Arrival IV: Cold Spots
The scratching of a pen was the only sound within the household of Cothorn, well not the only sound but the only sound to cause irritation. The scribble of the tool would match the creaking of the old, rich floorboards and flicker of the fireplace but the scratching was an irritation to all that would hear it - as to the Cothorn’s it was not the noise of creation but the noise of ill and worrying obsession.
Through the highest window, of the furthest, most isolated part of the grandiose home of the Cothorns was the wretched young creature known as Grisaetem - he stared down at his page and scribbled some more words that would make sense to no one but himself.
Grisaetem furrowed his brow towards the page, something is not quite right - there is a gap in his mind making sure he can’t continue and something like that is a bad sign when it comes to his sort of research. He glances out the window for a moment, watching small petals of snow tumble down to the ground as they have always done during this time of year. Squinting, he recalls that something was meant to happen upon this time of day, moving his eyes over towards the clock he notices it reads; Three in the morning.
It was probably nothing, if he could not remember it then it wasn’t important - although that being said, Gris had been forgetting things a lot lately, he would often use a special revision technique in order to allow things to sink into his head quicker and obviously whatever he had forgotten had not gone through this treatment. He thought for a moment, lost in thought when all of a sudden, there arose such a clatter.
The noise caught him off guard, he sprung from his seat and lifted his pen in the air, ready to fend off any form of rodents that had caused the noise.
The noise was coming from outside his door, right outside of it. He inched closer towards the wooden handle of the door, his pen lifted high above his head, ready for anything.
Anything except that, Gris was pretty sure rodents had not yet mastered the ability of speech and yet this low gravelly hiss of his name had exhaled itself through the door. He grabbed his chair and placed it against the door, nothing could possibly push itself through that, Gris was safe.
That was apparently not true, the door shivered as the veins of the wood separated and compressed, they squeezed and shuddered as a strange silver gas was being pushed through it - the gas brought a soft white light along with it which brightened up the room immensely.
“What?” Gris pushed out beneath his breath, the air from his lungs being forced out in fear and anxiety at the sight of what was pushing itself through his door.
It was someone, or something, a skeletal being grinned back at him through the voidless eyes, a jet black darkness hiding what should be eyes in hollow sockets. Wrapped around the being was a silver robe that matched the colour of the ethereal gas that allowed the creature to float above the wooden floor of Gris’ study.
“Helllooo.” It hissed.
“What,” Gris exhaled again, dressed in an anxiety that was not allowing him to speak, nor think “What are you?”
“I am the Phantom of your soul, Grisaetem Cothorn,” It responded fairly, it’s hiss seeming formal yet harrowing all the same, “I am here to inspect it and apply a moral ointment in order to hopefully heal it of all ailments.”
Gris pushed himself back to the far wall of the room, sliding down it in absolute disbelief.
“You’re a ghost?” Gris finally finding a grip on his thoughts again.
“Of sorts.” the Phantom said.
“I do not believe it,” Gris argued against the creature, the only thing that would have him be back where he was a few moments ago when this being was not around, “Ghosts are but a blissful gift of ignorance.”
“I am either a ghost of truth, or a figment of your own ignorant mind, which will it be Grisaetem?” The Phantom riddled, the choice of if he was truely who it said it was or the fact that Gris may actually be losing it troubled him a little, he knew the obvious choice.
“Then I suppose Ghosts are real.” Gris decided.
“Very well, let’s get down to business shall we?”
“Whatever makes you go away the quickest.”
“What do you know of the Nightmare’s Dream?” The name pricked in Gris’ ears, he began to believe every word the creature said, he had too. The Nightmare’s Dream was an item that Gris had been searching for, a book that granted the reader untold glances into the timeline of his planet...a treasure for a mind such as his.
“What do you know of it?” Gris questioned, his ears getting more sensitive the longer the conversation went on.
“I know it well, I know of its current sleeping spot, all the way out in the far corners of this city.”
“Tell me where I can find it.” Gris gained his footing once more, sliding back up the wall to recover and make what little eye contact he could with those hollow sockets.
“In a library, alone, forgotten and covered in isolation,” It said, “much like yourself, do you not think?”
“What is the name of this library?”
“‘The Veterium’ is what it was called in the days of old, it used to be a goldmine of knowledge that many genius minds would flock to in seek of intellect, when the winter was but a dream and when the stars were but few, now it sits in the dampness and the fog alone and forgotten.” Gris noticed the Phantom had lowered its head, as if the thought of this place and its history had brought upon him a great amount of sadness.
