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Inked

The Ink Keepers Trilogy Part I

N.I. Rojas

A single drop of Inked blood can change the spell forever!

Chapter 1: A mess of ink

The man knew he was doing something dangerous. He was playing with fire. He was going to burn.

 

The exact moment when the Graphylux and ink came to him is unknown, but it has been both a blessing and a curse. He never expected to create a world of words, dreams and ink, but there it was, and now there is no return.

 

With soft strokes, the man drew the lagoon and the mermaids, the Indian tribes and the pirates. With words so soft, barely audible, he created the fairies and the trolls. He created the magic too, because a land so majestic cannot exist without something to revolve around. Magic was for this land as the sun is for ours, the center of the Universe.

 

The old man created the evilness that could destroy each living soul in that fragile world of magic, and one day that evilness claimed to be freed, to conquer not just the world of ink, but the one of flesh and blood. While the man was resting, not expecting for any of this to happen, the evil tried to escape.

The world of magic started to spin in despair, and our world ended in chaos too. The inspiration was now missing, and every creation was doubled in that magic world. Words were stolen from books and papers, and no matter where the writers hid their valuable manuscripts, they ended bare of ink- normal ink.

 

The old man woke up to face the pandemonium. He was tied with a rope made of ink- magic ink he supposed- as it was so strong that he couldn’t break it. The Graphylux - a pen ordinary to the looks- was resting in the pocket of his turtleneck shirt. He made his best effort to take it with his teeth and tried with the only strength he could find to break the ink knot that made him prisoner. He managed to escape and, taking the tin of ink and the Graphylux with him, he made it to the street.

 

What must be done? Of course, hiding these two things was the only way. Destroy them? Never. He was not brave enough to do that. That ink and Graphylux were the only important thing he had in his life. Without these two artifacts, this man was just a poor beggar. No different as in this very moment, wandering in the streets, no home to return. No, he must not remember what he was before. He had everything, he created gold and silver, and a palace just for him. The ink and the Graphylux were the only things to thank for it.

 

A savior was needed. Someone brave enough to travel to that world and stay there, hiding one of the two treasures. The ink? Yes! The ink has been corrupted. He would get rid of the ink as he considered it the most dangerous of the two gifts. And he found the one that must carry the ink for one eternity, or more if that is what it takes.

 

Why the boy was the chosen one was not easy to explain, but this poor little boy has asked for it… The boy has begged for a change in his life, and this man will make his dreams come true. The curse will end with just sending the boy with the ink to Alter Land, his very own land of magic.

 

The Graphylux… the man will keep it as he was too coward to hide himself in that world of magic and mystery to protect his little secret.

 

And just like that, the boy was sent to the land where nothing ages, nothing dies, nothing grows. Including himself.

 

 

Chapter 2: Lights and Shadows

Sunday evening

 

It was a starry night and Mackenzie was watching the sky, absorbed, outside the tree trunk that was his house. The sky was painted with perfect colors, perfect shades and tones that cannot be copied or improved by any artist’s hand. Everything in Alter Land was perfect, even the villains or the poisonous plants. A world created with fine words cannot be replaced or enhanced by nothing other than more of the finest words.

 

All the years spent there, being a teenager, without remembering what bought him there in first place, kept tormenting Mackenzie. He couldn’t remember what or when, and there was no other souvenir to remind him apart from a tin of ink.

 

     “Useless ink” -Mackenzie thought, as he never learned to write. The mother he once took to Alter Land had escaped taking with her each and every one of the Lost Boys, reuniting them back to the mamas and papas that were waiting for them.

 

They were useless, anyway. With every trip to the land he found beyond the stars, the Lost Boys were growing, making him the youngest of them all. Yes, he grew a little too. But as soon as he resembled a teenager, the growth just stopped. Being an eternal teen was impossibly boring for Mackenzie. He was lonely. Accompanied by all the creatures living in Alter Land, but still alone.

 

A strange light shone in the sky. The stars always clinging from the sky as disco balls were just small dots at this point. But this light… it reminded Mackenzie of something from his past. A beg. An old man. A tin full of ink. Another bright light.

 

Mackenzie begged for a way to go back to the place where he came from. To go back to where he could be a normal boy… to grow… to die. Nothing else he wanted the most, as he stopped believing in love and happiness long ago.

 

Sadly, nothing happened to him this time or any of the other times in which that very same light had appeared in Alter Land’s perfect firmament.

