I was living in a small apartment in a high-technology world I had stumbled into nearly a year ago. I had never spent much time in a high tech world before, so I figured I’d hang around for a while and see how I liked it.
It was very confusing at first. The huge buildings…and the cars. I had never encountered powered vehicles before, except once or twice on missions with the old wizard. The noise, the dirty air…it took some getting used to.
But after a few months I settled in and got a job as a security guard. My magic turned out to be just enough to fudge the paperwork and technicalities of it. Of course, they really had no idea just how well qualified I was for the job, but it didn’t matter.
About a month after I found this apartment, a young couple move in to the unit down the hall. The girl seemed very nice, she would always smile and wave when we passed in the halls. She was quite pretty, long dark hair, pale skin and striking green eyes. She introduced herself as Lillian.
“I’m Orin,” I said shaking her offered hand.
“That’s an unusual name,” she said. “Not one I’ve heard before.”
“It’s old,” I replied.
She nodded. “I need to go get dinner on before Ray gets home or he’ll be mad. It was nice meet you.” She smiled and went back into the apartment.
It wasn’t long after that first meeting that I began to realize something wasn’t right.
A few days later I went into the small laundry room of the apartment complex, and I found Lillian there, head down over a pile of clean sheets, crying softly.
I hesitated for a moment, standing there with my plastic clothes hamper, not sure what I should do, if anything. Finally, compassion won out. I went over to her quietly, and laid a hand on her shoulder. She nearly jumped out of her skin, and as she looked around to see who was there, I saw her right eye was bruised nearly black and swollen almost shut.
“Lillian are you ok?” I asked, reaching out to touch her again. She recoiled, but my fingers brushed her for a moment, and I saw into her mind for a moment. I saw the man who had entered the apartment the first day they moved in, standing over her, fists raised, face contorted with rage.
“Did your husband do that to you?” I asked quietly.
She lowered her head, and her hair hung down hiding her face.
“It’s not like it seems.” She said. She spoke so softly I could barely hear. “He just gets mad some times. I do things wrong, I make mistakes, I forget things, and he’s so tired from work, and some times he just loses his temper.”
“A person can loose their temper without taking it out on another person Lillian,” I replied. “Being angry doesn’t really give him a right to harm you.”
“I know. But I love him, and he always makes it up to me when he looses control like that. He’s really a good man.” She said.
“Well, I hope your right. If you need to talk, I don’t mind listening,“ I replied.
“Thank you Orin, I appreciate that.” She raised her eyes and looked at me. “How come you don’t have yourself a wife or a girlfriend?” She asked. “Or maybe you do I guess. Am I being to nosy?” She hung her head again for a moment, and I chuckled.
“You might say I am new to the area,” I replied. “I don’t know anyone here at all.”
“Oh? Where are you from originally?” She asked.
“A place you’ve never heard of,” I said smiling.
“Well, at least you know one person here now.” She said kindly.
“And you have a friend as well. Remember my offer.”
She picked up her laundry, smiled at me one more time, and headed out of the small warm room.
I stood there and shook my head. She was obviously a very pleasant, caring person. She just didn’t seem to care enough about her own well being.
Of course, I had my own issues. As I’ve mentioned, I wasn’t totally unfamiliar with worlds like this one, having visited a few now and then, and heard about them at great length from the old mage. But I was used to horse drawn buggies, vast areas of undeveloped land, people in homemade clothes, and the like. And clean air. I was sick almost constantly for the first month or so of my stay in this world, due to the pollution.
Another thing was weapons. In most places I have lived, those who can afford to often go armed. In this place however, one could be arrested for doing so, or even for possessing a weapon without the proper permits. In deference to this, once I was able to settle myself down in this apartment I created a long, narrow space inside the utility closet. I then placed a spell upon my sword Arcrux that would make it difficult to see, and hid it in the space. Then I hid the space with a similar spell. I don’t expect I’ll need my old friend very often here.
Sooner or later, I’ll decide to move on. Of course, I’ll have to find a means to do so. I’m not a competent enough mage to simple wish myself out of one world and into another as some can. But all worlds have places or things that can aid such a journey. When I decide to leave, I will simply have to locate one.
