motel as the rain started to pick up.
"Sure. Thanks, Ivan," she smiled.
The sky over the sea was getting darker as the night slowly devoured all. The shore suffered wave after wave as the wind started howling through the naked trees sticking out around the unsightly motel.
"Here keys. Mr. Smythe booked the whole motel. Even the owner left," he handed her the keys to her room, "Put things then come. Everyone at the dining room already. Miss Annabella last."
"Oh, I didn’t know. Thank you. I’ll be there as soon as I leave my things."
up the stairs and unlocked the door of her room. There was almost no light in
the motel and the visibility was at its last legs since the daylight was almost
fully gone. Annabella opened the curtains of her window and looked outside.
The northern horizon was colored in a sickly purple, mixed with grey slow-moving clouds. She snapped out of it and quickly left her things, rushing down the stairs.
Not seeing almost anything in front of her and being in a hurry, Annabella twisted her ankle just as she reached the bottom floor.
" ... ouch ... ." she held her foot as her body lightly twisted in sharp pain.
After making a grimace and clenching her teeth, she limped toward the room from which voices could be heard. Pushing the slightly opened door fully, she came in.
"I’m sorry for being late," she limped to a free chair and joined the many men that sat around a long table.
"Is okay. Ivan forgives," the tall man started laughing again, alone, as it would seem no one else found it even slightly entertaining.
"Tough crowd," he mumbled to himself.
The room was lit with only a petroleum lamp that sat in the middle of the wooden table. Some chairs were empty but most were filled with men whose faces could barely be discerned. Some were finishing their meal, while others enjoyed a quiet chat. One particular man with a cylinder top hat hadn’t touched his food and the twitching of his leg betrayed his nervousness.
*Ahem* "Welcome. Ivan hope all had good trip. Tonight explain what this about. Eat and listen, then sleep. Tomorrow we go."
"I’m not going anywhere," said the nervous man, adding, "the letter said whoever comes to the meeting will get a thousand in gold."
"Yes, is true, but listen to Ivan—"
"I’m not here to listen. I’m not going anywhere," he stood up and opened his palm toward the tall bald man as if expecting something.
"It’s quite alright," a third voice could be heard from a dark corner of the room.
A man painfully stood up from a chair and came into the light.
"Give Mr. Devas the money and let him be on his way, Ivan."
The large man scowled and headed toward an open suitcase in which lay a few bags. He took one and threw it at Mr. Devas, who caught it readily.
"Manners!" the purple-clad man lifted his cane, pointing at Ivan.
"Sorry, Mr. Smythe."
Devas gave them both a good long stare before tipping his top hat to the other guests and then slowly left the room, shutting the door behind him.
"Mr. Smythe, Ivan thinks—"
"That’s quite alright, Ivan," said Smythe softly and patted the man on the shoulder.
The purple-clad man started limping around the table, making a slow circle as he spoke.
doubt anyone else will make the same mistake as Mr. Devas, hmm?
Quite an intrigue, isn’t it?
Well, gentlemen ... " he stopped next to where she was sitting and offered his hand," ... lady Annabella, I presume?"
She accepted the handshake.
"I didn’t take you for a rude man, judging from the letters ... "
"Wha—?" Smythe lifted an eyebrow.
"You’re making fun of my limping, aren’t you, professor Smythe?" she squeezed his hand tightly.
"Oh ... Oh! I’m so sorry! Your cane. I’m sorry, I’m stupid—"
contrary! Every one of my guests tonight is an expert in the field of science.
Miss Annabella Bookovitch is a biologist, the best in her field. She came to us
all the way from the
He continued to circle around, reaching an older gentleman and his ghostly-looking, middle-aged son.
Pickman is a
"Doctor Eris Leah is ... a field apothecary. Hopefully, we won’t need his services, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Isn’t that right?"
"I’m still on the edge if I’m honest ... " replied Leah.
"And that’s quite alright. After hearing me out, you will all be given a choice," he gestured toward Ivan and the man started handing out a contract and a bag of gold to each guest, "to bid us farewell and return home one thousand gold richer, or to accompany us to an expedition that might open new horizons for this world, and have your names written in history books."
Annabella’s eyes sparked for a moment upon imagining what the new horizons could be, but some of the other guests gave Smythe skeptical looks, so he fixed his square glasses and continued.
course, I would not endanger the lives of the most intelligent people I wasted
so much time searching for, without proper compensation ...
Upon return from the expedition, you’d be paid tenfold of what you see in front of you now."
now fell on the bags in front of them and after a long quiet moment, they
looked at each other, hoping someone will speak up.
"That’s correct, my friends, ten thousand, regardless of the expedition’s success!" he spread his arms and turned his back to them, now facing the dark window, "but once you hear where we are going, I’m sure money will be the last thing on your mind and curiosity will take front," he smiled.
"Where are we going?" Annabella asked.
Smythe pointed his cane toward the window.
"North. The Forbidden Ocean. The edge of the world."