 

Tired of sleeping day and night for many consecutive days, Mackenzie flew to Merm Lagoon. Perhaps listening to one of the great stories his Merm friends know, he could stop worrying about everything else.

 

Sirina was there, as Mackenzie suspected. She was the only mermaid who enjoyed being out of the water alone at night. Her back was resting against a big and soft rock in the middle of the lagoon- as water rocks were invented to be soft as clouds and fluffy as pillows in Alter Land. Mackenzie didn’t make any noise, but it was unnecessary as Sirina’s hearing was better than anyone else’s. Better than the animal’s senses and, of course, better than Mackenzie’s.

 

     “You saw the light again.” -Sirina said without taking her eyes from the sky. She knew Mackenzie better than any other creature in Alter Land. Mackenzie just nodded. - “I told you. It means something. I just don’t know what. Maybe you should go to see my father. He may know something.”

     “You know I can’t. Your father doesn’t like me. And maybe he doesn’t know you are out there. He’ll go mad.” -Mackenzie said.

     “Well, Mack. If you haven’t accused him of stealing your shadow, you wouldn’t be in so much trouble with him now.” -Sirina reminded him.

     “But he did!” -Mackenzie defended himself almost as offended as Sirina’s father was when he was first accused.

     “You know he didn’t.” -Sirina turned to face Mackenzie. Her eyes were clear as jellyfishes. Mackenzie could see himself reflected in her eyes and he knew she was bewitching him. He turned his back at Sirina and started to fly away, but something grabbed him by the right leg.

Sirina’s long hair was tangled in Mackenzie’s leg and the pressure it was making was no fun to him. He fought to get rid of Sirina’s grip, but it was impossible. In the end, he stopped fighting and stood in the same rock Sirina was. - “Maybe it was the bird girl you once brought in here.”

Mackenzie looked at the two brighter stars in the sky.

     “I don’t want to talk about her. She belongs to a time I have already forgotten. It is useless anyway. I checked and re-checked, and she doesn’t have my shadow.”

Sirina knew it was true. Mackenzie was right about the bird girl, but not about his shadow. Sirina knew better than that.

     “I haven’t come to understand what you see in the stars. It is not as amazing as the depths of the sea.” -She said, changing the subject.

     “It is not the stars that amazes me… It’s what is beyond. You should come with me someday.” -Mackenzie said, happy with this idea. Sirina has never left the lagoon. Maybe by visiting the world he likes so much she may understand his feelings.

     “Don’t be so foolish, Mackenzie. I’ll die if I leave this lagoon.” -That was true. Mackenzie hadn’t thought about it before. Sirina was right. She needed water to survive. - “You will die, too. Someday you’ll get yourself killed if continue traveling to see those creatures that amuse you so much.”

Mackenzie thought about it. Dying. That was in fact what he wanted. To grow old. To die. He hoped Sirina was right.

Jumping back in the water, Sirina looked at him.

     “Someday, Mack, you’ll find your shadow and you’ll be free to leave.” -But what Sirina didn’t know was that Mackenzie was planning to leave anyway. With or without shadow. - “My father is coming, Mack. You better leave.”

Mackenzie smiled at her and flew away, going back to his trunk-house.

The bright light lit the night sky once again, this time with a supernatural force. Mackenzie thought the sun had exploded inside his head. The squawking of birds, the shriek of small insects, the groaning of some goblins resting nearby, and perhaps some sinister witch’s laughter was all he could hear at that time. Decided to discover what was happening in Alter Land’s sky, Mackenzie lifted his feet off the ground and flew aimlessly. Unstoppable, he turned around and around like a spinning toy, trying to find the source of such a curious event. He has been there like forever, almost since Alter Land was created and he had never seen such a strange thing happening into his own sky.

He knew that near Kensington Gardens and other places he enjoyed so much, strange things happened in the sky. The colors were different, nothing special or artistic like those of the sky he owns. But contrary to the monotony and the grrrrss or hu-hu-hu-hu that Alter Land’s creatures made, this other world beyond the stars, kids were growing. Warmth in the heart, Mackenzie thought this other world was one full of hope. Hopes to grow. Hopes to die someday.

