The Children of Eris
There, alone in the vast and endless darkness, the woman watched him, a solemn and bored expression on her face.
She was lying upon a throne dripping with a dark mist and crafted from thorny wooden branches, twisting together into a grotesque hand.
From this very throne, she had witnessed more than a thousand lifetimes and more than a thousand eternities, each of which had once held her interest but, in time, she had grown bored of them all.
The boy she was watching now was no different.
She was following his every movement through a floating mist; unlike her world, his was filled with colour and people.
He was living a normal, boring, repetitive and uninteresting daily life, one that encompassed all the things that she hated most.
She watched as he excitedly tore open the envelope, his smile growing the more he read, before he leapt up into the air, cheering as loudly as he could. The boy then quickly ran to his family, told them the news and they all hugged him tightly, congratulating him.
His father, his mother and his little sister couldn’t have been more proud or happy than they were at that moment, and the boy she was watching was no different.
His face was the brightest she had seen in a long time.
Upon seeing that face, the woman couldn’t help but smile.
For today was the last day of his life.
David Athelward had never been so happy in his entire life.
He had gotten brilliant grades in his exams which would get him into the university of his choice, and his family were extremely proud of him.
They’d spent ten minutes mingling whilst David congratulated his friends before driving back home.
He and his family lived in a modern two-storey house in the suburbs of Canterbury, with more than enough space for all of them.
“Where do you want to go to celebrate tonight?” His mum asked as they got home.
“Actually, I had planned on spending some time with Kara today as it’s been a while and all,” David said.
“You can do that and go out, you know.”
“I know, but-”
“Is it really that big of a deal that we need to celebrate it?” His dad joked.
“He got all A’s, dear,”
His dad rolled his eyes. “He always gets all A’s.”
“Hailey got all A’s as well,” David said.
“Well, do you want to invite her as well to celebrate?”
“Could do, but you do know mum promised me that we could have all we could eat.”
“Your mother is a liar, son.”
His father grinned as David and Kara laughed. “Fine, you can invite your girlfriend as well.”
David’s cheeks turned a slight shade of red. “It’s not like that, dad.”
“What? It is and you know it,” his dad continued. “Maybe you should’ve promised to tell her how you feel if you got all A’s. Might’ve given you the courage to finally tell Hailey the truth.”
Hailey Carman was David’s childhood, and best, friend and they had ended up spending all of their school years together. However, as she wanted to become an actress, they ended up deciding to go to different universities, meaning it'd be more difficult to see one another.
“I’ll ask if she’s free tonight."
“Great. Then, I’ll make the booking for six tonight then."
“I’m afraid we’ll have to make it for later, or else I won’t be able to make it,” his dad said, scratching his cheek.
“I thought you had the afternoon off. What happened?”
“Ah, well, we’ve got a new boss for our team and he got mad when I asked for the day off. He wouldn’t let me leave early either. It took all I had just to get him to agree to let me come with you to get the results. I should be done by six and could probably just meet you guys there for seven.”
“What about having a shower or changing out of your work clothes?”
“I have a change of clothes in the car and can shower at work before I head to the restaurant. Just let me know when and where.”
“Will do. I’ll try and get a table for seven, or as close to then as I can.”
“Great.” His dad went to get back into the car and then stopped. “Congrats again, David.”
“And don’t forget to invite Hailey once you’ve asked her out. We can make it a triple celebration.”
His dad laughed, climbed into the car and then drove off to work.
Then, David went up to his bedroom with Kara.
Once inside, David turned on the console, Kara grabbed the controllers and the two sat on his bed, ready to play.
“What do you want to play?”
“I’m fine with anything,” Kara replied, taking a controller from him.
“A fighting game then?”
“Sure.” Then, Kara jumped a little as a brilliant idea hit her. “Want to make it interesting?”
“I already hate the sound of this.”
“If I win, you call Hailey over here now and tell her how you feel."
“What happens if I win?”
“I won’t tell Hailey any of your embarrassing secrets you’ve managed to keep from her all these years.”
“…Best two out of three?”
Kara smiled. “Coward.”
Just as they were about to start, David’s phone vibrated in his pocket.
He took it out and saw a text from Hailey displayed on the screen.
I’m outside. Can we talk for a bit?
