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A group of authors writing interesting posts weekly and interacting with readers.
Meet Stephan Mills
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Stephan Mills and I’m the second-born son of Jonathan and Jane Mills. Unlike my older brother, I’m not at all successful or rich. My youth has been nothing but trouble and misguided by the wrong circle of friends I ended up in jail. It’s not that I didn’t deserve it, but that time I’ve been set up and everything that happened after my first conviction was nothing else but a series of events orchestrated by someone who didn’t want to see me succeed.
Have you committed a crime? What was it?
I am a thief, not to brag but I’m one of the best. There isn’t a lock, an alarm system I can’t crack. I can intrude wherever I want to, and one day I received a hint from a mysterious person about an empty apartment. That theft changed my life once again and gave me the possibility to revenge on the man who tried everything to destroy my life, even selling his soul to the devil: my brother.
Do you have a moral code? If so, what might it be?
I certainly do, I would never harm anyone. I don’t enjoy stealing and I wouldn’t if only I would have the chance to live a normal life.
Would you kill for those you love?
No, I would be ready instead to offer my life for them.
Who is your greatest friend?
In jail, I find not just my best friend, but a man I’m proud to have learned to call ‘Dad.’ Although I have a father, he’s the only one who behaved as such. Perhaps because in jail nobody can point a finger against anyone else, and we don’t stop at the appearances, rather we go deeper looking for the jewel hidden within the rough stone.
The hall was immersed in darkness, with only the buzzing sound of the air-conditioning system and his heartbeat breaking the silence. He sneaked from a secondary road to the basement, where, according to the information he could gather about the security system of the building, no surveillance cameras were installed.
He studied the blueprints in detail. Every single corner, from the basement and parking hall to the emergency stairs and the floor corridor, was taken into account. However, he felt uncomfortably nervous, as he was rightly aware that surprises were not to be underestimated; flats in residential areas were well-watched by surveillance cameras.
And for a reason, he thought, smiling.
He took a deep breath and covered his face whilst walking along the shadow zones of the cameras in the parking hall, toward the emergency stairs. He opened the door to the stairwell and started to climb.
His target was the fifth floor. If the information he’d got from J. was right, at Flat number 306, he should find an empty apartment. Empty of the owner, and soon, empty of all the things he would be stealing from there. He felt the adrenaline streaming inside his body.
Third floor. He stopped and took another deep breath, allowing his heart to regain the pace.
Fourth floor. He was almost there. He felt his mouth dry.
Fifth floor. He remained still for a moment to regain his breath.
Then, he opened the door leading out to the corridor. It would remain in darkness for a few minutes—just enough time for him to get inside the apartment.
He walked to his target, silent as the shadows, unseen and unheard by the other inhabitants of the floor. And finally, he was at Flat 306. His daily El Dorado.
He carefully examined the lock of the door and shook his head. The further technology advances, the easier it gets, he thought happily, singing in his mind.
He was a burglar—and a skilled one, too. Well, surely skilled, but lucky... not quite. His misfortune put him in jail on a regular basis.
There were times in the past when he had never thought this would become his life; and, if he had to be honest, he didn’t much enjoy it. He wanted to have an honest and steady job, to make a life. He wanted to be like all the people he robbed... normal.
Once, when he was still a kid, he used to introduce himself to other people’s apartments just for the sake of it. Then, later, it became a necessity, the only way to survive for various reasons, all aliens from his real will. But perhaps it was what he truly deserved, and he should have stopped thinking of himself as a victim?
Meet Ana & Zarek
I remember the day when it all started. I was fourteen, and Zarek came to the inn where I had been living and working since my grandmother died. Of course, I would rather have met him under better circumstances. He’d come to warn me that Shekkar demons were tracking me. We ran. What other choice was there?
Zarek was my protector and guide, and quickly became my friend. When he promised he would defend me with his life, I knew he meant it. But I never realized that he would keep his word so completely. Only the healing power of the ring had a chance to save his life.
And I had to reach him in time.
Finally, Zarek saw the top of the mountain. It was a sharp wall of rocks with a narrow fissure between them. The passage barely allowed room for a person to slip through.
