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Mallory & Oliver (Part 1)

by H. H. Lynn

By Heather HublerPublished 2 years ago Updated 6 months ago 10 min read
9

"Going once, going twice, sold!" The auctioneer motioned me over to his assistant to pay for the unit I just won. Swallowing hard, I handed over my last wad of cash. I gambled it all today.

Hours of sweating, swearing and breaking my back, and I had zilch to show for my reckless spending. This storage unit was a total dud. The profit from this locker was supposed to cover food and motel rent for the next week.

What was I thinking acting so rashly? I was usually more level-headed than this. I only had me to depend on. I couldn't afford to screw up, ever.

Ah yes, it wasn't a what but a whom. Oliver. I'd let my emotions get away from me, pissed that he was trying to take yet another meal ticket from me this morning. Damn him. I just needed to go through everything again with a fine-toothed comb.

My search yielded exactly nothing.

In a trantrum-y rage, I kicked a beat-up end table sitting in the middle of the unit and sent it flying. Junk. It was all junk.

My lungs were heaving now. Plunking down on the ground for a rest, I swallowed down the last dregs of my water bottle and looked over the pile of trash that would need unloaded in the next 24-hours. This sucked.

"Alright, get it together Mallory," I said out loud, trying to put positive vibes out there. But it was so hard to keep my head up when I knew I'd be flirting with Stinky Joe for my supper. He was sketchy at best.

I heaved out a sigh. This day was beginning to take its toll. Leaning over, I tried to stretch out the kinks in my aching back. From my upside down position, I spied something stuck to the bottom of the end table I'd kicked over.

I held my breath, quickly scrambling across the crowded floor. There, a small brown parcel was tucked neatly into the space underneath.

Please let this be worth something.

Crouching down low, I gently pried at the edges to dislodge it. No luck. Frustrated, I grabbed one of the corners more firmly and wrenched. The thing came free and sent me sprawling into a pile of old clothes.

I pushed back upright, sweeping sweaty strands of blonde hair out of my eyes, slowly taking in the small paper box before me. It was wrapped in a waxy, brown paper with twining holding it shut. It looked old and delicate. I was almost afraid to open it until my stomach growled violently, reminding me this was supposed to be my meal ticket tonite.

Retrieving the pocket knife from my bag, I carefully cut the twine and prised the paper open.

Inside was a striking wooden box with two types of light and dark wood, inlaid on the top in an intricate pattern. The sides were smooth and dark, the corners rounded. A small gold clasp kept the lid in place. Now this had to be valuable.

I took another moment to appreciate the attention to detail and craftsmanship on the lid, marveling at its possible worth, when I felt a slight tingling in my spine, and my vision blurred. For a moment, another shape took form in the patterned top. A door with a spiral on it.

Whoa. What just happened?

I quickly looked around, feeling a little on edge now. Nothing seemed out of place though. Same old crappy locker full of junk. Satisfied, I looked back at the lid again, waiting to see if I had the same reaction or if I'd somehow imagined it.

The tingling feeling immediately returned and surged up my back like an electrical shock, then a vivid image of the door floated before my eyes. Where before there was only a simple image, now I could see a stone-looking, spiral staircase that looked so real I had only to touch it.

"Holy shit!" a voice yelped.

I spun around, tearing my eyes from the box, the vision instantly fading. Standing there was Oliver, the current bane of my existence.

His wide eyes and gaping mouth made him look like a fish, and I laughed until the realization dawned on what he just saw. My good mood souring.

"Leave," I grit out, pissed that he was even here let alone witness to my priceless discovery. "I don't want your stupid face anywhere near me."

"Hey, hey. No need to get so snippy," he said, climbing over to where I stood, the exact opposite of leaving. "So, whatcha got there?"

Oh, hell no. Oliver was getting nowhere near this box. I gave him a hard shove, pointing to the doorway again. "Out!"

Recovering quickly, he was back at my side in an instant, prying the treasure from my fingers. I sucked in a sharp breath as he stared at the lid, waiting for him to have the same reaction I did. Seconds passed, but nothing happened. Huh.

"Why isn't it working for me?" he huffed, disappointed "It's not like you're anything special."

And there it was, the reason I loved to hate him. He was so stuck on himself. Everyone else was beneath him, unworthy. The rich little snot loved to come to these auctions to blow his trust fund money because he was bored. He didn't actually need or want any of the stuff. He also liked to annoy me.

"Maybe because you're an ass," I responded haughtily.

Normally, he would have had some response ready about how I was just street trash or gutter vermin, but something about the way his posture had changed caught me off guard. He stood with his hands in his pockets, eyes downcast. He looked sad, vulnerable even.

"Uh, Oliver are you ok?" I couldn't believe I was even asking. I was such a sucker.

He stared at the floor for a bit, making me slightly uncomfortable, until he looked up with tears in his eyes.

"I–"

He cleared his throat and tried again, "I lost my mom today. She's gone."

Oh. I knew that pain. It was gaping and raw. It never went away.

Before I could stop myself, I reached for him and hugged him loosely. He pulled me closer, gripping me tightly and started to sob. I held on until his cries quieted and his breathing slowed.