David stared at the message for a few moments, confused, as Hailey had never messaged him like this before.
Whenever she wanted to hang out or go somewhere, she’d text me at least a few hours in advance, David thought. I wonder why she came over unannounced.
“Ah, sorry, just got a message from Hailey,” he said. “Says she’s outside.”
Kara moved to the window, looked down to the front door and smiled brightly. “So she is. I’ll give you two some space.”
“Hey, Hailey won’t mind you staying-”
“David. Head downstairs, open the door and then say that to me.”
Confused, David went downstairs, unlocked the door and threw it open.
“You could’ve let me know sooner you were-” David started to say, but he stopped himself when he saw how Hailey was dressed.
She was wearing what looked like a brand new, beautiful white shirt with a light blue cardigan and a matching skirt. From a glance, David could tell that she had touched up her makeup a little bit and done up her hair, all of which made her look even more stunning than she did normally.
She was holding her purse in front of her and shifting anxiously on the spot, her cheeks dyed slightly red, and looking away from him.
“Are you staring because I look weird?” She asked softly.
“No, you look…good, great even. Wh-What’s up?”
“Can we talk about that in your room?”
“S-sure, but I was playing a game with Kara, so might need to finish that first.”
“That’s okay. I don’t mind.”
“Yeah, we can talk after you’re done.”
They both nodded, then stood in silence for a few seconds, both looking awkwardly at the other.
“D-Do you want to come in?” David asked, causing Hailey to laugh.
“I thought that was pretty obvious,” she said, smiling brightly and stepping into his house.
David laughed at how dumb his own question had been and closed the door behind them. When they went upstairs, much to David’s surprise, Kara wasn’t in his room anymore and the television had been turned off.
Before David could say anything, his phone vibrated again and, this time, the message was from his sister.
I thought I’d leave you guys alone to talk and, don’t worry, mum’s busy and I’ve got my headphones on, so feel free to take your time :)
David glowered at the wall beside his bed for he knew that, on the other side of that wall, his sister was snickering away to herself.
The woman on the throne watched on eagerly.
She moved her hand through the air and the image before her changed; it zoomed away from David and displayed his house.
Although the woman knew that he would die today, she didn’t know how he would die or what would kill him, making it all the more exciting to her.
Then, she saw it.
The man with the disgusting and desperate look on his face, a large blade hidden under his coat.
The man saw the open front door and no car in the driveway and slowly moved towards it, checking over his shoulder constantly, his body twitching violently and his veins popping out on his neck.
His hand reached the door handle and he pulled down on it, pulling the door open slowly and creeping inside.
The woman smiled and touched her finger to her lips.
“He forgot to lock it,” she purred.
Sat in an uncomfortable silence, several inches apart on his bed, David and Hailey were both staring down at their hands.
“…How do I look?”
“…Beautiful. R-really, beautiful,” David whispered, turning a deep shade of red.
In response, Hailey did the same. “Thank you,” softly.
Then, they went silent again.
David glanced over at her again and felt his heart beat faster.
He’d only ever seen Hailey wear makeup whenever she was acting or whenever their families had gone to fancy restaurants together.
He knew that Hailey was pretty, but she looked so beautiful right now that David wanted to confess the feelings for her that he’d kept hidden for years.
Hailey’s ears turned red as she brushed some of her long, brown hair behind it, allowing David to see her nervous jade eyes. They were close enough that David could smell her soft, floral perfume that she had put on.
“H-how’d you do?” David stuttered. “With the exams, I mean. Did-did you get what-?”
You idiot! You asked her earlier!
“Y-yeah,” Hailey replied with a small smile. “Easily, yeah.”
She forced out an awkward laugh which, in turn, made David do the same, and the air between the two became even more uncomfortable.
This might be the most painful experience of my life, David thought, fidgeting in place.
Normally, when they hung out, they could talk to one another for hours and hours on end, about anything and everything.
Now, they couldn’t look at one another, let alone speak to one another.
“…My mum, uh, she wanted to invite you to join us for dinner tonight. We’re going out to a nice place later and-”
“I’d love to!” Hailey yelled before covering her mouth, realising she’d spoken too loudly.
A minute passed before Hailey gathered up her courage to speak again.