“Thank you spirit,” Gris said, careful not to bitter the Phantom’s moment of remembrance even if Gris had not intention of respecting it to heart, this ghoul knew the location of The Nightmare’s Dream and if the best route to getting it was to pander to though the dusty thoughts of a long dead creature...so bet it, “Why are you telling me this?”
“The book holds the key to knowing what may be the destiny of us all, I want to see the look on your face when you realise yours,” The Phantom grew grim, flickers of black circling the bright silver light that shone around it, “I shall enjoy seeing you fear what may come if you follow this path of yours, covered in sickness and isolation.”
The phantom’s black sparks grew ever more, the silver light dying in the shadows of the study, soon the black enveloped the phantom whole. Gris was alone, once more.
Gris immediately sprung from the back wall to retrieve his satchel and coat, moving the chair away from the door so he could swing it open and leave as soon as possible. He did just that, swinging it open to reveal a long empty hallway, only it wasn’t empty.
“Where are you going?” Said a girl, a young girl that had been waiting outside Gris’ door.
“Out.” Gris looked down towards his little sister, Calisto Cothorn, with annoyance.
“Can I come with you?” She said, her eyes pleading him to accept her offer of companionship.
“You won’t like where I’m going.”
“I need to do some shopping for the Arrival Dinner, Mother said she needs more plates and what not.”
“I have no time for shopping, I’m going to the library.”
“What do you think?”
“Well we can go shopping afterwards, I’ll help you find your book and then we can go shopping.” Calisto did not seem like she was going to back down, she was stubborn and refused to move out of Gris’ way.
“Fine.” He buckled under pressure.
“Great!” Calisto let Gris past, she began to follow him out the front door and through the city towards the ‘The Veterium’.
The Veterium was old, as old as such a place was expected to be, the windows were smashed to pieces and the wood of the cobbled stones leading up to the large doorless entrance were cracked and broken up into chunks. The whole place felt off somehow, the Phantom had not been lying when he said this place had been shrouded in isolation, it was if this library lived and breathed disappointment after years of being forgotten. It was almost sad enough to cause someone to cry, not Gris though, he did not care for such fickles things like this, but Calisto just looked up at the broken down place and a tear began to bubble up in her eye.
“I don’t like this place Gris.” She said, rubbing away her tears in fear of the cold freezing her eyelids shut.
“Then you better go home.” Gris teased.
“Shut up, you know what I mean.”
“I really don’t.” Gris made his way up the broken cobbled and stood in the doorway, the sunlight doing nothing to entertain what may be lurking in the depths of shadow swirling around inside - it was if the sunshine of the morning sun refused to follow them into such a place, the glow was terrified of what lived within the shadows and refused to uncover the horrors that slithered and skulked about inside it.
The entire place had been forgotten, as if everyone had left in a hurry and had never thought to return. Leaving all sorts of books on the shelves, left to collect dust in the dark and the cold - the candles that scattered the tables and the floor still waiting to be lit once again, Gris picked one of them up and sparked it to life; Calisto rushed to the candle immediately, the flame reflecting in her eyes - their own personal light source, a light source that was not afraid to roam the halls as this was it had called home for so many years. The Phantom was right, despite it’s cryptic tongue it spoke true to what it said about it being a gold mine of knowledge - ancient tomes stacked the shelves, Gris’s eyes shone in the candle light as he roamed from book to book in hopes that he could find what he was looking for and get out of this foul place as soon as he could, with hit little sister following very close behind.
“Hurry up Gris, what does the book look like?”
“I have no idea,” Gris said. Calisto stopped, looking at her brother in disbelief, “What?”
“How in the world are we going to find it if we have no idea what it looks like?”
“I’m sure we’ll know.”
“What’s so special about this book anyway, what is it called?”
“The Nightmare’s Dream, it allows for ones mind to expand beyond the limits of time and space,” Gris explained, “The reader is able to travel through the minds of others in various points in history, you are able to see the future for what it will be and the past for what it was.”
“Sounds a little far fetched do you not think?” Calisto said, inspecting the centuries worth of dust on one of the book shelves, “Time travel is a bit out there, isn’t it?”
“I never expected you to understand it anyway, it’s far more complicated than that.”
“What could you possibly do with a book like that anyway?” Calisto asked, “Why would you need to use it?”
“To know of the things that may threaten our home, our home may be in serious danger.”
“What, and you’re going to save it?”