Sometimes he hated to remember, but he had loved once. His heart had been broken. His soul torn in pieces. His shadow was stolen as was his companionship. Those boys that made him their leader, that followed him blindly in the plank, that jumped into the crocodile’s wide-open jaws… they abandoned Mackenzie too. He tried to love again, but every girl born into that house was much more stubborn than her predecessor. They never loved Mackenzie enough to stay there with him. To be his guide, the mother he always missed. They had fun with him, enjoyed the journey to Alter Land, the adventure, the mystery. But in the end, they just wanted to grow up.

Mackenzie understood it now. They were right. If only he had seen this reality before, he would have the courage to stay in that land. But Mackenzie knew something prevented him from staying. He was forced to stay in Alter Land. That island of magic depended on him, but it was absorbing him too. Alter Land falls into a deep sleep, like a numbness spell that could last for a few days, but after that, the numbness starts to dissipate and the grass and trees and every living thing there starts to get sick. Some of them have died lately. In times before, Mackenzie would have punished himself for his lack of consideration or precaution, but now these deaths only meant hope to him.

The higher he flew the less he could see. The stars were vanishing one by one. Only a strong wind could be felt. Mackenzie wasn’t afraid. He just wanted to understand. He looked down. The island was just a tiny dot surrounded by water gleaming despite the darkness of the night. Sirina has told him that the bottom of the sea was covered with magical gemstones that could make dreams come true and also have the power to store the light of the sun for as many days as it would turn impossible to count them. Also, Sirina told him of water creatures whose bodies were created with pure light. If someone dared to enter their precious waters, the creatures will be nibbling the intruder’s body little by little. That was a disgusting thought to Mackenzie. Those creatures, apparently beautiful, came to be number one in Mackenzie’s list of never-meet. After them, the list was empty.

The dark sky was not plain anymore. A banana- sized moon was fighting to come to the map, but a bright shine, stronger than any other Mackenzie has seen, came in the blink of an eye. The sphere of white light twirled around Mackenzie for a second but as soon as it appeared it ended, exploding just in front of his eyes. The shock wave was so strong Mackenzie lost his consciousness and just fell to emptiness.

When he woke up, his eyelids were burning. Opening his eyes was harder than trying to get up. A noise like a rattlesnake coiling closer surrounded him. He managed to sit with difficulty as every bone in his body seemed to be crushed from the fall, but as soon as he sat, a bony finger pushed him back again. Lying flat on the floor, Mackenzie discovered that this was the signal he has been waiting for uncountable years.

     “What you want from me?” -Mackenzie ventured to ask.

     “I have just come to offer my help.” -The booming voice said. Mackenzie tried to open his eyes, but they burned more with every try. - “Don’t be afraid. f you are blinded it will last just a moment. As soon as I leave your eyesight will return.”

Mackenzie feared now. Whoever was talking to him have the capacity to blind him, and know he lost his eyesight. What many other things he could do to poor Mackenzie?

     “Now… The magic words I must say? Yes… here they are.” -Mackenzie felt confused and scared. He wanted to know the identity of this person. But the man kept talking and Mackenzie’s eyes remained glued.

“Nine days from now

will give the Moon new glow,

by then my artifacts should be recovered

and give a witch's soul a blow.

The un-aging boy will be set free

as soon as the magic words are spoken.

A kiss, a heart, a soul and ink

you must bring for the curse to be broken.”

 

Mackenzie listened to the spell that was cast in front of him trying to remember every word. - “Squalid maggots!” -Cursed Mackenzie in his mind. - “If I have only learned to write I wouldn’t have to memorize all these words!”

 

“The girl followed must be

as the essence she possesses,

giving her to sacrifice

will bring the boy great bless.

 

The magic land will remain asleep

until the moon turns out blue,

and to protect the boy from evil's grip

the magic instruments will be the clue.”

 

Mackenzie repeated those words in his mind again and again, trying not to forget anything. But his head was full of so many questions he forgot the spell.

     “Who are you? Where I should go? I’ll be normal again?”

     “Don’t worry, boy. I’ll send you to your first location. Do your best to survive there. This is not a trip to the gardens you like so much. I’ll give you two minutes here to gather what you need. When that time has expired, the portal will be gone forever.”

Mackenzie didn’t lose time and ran towards his trunk house, filling the leather bag he always carries with him. He ran back just in time to jump into the mirror-like portal. Everything inside and outside Mackenzie started to spin. His feelings got numb. His mind was senseless, and he only felt an urge to vomit- something he did as soon as he opened his eyes again. After breathing deeply for a few seconds, Mackenzie regained control over his guts just in time to hear other people’s laughs.

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