She was interrupted by an angry, loud yell and a high-pitched scream.
The scream belonged to David’s mother; the yell did not belong to their father.
“What was-?” Hailey started to ask, but David shushed her, before quietly moving for the door.
He opened it carefully and he heard a gruff voice yelling from down the stairs, although he couldn’t quite make out what it was saying.
Kara came out of her room and David motioned for her to stop, before holding a finger to his lips. She nodded as Hailey timidly grabbed David’s shirt tightly from behind.
“Please, don’t hurt me,” their mother whimpered; she sounded like she was crying.
“I won’t hurt ya, if ya give me your damn money!” The gruff voice yelled.
Something smashed hard on the floor and his mother screamed once again.
“Hailey, keep an eye on Kara and call the police,” David told them, before quietly making his way down the stairs.
“David!” Hailey cried as softly as she could.
He turned to her, smiled and continued down the stairs.
As he got closer and closer to the bottom, David’s heart sank further and further in his chest, his dread and fear threatening to consume him.
He almost screamed upon seeing the scene before him, but he covered his mouth before that happened.
His mother was on the ground, blood pouring from a bad wound on her arm, tears pouring down her face; there was a smashed vase before her, its pieces scattered all over the living room floor.
Standing above her was a muscular man armed with a machete which had fresh blood on its blade.
If David ended up fighting, it would be difficult to overpower the man.
He, Kara and Hailey might be enough but one, or more, of them could end up seriously hurt, or worse.
Still, even knowing that, David had no choice but to act.
The police would soon be on their way, but his mother could be killed.
He wouldn’t let that happen.
David scanned the living room for anything that he could use as a weapon to knock out the intruder, but there was nothing with enough weight or impact that could do it.
They had a wooden chair in the corner of the living room, a keepsake from David’s deceased grandmother, that might do it, but picking it up would make a lot of noise and it was far too big to swing around with enough force to incapacitate the man. Still, it was better than nothing and, even if it didn’t knock the man out or to the floor, it’d startle him and allow David to potentially disarm him.
He started to move towards it, but then he heard the man yell again.
“Where’s ya purse?” The man demanded, stepping closer to David’s mother.
“I-It’s in t-t-the hall, on the s-side,” she said, her voice shaking uncontrollably. “J-Just t-take it and g-go, p-please.”
The man scoffed and then a devilish grin overcame him. “That’s a nice ring you’ve got there.” He pointed with his blade at her wedding ring. “Bet that’d be worth something.”
“No! Please, not that!” She begged, but the man thrusted his blade towards her face, making her shrink back and stifle a shriek. “Please…”
“Give it. Now.”
The man went to stab her, but David tackled him to the floor, knocking the machete free from the man’s hand.
David landed on the man’s legs and the intruder landed on his back, yelping in surprise from the sudden attack. David then punched the man hard in the face twice before the man could figure out what was happening.
“Run!” David cried, punching the man in the neck.
The man spluttered and smashed his fist into David’s cheek, nearly knocking him off him, before kicking him in the face, launching David away from him. David landed on his back and spat blood, just as the man picked up his weapon once again.
David stood back up and he stared at the intruder, both watching the other closely.
Every fibre of David’s being was telling him to run from his house and get as far away from this man as possible, telling him that if he stayed here, he would die, but his feet were firmly planted on the ground.
Whether it was his fear or his desire to protect his family and Hailey, David wouldn’t run.
The man roared and slashed at David, but David stepped away from the attack and the follow up swipe. The man sliced at David again and the blade cut his arm, causing David to hiss in pain, and the man stabbed at him. David narrowly dodged it by stepping to the side and then punched the man square in the face, shattering his nose.
David then ran towards the wooden chair, lifted it up and tried to swing it at the man, but he was nimble enough to duck beneath it and then stab at David again. David blocked it with the chair and the blade stuck into the wood. David threw the chair at the man and then punched him once in the chest, then the chin, and then the neck.
The man caught David’s follow-up punch, took out David’s legs, straddled him and began choking him. David started gasping for air, reaching around for a piece of the broken vase. He found a large piece, grasped it , then stabbed the man deep in the shoulder. The man yelled wildly in pain and released David, gripping the fragment, and David kicked him hard in the chin, knocking the man onto his back.