It is interesting though, how the magic is still present, even in a world like this. I walked through a park in the city the other day, and passed by a great ancient rowan tree, and I could feel the strength and power emanating from it. Even some parts of the city itself, buildings and allies give off the aura of enchantment or of strong spiritual forces and connections. I suppose what the old Wizard says is true; magic is in everything.
I suppose I am lucky that I ended up in a city where most people walk or use “public transportation”. Somehow I just can’t see myself behind the wheel of one of those metal monsters of theirs.
As I acclimated more and more to my new environment, Lillian’s situation seemed to grow worse. I could often hear her husband screaming at her through door, hall and my own door. I hear crashes, and thumps, and the explosive tinkling of shattered glass.
More than once, I thought of going over there, knocking on the door (or possibly beating or blasting it down), and doing something about it. In most places I am used to, I almost certainly would have. But in this world of close, dense population, rigid law enforcement, and an extreme sense of self isolation that most of the people call “privacy”, I figured it was best if I minded my own affairs. I view my stay in this world as a vacation of sorts, and I had no real desire to complicate it with a stay in the local gaol.
However, my stance of non interference was not to last. About two weeks after I had moved in, I was sitting at home one night, browsing the channels of the television. It’s a most intriguing invention this television thing. The ability to be able to allow hundreds…thousands…even millions of people to all see the same thing, at the same time while still being hundreds of miles apart is truly staggering to me. But anyway, I had settled on a program that reminded me of myself a bit…there was a young warrior doing battle with a wicked mage…when I began to hear screaming, louder than ever before, from down the hall. And then tremendous crash and the sound of breaking glass, coinciding with a high-pitched feminine scream. Then I heard a door open and slam, and before I could think, there was a frantic sounding knock at my door. Obviously, I knew who it was and rushed to answer.
As expected, Lillian stood at my door, her bruised and bloodied face streaked with tears. I immediately reached out and laid my hands on her shoulders to steady her-she seemed ready to fall over at any moment.
“C-can I please come in?” She asked in a pained whisper.
I didn’t bother to respond…I lifted her into my arms and carried her to my worn and shabby second-hand couch.
“Are you ok Lillian?” I asked. “Can you breathe alright?” She nodded weakly, and I laid a hand on her forehead. I sent my mind searching through her body, trying to see if there was any internal bleeding or other injuries. She seemed alright, although admittedly my magical senses are not as acute as some.
“What happened Lillian? Why did he do this to you?”
She closed her eyes and sighed heavily. “His favorite shirt got torn up in the washing machine. When he showed it to me, I told him we could go right out and get him a new one just like it. That wasn’t enough. He thought I should have kept it from getting torn…I must have loaded the washing machine wrong or something. So he decided I needed to be punished.”
“You can’t go on like this Lillian. I don’t think you’re badly injured…but eventually you will be. Sooner or later your husband will get angry enough to simply kill you. Either intentionally, or by an accident of losing control.”
“I know, but I don’t know what else to do, where to go. I don’t want to live in a shelter.”
“If you like, you can stay with me at least for a while.”
Before she could respond the door which I had left unlocked in my haste, flew open and slammed against the wall.The man I had seen only once before but had heard many times charged into the room, brandishing a small firearm.
“Get your hands of my wife you stupid bastard!” He screamed at me, pointing his weapon.
I stood and faced him calmly.
“I suggest you leave my house immediately.”
“And I suggest you stop trying to get in my woman’s pants asshole! I’ve seen you looking at her, course I know she’s looking back leading you on!” He bellowed.
“You are delusional sir, and violent. Look what you’ve done to this poor woman! Leave, now!”
“Screw you bitch!” He screamed and fired at me. At the last second I managed to throw up a mystical barrier that took most of the impact, but I was knocked flat, winded and stunned. I hear Lillian scream.
“No Ray, you’ve killed him!” She shrieked eyes wide with terror and wet with tears.
Before I could act, he grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her from the apartment. She fought, but he menaced her with the gun. By the time I regained my equilibrium enough to act, they had gone.
I sat up and shook my head, attempting to get my senses back in order. I heard a bit more screaming from the couple’s apartment; also other voices in the hall, no doubt people investigating the gunshot. The interest wouldn’t last though. This area was not the sort of place where people were likely to involve the authorities; especially if the issue was something they considered none of their business. This, for most of the people here meant anything that didn’t interfere directly with their own pursuits.