Zarek heard a sound in the stillness. Shekkar.
No. Not now.
He needed to get Ana through the passage. Zarek looked down the hill. He could see the black shapes against the patches of snow. He had hoped the cold would hide their scent more. The demons appeared to avoid the snow, and maybe it slowed them down, but now they were coming fast.
Zarek reached the edge of the fissure and gripped Ana’s shoulder. He pointed through the crack. “Go through. Find somewhere to hide on the other side.”
“No!” she protested. “We’re both going through.”
“If we do, the demons will catch us. I can hold them back here. Go. Now. Run!”
He could tell she wanted to argue, but she obeyed. She ran through the narrow pass and disappeared.
He’d done everything he could for Ana.
Run. Hide. Don’t let them catch you.
Zarek took a deep breath, wiped his sweaty palms on his pants, and gripped his dagger. It cast a faint green glow, as he stood in the cleft between the rocks, watching the Shekkar run up the slope toward him. At least they wouldn’t be able to surround him, and he could hold them off for a while. How many were there? A dozen?
Shrieking in triumph when they spotted him, the demons rushed forward. When the first one reached Zarek, it screamed when the knife bit and toppled over. Heedless of their fallen comrade, the other demons leapt across the crumpled form to attack. Zarek held them back as they snarled and snapped at him and tried to reach him in the narrow space. But there were too many.
Their attack drove him deeper into the passageway. Black claws slashed at him, and he blocked them with the blade, only to feel burning pain as a second blow ripped the flesh of his arm and shoulder. He struck at them.
Shekkar claws raked across his face. His head burned like fire, and he could no longer see properly. Searing pain took over as poisonous claws tore into his chest, and he heard himself scream. It sounded like it came from a great distance.
Dimly, he heard a demon shriek as if it had discovered something. Ana’s trail?
Zarek lay on the ground. Quiet surrounded him, and he was alone. He closed his hand, futilely searching for his dagger. He had to get up, to go after them. They were hunting Ana, and she had no one to help her.
But it was too late. His limbs twitched when he tried to move, but that was all. His body throbbed with scorching pain, except where it touched the chilling stone and snow. He could feel his warm blood escaping from many wounds. It wouldn’t be long now. With one eye, Zarek could see the white stars in the black sky. He would have screamed from the pain, but he didn’t have the breath or energy. He passed in and out of consciousness.
The periods of unconsciousness granted a blessed relief from the agony. How many times would he wake back up? The stars faded.
When he woke again, he saw morning sunlight, and the thin clear sky of the mountains. The only sound came from the wind whistling in the passage between the rocks.
At dawn, Ana left the tree where she had hidden and stumbled back up the hill as fast as her tired legs would go. Reaching the passage, she started through it. Just beyond the opening, she could see Zarek, and her stomach twisted into a knot. She couldn’t breathe.
“Zarek!” She ran and knelt beside him. When she saw what they had done to him, her empty belly heaved. Blood covered him. Demon claws had slashed his face and throat, raking across his nose and destroying one eye, but she couldn’t look away from the long gaping wound in his chest. She sensed the agony of his broken body.
No. That was impossible. He could not still be alive. But she could sense his pain. Ana touched his forehead.
A flash of green light came from the ring, and for a moment, she became him. She was Zarek. Her flesh and skin shredded, her ribs ripped out of place. She felt searing pain from the wounds. There was no hope of surviving. No hope of recovering. The damage was too severe.
It could not be. The part of them that was Ana bent all her will on taking the pain away. Zarek must live. Zarek must be whole and happy. He must smile and be full of energy and ready to do anything.
Zarek must live.
Meet Sebastian Gaulle
Tell me a little about yourself.
I am a very wealthy, and quite handsome 500 year old Immortal. I am the owner of a very successful international company. For five centuries I have sought the one soul who can fulfill my dreams of everlasting love. My company is about to introduce advanced security systems to protect my global operations, but the head of Russian intelligence is determined to infiltrate the company and use it to its own ends. The Russians failed once, but they’ve vowed to stop at nothing this time, even if it means the destruction of all that I have and love.