David began coughing, his lungs desperately struggling for air, and he slowly stood back up. The intruder ground his teeth together, ripped the vase fragment from his shoulder, and brandished it like a knife.
“I’ll kill ya,” the man growled, spitting blood at him.
Both David and the intruder were shaking on their feet and both were disorientated due to the other’s attacks.
David knew he would collapse if he let his guard down.
His body was physically damaged, his lungs felt like they were on fire and like he was constantly trying to catch his breath, and he barely had the strength left to move, let alone stay standing. The intruder, however, despite all his wounds and the blood pouring from his arm, didn’t seem to be exhausted, just damaged.
Kara was desperately trying to drag his mother to safety, but David could see the fire in her eyes; she wanted to help him but couldn’t. Hailey’s legs had given out and she was watching on helplessly, unable to move, whimpering uncontrollably.
They were too scared to rush to his side and David couldn’t blame them.
He was just as terrified as they were.
But he couldn’t afford to let his fear get the better of him right now.
He had to protect them, no matter the cost.
That was all that mattered to him right there and then.
The man roared and charged towards David, and David barely avoided being stabbed. He went to punch the man, but the man grabbed his fist, smashed his elbow into David’s nose, breaking it, before tackling him to the floor and stabbing David in the chest with the piece of vase. David cried out in pain, blood spurting from the wound, and he glowered at the man.
David then reached with his hand for another piece of the vase, found one, and reached up to stab the man in the side of the cheek, piercing it and, unintentionally, driving the piece of the vase in his own chest deeper into him, deep into his heart.
The man screamed and screamed, grasping his cheek as Kara tackled him from behind, unleashing a flurry of blows upon the man until he stopped moving.
“David!” His mother screamed, running to his side. “David! David, stay with me! David!” She cradled his head in her hand. She looked at the wound in his chest, tears flowing from her eyes and forced a smile onto her lips. “It’s going to be okay! You’re going to be okay. Kara, call an ambulance! Now!”
Kara jumped a little, lifting her bloody hands from the intruder, before taking out her phone and dialling 999.
Hailey, still too paralysed by fear to stand, quickly crawled over to David, calling his name repeatedly.
David swallowed and looked up at his mother, his hand reaching for her cheek. She took it in hers and put it against her head, her tears falling onto his face.
“David!” Hailey screamed, crying.
“Hey, look at me,” his mother pleaded, placing her hand on his cheek, smiling weakly. “Just look at me, David, okay? Everything’s going to be fine.”
“Is…everyone…okay?” He whispered, his voice hoarse and cracked.
“Yeah, we’re all okay,” she said, closing her eyes and rubbing her cheek against his palm. “We’re all okay thanks to you, David. And.” She opened her eyes and grabbed his hand tighter. “We’re going out to celebrate your results later, aren’t we?”
David smiled back at her, his strength fading and his vision slowly turning to black. He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb as he felt tears well up in his eyes.
“We’ll still go, even if it’s another day!” She yelled, unable to hold back her emotions any longer. “We’ll let you guys order whatever you want, no matter how much it is, and you can have deserts, and have seconds or thirds, and then…and then…”
David nodded and let his tears fall down his cheeks. “Yeah…that…sounds …wonderful…”
“David!” Hailey screamed again, grabbing his other hand tightly. “Please! Don’t go! I-I didn’t get to-I didn’t say how I-”
He pulled his bloodied hand free from hers and touched her cheek. “I’m…sorry…” he said softly, trying his best to smile at her.
“Why are you apologising?”
“Because…I didn’t get…to see you…become…a star…”
“Don’t talk like that! Don’t go, David! Please!”
“…Look…after them…for me…please,” he said, as more tears flowed down his face, his hand fell from her face. “…Take care…of Kara …”
“I will!” Hailey shouted, retaking his hand. “I will, so don’t you dare go now! Stay with us, please! David!”
His body grew heavy and he felt himself drifting off to sleep.
“David? David!” His mother called.
He could hear the sirens approaching from a distance, but David couldn’t muster the strength to stay awake.
It was too difficult for him to do it.
If they were saying anything else to him, he couldn’t hear them any longer.
His hand slipped through his mother’s grasp and his eyes lost their light.