My first impulse was to follow them, and bring Ray’s mistreatment of Lillian to an end. Gun or no gun, I could easily put him down like the rabid dog he appeared to be. But as the yelling from down the hall subsided, I began to doubt the wisdom of getting involved. After all, I was a stranger to their world, and my power does not necessarily give me the right to enforce my will upon others. Lillian was a grown woman, and capable of making her own decisions; if she wanted to leave, she would do so.
I picked myself up off the floor and returned to my business. I couldn’t help keeping an ear out though. There’s still a part of me with a soft spot for a maiden in distress even after all this time.
A few days passed, and I heard little activity from down the hall. The one evening I was enjoying some Krispy Kreme donuts…a wonderful confection they have in this world…when I began to hear the usual commotion from down the hall.
I’m not getting involved, I told myself. It’s not my world, and not my problem. They do things differently here than what I am used to.
I began to eat another donut, determined that I was going to leave the situation alone. I had no desire nor need to draw attention to myself.
But then I heard Lillian’s voiced raised in a keening wail of fear and pain, and my resolve instantly disappeared. I stood up, and prepared myself to go down the hall and put a stop to it all. Doubtless their door was locked, but I would simply blast it down. It’s not as if anyone here would sense it.
I walked out into the hall, stepped up to their door, and prepared a breaking-spell. Before I had a chance to cast it, however, the air was split by another terrible feminine scream, this one laced with rage, and something like triumph. And then, a gunshot, and a loud grunt followed by a crash.
I uttered my spell, and the door burst inward and lay in pieces on the floor. I stepped into the living room and saw Lillian, her face streaked with blood and tears, holding the gun that had been used on me a few days before. She still held it out, stiffly, as though she didn’t know what to do next. On the floor about ten feet away from her was Ray, her husband, lying still in a spreading pool of blood. He had been shot through the heart.
I rushed to her side, and as I did she lowered the gun and collapsed into tears. She had bruises all over; her face was swollen and cut in many places.
“I’ve killed him,” she sobbed. “I didn’t want to do it Orin, but he kept hitting me and hitting me and….” She trailed off into tears and crumpled into my arms.
“It’s ok Lillian,” I said trying to be soothing, “you did what you had to do, with what you had at hand.”
“But I love him Orin!” She cried. “As horrible as he was to me, he could be so nice, and he was so different when we first met…and now…what will I do? Someone has probably already called the police…”
“It was self defense Lillian; he was attacking you.”
“I know but…”
“Don’t worry. I’ll stay with you and help all I can. I’ll tell the authorities about what I’ve seen and heard. You’ll be alright.”
After that the police came. They took statements from both of us. I told them everything I had seen and heard since the couple moved in. Lillian was in tears throughout the process. As terrible as he was to her, she felt the weight of taking a life; any life but especially one she had cared for. It was a feeling I knew well myself.
Time passed. Lillian was released under her own recognizance by the courts, pending her trial. She stayed with family during that time. I got occasional calls and letters from her. She seemed to be recovering from the emotional shock of what she had had to do.
The time of the trial came around, and I was called upon to testify. It was a bit uncomfortable for me. I was used to the dispensing of justice being a much less formal and more personal affair. I disliked having to speak before so many people in this place. My magic lets me understand the languages of many places, but capturing idiom is a whole other story.
The judge and jury decided that Lillian was not guilty, and had acted in self defense. She cried again when the decision was made; tears of relief and joy this time. She came and embraced me and thanked me for my help.
After the trial she relocated to live with relatives in another part of the country. I had hoped she might decide to stay with me for a time, but I think she wanted to be away from the area where it all happened though.
I stayed on in that world for a few more months. It was an uneventful stay. After a while I managed to find a site not far from me with a convergence of ley-lines that I used to shift to another, more familiar world.
I had learned though that what the old mage was always talking about was true. Actions carry there own consequences, and the world usually makes people pay for what they do. This is why those of us with greater power should always especially think before we act. I had the impulse to use my power to help Lillian out of her situation. But instead, she choose to get herself out, of her own free will and under her own power. It turned out; she didn’t really need my help or my power. All she needed was someone to point the way.
|9 May 2006|| Blakeslee2|
Oops... forgot to log in (see above comment).
|9 May 2006|| V. Blakeslee 'DragonessTawnya'|
Hello. I can't believe there are no comments on this yet. This is a great story. "Never Again" is one of my favorite songs. It's great that you've written a story based on it.