In the sudden stillness, the air shifted. His body started feeling too close, his hold too intimate. I wasn't ashamed to admit I was attracted to him physically. It was his personality that put me off.

I tried to pull myself from his arms, but he held tight.

"Don't, not yet. Please."

Those four simple words had me hesitating. He really was suffering.

And then his warm lips brushed against mine. I froze, shock going through me. He took my shock for encouragement when I didn't move and tried to deepen the kiss.

Snapping out of it, I pushed his chest and broke away.

"What was that?" I panted.

"Sorry, I just wanted to feel something other than numb."

"Well, you'll be feeling pain instead of pleasure if you try that again," I threatened.

He stood there looking lost, mouth opening and closing.

"Look, I'm sorry about your mom. I know about losing a parent, and I feel for you. Let's just forget all of this happened. You can go back to what you were doing and so can I."

My eyes immediately sought out the wooden box. So did his. Crap.

"How about I help you figure this thing out?" he said hopefully, his gaze traveling over the inlaid detail on the lid.

"How about not," I deadpanned.

But the choice was taken from me as he reached out and opened the lid.

There inside was a bronze skeleton key resting on a bed of red velvet fabric. The key had a spiral design on the handle. Was this the key to the door in my vision? How did that even work?

Only one way to find out.

We both reached for the key at the same time. Our overlapped fingers touching the metal together.

Everything turned a brilliant white, then faded to black.

My eyes blinked open, but the stabbing pain from the brightness caused them to shut quickly. What happened?

I took a quick inventory. Other than the pain in my head, the rest of my body felt fine. Sadly, I was no stranger to waking up in weird places.

Prying just one eye open, I tried to take stock of my surroundings. What I saw did not make sense. Although the bright glare was still intense, I managed to get both eyes open while shading my face, trying to re-evaluate what I'd seen.

Nope, still didn't make sense.

Fully sitting up now, my gaze drifted around until I'd twisted and done a 360 to see the full view. My heart picked up pace and while the scenery was stunning, I was beginning to panic. Or was that excitement I was feeling?

At that moment, Oliver sat up next to me, gasping. I'd forgotten about him to be honest.

"What the–" his voice trailed off as he looked around. Then his gaze snagged on me. "You did this! What are you, some kind of witch?" His voice rose higher.

"Calm down, drama king," I snapped back. "I didn't do anything. For all I know, you did this." It was childish to put it back on him, but I wasn't feeling very mature right now.

"Well, whatever you did, fix it right now!"

He was clearly on the verge of a full-on freak out. This would get us nowhere.

"Oliver, we need to calm down and work together to figure this out," I tried to reason. "Maybe there was some sort of chemical or drug inside the box that got released when you opened it."

His eyebrows rose to his hairline. Oliver looked at me like I'd lost my mind. Maybe I had.

"Then how do you explain all of this?" Getting to his feet, he threw out his arms and spun around.

This turned out to be a wondrous forest stretching to the horizon with trees as tall as high-rise buildings, and a sky so brilliant that only the shade from the vegetation above allowed us to see. Vibrantly colored flowers and shrubs covered the ground.

Yeah, I had no idea.

"That box did something weird when you were looking at it but did nothing for me. So it has to be your fault. What aren't you telling me?"

Seriously with this guy.

"Once again. I. Did. Nothing. I only found the box right before you showed up. You saw everything I did. We both went for the key, and that's when everything went haywir–"

A loud rustling of the underbrush right behind us abruptly cut me off mid rant. Oliver yelped, diving behind a tree just as an enormous beast lumbered out.

I swallowed hard. It was the size of a small horse with the coloring and shape of a fox. Its stare was unnerving as it took us both in, almost as if it had human intelligence.

Greetings.

Oliver peered around the tree, looking over at me with a horrified expression. "Did you just hear that in your head?" he whispered.

I nodded, too amazed to speak.

We just stared.

Oliver suddenly sprang forward, snapping out of the trance we'd fallen into, and pushed me behind him in some sort of chivalrous gesture. He proceeded to make a shooing motion at the giant fox while clucking his tongue. Goodness' sake. He was so embarrassing.

Ignoring Oliver's antics, I moved to stand before the massive fox. Nothing in his stance suggested violence, so I figured it might be best to make nice.

"Hello, I'm Mallory," I managed to breathe out. "And you are?"

The Akatae. And it is so good to see you again, young one. He replied.

Again?

____________________________________________________

Continue the adventure with Part 2!

Short Story
9

About the Creator

Heather Hubler

Coffee/reading/writing/family/science–my favorite things in life.

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Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (5)

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  • Cathy holmes13 days ago

    Loving it so far. Heading in to part 2

  • Keila Aartila2 months ago

    This is so interesting! I shall continue ... :)

  • Whoaaa, this was a wild ride! So suspenseful and I have so many questions. I need to know what happens next and I'm so happy to linked part 2. I'm heading there now 😍

  • Heather Cumbo5 months ago

    What a great story. You're a talented writer.

  • C. H. Richard5 months ago

    Enjoyed! I was engaged throughout!. It reads like a modern day fable which I love. ❤️

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