“That’s what I’ve been preparing for.” Gris turns to meet his sister dead in the eyes, the candle between them making it impossible to avoid his intense stare.
“That’s what you’ve been doing, all this time?” Calisto stares back, “Trying to save the world?”
“What world?” Calisto asks, “What world, that you’re apart of, could possibly need you to help it?”
“This one, what are you talking about?”
“You’re not part of this world, you spend most of your time by yourself, scribbling and researching...and for what?”
“The safety of you, of Mum, Dad, of the world!”
“We don’t need you to save us Gris, you need to look around at the world you’re trying to save and actually be apart of it for a change”
“I’ve had enough arguing, please remain silent Calisto.”
“You know I’m right.” Calisto lowered her eyes, Gris moves away and they venture further into the library.
After a few hours of roaming they find themselves in the very center of the library, a grand room filled with books with a large circular table in the middle. Upon that table, resting eerily, was a purple leather bound tome with golden pages inked within.
“There it is…” Gris sighed, he raced up towards the table and looked down upon the item he had searched for years after. He shone the candle upon it and the golden pages reflected the light back, it shone bright and oozed power from just looking upon it.
Soon enough the two became cold, they shivered as before them something was conjured, they witnessed the formation of a familiar silver figure that floated an inch above the ground before them.
“I see that you have found the book.” The Phantom hissed.
“What in the world is that?” Calisto backed away quickly, knocking over one of the book stacks.
“Calm down Calisto, he is the Phantom that told me of the library.” Gris brought her back to bathe in the ghoul’s silver light.
“He’s a Ghost?”
“Apparently…” Gris turns back to the Phantom, “Why are you here spirit?”
“I said I would bear witness to you opening the book,” He said, “I wish to see you devour in it’s tellings.”
“Very well,” Gris approached the book, “Here we go.”
“Gris, don’t do this.” Calisto pleaded.”
“It’s ok Calisto, all I have to do is open it.” Gris leans forward and grips the front cover, lifting it up placing his eyes on the very first page - the pages glowing, the candle was nothing compared to the light that pushed itself through his eyes and into his mind...
...Gris then immediately jumped away from the book, the cover snapping shut once more. He is covered in sweat, his legs are shaking and his mind is a jumble.
“What...what…” Gris stuttered, his words not being able to form properly, “I...the future…”
“What did you see?” The Phantom asks, not surprised at all.
“I thought I could save the world…”
“Gris, what’s wrong?” Calisto sits beside her brother as he shakes, trying to comfort him.
“Fire...so much fire,” Gris said, tears forming in his eyes, “We were all dead...Spirit please tell me, was that all true?”
“It may or may not be.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Gris bawled, “I am so sick and tired of your stupid riddles.”
“I’m saying whatever you saw might not be the future that may come to pass.” The Phantom paused for a moment, silent once more.
“The Nightmare’s Dream predicts the future.”
“That is why you are the fool.” The Phantom creeped closer to the two of them, “The Nightmare’s Dream is no more real than a cheap magic trick, it was written by a crazy drunk on his stag night, for his own odd form of entertainment.”
“No, that’s not true.”
“Believe what you want, I only withheld this information to taunt you myself, none of us know the future, any day could be the day that we die.” It went on, “That’s exactly why we must cherish every single one of them, treat them as if they are our last, something you have failed to do for so many years...what you saw in that book may come to pass someday but it also might not, forget about it and live to tell the tale.”
Calisto looks down from the ghost and back at her brother.
“Gris, staying in your room all year round won’t change anything, you’re not saving anyone, your isolating yourself from the world you claim to care so much about.”
“Calisto Cothorn, take your brother away from this place.” The Phantom demanded, “May he learn from the things he has seen today.”
“I’m sure he will, if it’s anything my brother is good at, it’s learning.”
Calisto and Gris made their way back through the shadowy maze of the library and once again freed themselves into the cold morning sun. They stood at the cobbles and just bathed in the light that they had lacked on their journey. It was silent for a moment, before finally Gris piped up with something.
“Which way is the market from here?”
“I think south, why?” Calisto turned her head to her brother, who for once looked at her not as a hindrance, but as a sibling.
“You said you wanted to go shopping, what did you need?”
“Just a few extra pots and pans for the dinner.”
“Let’s get a move on then shall we?”
Gris made his way down the steps of the library, a spring placed into his step. Calisto bounced after him as they made their way towards the busy jumble of the marketplace…
Story written by Aaron Burley at Far Owl Studios