I've gone through almost the same thing Lillian did, twice. I didn't kill anyone, but don't think I never thought about it. 9 years is a long time to walk on eggshells, and I still am, in a way.
I just left 6 months ago, and I still jump at shadows, have nightmares, anxiety and panic attacks, etc. I understand it is hard to watch someone go through this even if you don't know the person. Some people would give me advice when I was still with him, and usually, it consisted of, "Just leave."
I am here to say it is nearly impossible to "just leave." I lived in fear, not only of being hurt, but also of his taking the children from me. I thought that I would never see them again if he did. He threatened to "send them to live with his mom and dad" more than once. Men (read: monsters; that is how I think of him) like him like to use whatever they can to keep power and control over women. And he is still doing it.
Like Lillian, I needed someone to point the way. An anonymous person decided it really WAS their business, and called the Care Line on Fort Hood. The Dept. of Social Work got involved and put him in the barracks. CPS came and told me it was either him or my kids. I picked my kids.
And when I finally did leave, I found out that I am not the worst person in the world, I CAN live without him, I CAN do things on my own, hold a job, have my own place, etc., and there ARE people who would still want me.
I am now a person, and not a belonging. I don't deserve to be mistreated, and neither does anyone else.
For all you women out there who are going through this, there are people who can help. If you're able to read this, then you can email me, and I will give you a number to call to get help. There ARE people in the world who care and want to help. I am one of them. I've been through it. I stood up. You can too.
Thank you for writing this, Justin.
(P.S. *does a little first comment jig* Heh, sorry, couldn't resist.) Justin A 'Merlion Emrys' Williams
replies: "Thank you for your comment, and for sharing your experiences. I understand how diffacult it is, especially for women with children, who are trapped in abusive relationships. I am very glad that you managed to get away from yours, more or less in one piece. In my earlier days, this story would probably have featured Orin or Emrys kicking the crap out of the abuser themselves, but one of the themes of my work has become that of free will, and taking responsability. You will be seeing more of the character Orin in future work. In fact I plan to soon flesh out his origins, in preparation for including him in a larger work I have begun. "
|12 Aug 2006|| Rhodri McCormack|
Good story Justin, your right, you don't suck at writing : )
It's good to hear a tale of victory in one of these cases, I commend the previouse comenter for her growth through her struggle but notice she did need intervention. Our post agricultural society is uttely to blame for those kinds of situations, our life style is not natural and it's the isolation that gives these guys the power. Early in life, I was the "it's not my bussiness" person and some real evil was alowd to continue, later I got involved where I could and made some small difference.
It is the nature of many to meet the demands of others before they satisfy their own needs, "choise" for some is dangeriouse, it opens the way for explotation. People should not be punished for being humble, it's never their own fault. Justin A 'Merlion Emrys' Williams
replies: "Well, I'm pretty sure there were men abusing women back in the agricultural days as well. If anything, one element that allows it to continue into the current days of organized law enforcement is the carried-over view that women are property of the husbands or fathers, so I'm not sure it can be totally blamed on post agricultural society. I think the other big factor is simply that there always have been, and always will be, people who simply do what they want to do, regardless. However, this story was actually born from the image I've often had of my character Emrys putting a smackdown on an abusive husband and/or father figure...but I ended up deciding to explore the Orin character, and it turned into another statement about free will and people finding there own way.."
|12 Mar 2008|| Elina Vähä-Mäkilä|
Very good choice of theme! Human tragedies such as domestic violence are source of strong drama and they really touch people. Fantasy literature usually portrays the forces of evil in archetypical way (slime drooling demons for instance), so it’s refressing to see something different at times.
Justin A 'Merlion Emrys' Williams
replies: "You’re very right. Like most who love fantasy, I have a strong emotional attachment to those archtypal portrayls of good versus evil. However, I also believe strongly that evil is a choice...nothing that thinks is evil in its beginings. And so the worst evils are those such as in this story...where one free-willed being knowlingly chooses to act maliciously toward another.
I should probably redo this story with my improved technical skills...but I’m glad you enjoyed it anyway!"