What are you trying to achieve in this story?
I finally met Arielle Lloyd, a beautiful British collage girl, whose heart calls out to me like no other. I have longed for her, like no other. I have many issues that complicate my life and all I am trying to do now is keep Arielle safe. I have been targeted by the Russian Mafia, who will stop at nothing to force me into giving up documents containing my company’s most valuable secrets. I have always outsmarted them before, but now they are threatening the person I hold most dear, my beloved Arielle.
What is your worst fear in this story?
Jealous Immortals from my past threaten retaliation. They have vowed to destroy any woman who becomes involved with me. I have given a very powerful protection amulet to Arielle but death stalks our newfound love. Our love may be eternal, but we may be running out of time. My past continues to haunt me. The worst of all is one of my Immortal Xs Annabel who still lusts for vengeance and seeks to destroy my new love.
What is your weakness?
My weakness is my beloved Arielle. I have realized that I have loved her through the centuries. There will never be another. I also know that I will protect her with everything I have and make her happy for centuries to come.
What are your plans for the future
Arielle and I have found our way to each other and want nothing more than to pledge our undying love before family and friends. I have carried a ring in my pocket for her almost from the first moment we met. I am only waiting for the right moment to pledge my eternal love for her.
When sign language brings people close
“What do you mean showing it with your fingers?” Grandma Rosa asked.
“I found a website for hearing impaired people, and it explains how they can talk to each other without words. There is a sign for every letter and number that they can make with their hands. We can learn the signs together, and when you can’t hear the sound, I can show it you,” Sandra smiled happily.
“Oh, I think that’s a wonderful idea, Sandra,” Grandma’s eyes sparkled with excitement. “But it looks a little difficult. Do you think I could learn the signs?”
“Of course, you can, Grandma, we can learn them together. You couldn’t hear it well when I said mouse and house because you couldn’t tell the difference between the letter M and H, right?”
“Yes, that’s right,” Grandma Rosa replied.
“What if I show you the sign for the letters that each word starts with? Would it help?”
“Yes, I believe it would.”
“Awesome,” Grandma Rosa clapped. “I couldn’t hear the letter M, but when you showed the sign, I knew you must be saying mouse.”
One day, when they learned to sign every letter of the alphabet, Sandra started putting the letters together. “Look, Grandma, we can say words with our hands when we make the signs in the correct order,” Sandra said excitedly and signed the word mouse with her hand.
Sandra noticed a boy who was sitting by himself looking at his tablet, “Who is that boy?” she asked her friends. “He’s sitting by himself. Let’s invite him to play with us.”
“He’s stupid,” Peter, Sandra’s friend said. “He’s the new kid in my friend’s class, and he says this kid is deaf as a doorknob and when he tries to talk he sounds like a cat when someone steps on its tail.”
“How can you say that? You’re so mean! Just because he can’t hear, it doesn’t mean he’s stupid. My grandma can’t hear well, and she’s very smart,” Sandra shouted angrily.
Peter shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t care, let’s play on the swing.”
“I can’t believe what you said, Peter. I don’t want to play with you.” Sandra stood up, walked over to the boy and stood in front of him. “Hi,” she said, but although the boy must have seen her, he didn’t look up from his tablet.
Sandra took a step closer and tapped his shoulder. When the boy looked at her, she saw sadness in his eyes. Sandra smiled at him and started signing,
Sandra introduced him to her friends and told them that Thomas understands what they’re saying if they speak slowly, and he can see their lips. Soon, they were chatting away happily and having fun learning sign language.
Thomas showed them the signs for words such as boy, girl, cat, bicycle, and swing. The children learned the signs fast, and when Peter joined them he said, “You’re not so bad Thomas, wanna be friends?”
“Yes, I would like that, but you don’t mind that my voice sounds funny?” Thomas replied wearily, afraid that Peter would make fun of his voice.
“Your voice is fine,” Peter assured him, “It sounds like you have an accent like my mom’s friend. She’s from Romania, and I love the way she talks.”
“Okay, so I have a ‘hearing impaired’ accent. That’s cool!” Thomas smiled.
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