Short Story 32

Ash, Ezra and the Round Table

Have you ever thought about how strange it is that everything in life becomes a memory? As the years go by, your mind might begin to play tricks on you, making you remember events differently than how they were and fixating on negatives. Sometimes though, you find that nostalgia’s a nasty bitch who convinces you to put on those rose-coloured glasses when you’re taking a trip down memory lane. The world seems indifferent to the mundane moments of your life that your brain has decided were worth remembering.

You know, like that one time in primary school when you swung a little too high on the swing and felt the slack of the ropes then the jolt back by gravity. Or when some tourists from Ireland asked for a photo with you on a jetty and then left never to be seen or heard of again. Why is it, that you can remember a song that was playing as you were questing in a village in World of Warcraft seven years ago, but important memories are a weird blur? Not in the sense of time moving forward and life simply fading away, but for years I felt like I was removed from my body, watching my life continue on autopilot. I was socially oblivious to cues like boys asking me out because I had bigger things than high school romances to think about.

I often wondered what people thought of me in high school…hell, I wonder what people thought about me last month. We were told that they would be the best years of our lives, a thought that was horrific to even entertain because there were so many experiences left to have and so many memories to make. I didn’t really know what was going on in the home life of a lot of people around me, and I don’t think anyone could tell what was going on in my private life either. I don’t think they noticed how much weight was on my shoulders and how unequivocally heavy my heart was. How could they? I had become a skilled craftsman at hiding my true feelings, and when you’re raised to keep your personal business behind a veil of carefully manicured public perceptions, it becomes second nature to internalise your problems instead of sharing them with others. Heading into my twenties, not much had changed. I still didn’t really feel like I fit in anywhere. All I knew is that there had to be more to this life. Not that I wasn’t loved or loving, but I never gave myself to anyone completely.

That was, of course, until I met Ezra. My life felt like a highlight reel when everything suddenly transitioned into colour, the sound came back on and the whole thing slowed down.

For the first time, I was living.

Today, on October 20th, I was smacked in the face by feelings that stretched all the way into my soul. My heart lifted, and I was filled with energy I had never experienced before coursing through my veins. It was like a switch had been flicked the moment I saw him across the courtyard. The only problem, I was in this compound against my will, and judging from all the black he was wearing and weapons he was carrying, he was one of the people keeping me inside these walls.

Have I failed to mention that a month ago I was kidnapped by my best friend Craig and his power-hungry-prophecy-believing-evil-overlord-type father? Well, I was. They are under the impression I’m someone else. According to them I have some information they need that has something to do with Merlin. That’s right, Merlin, as in the legendary wizard from medieval history. They think he was real, that his power was real, and they wanted to find it.

As far as kidnappings are concerned, this is relatively civilised, except for the two hours of dedicated torture a day to try and retrieve memories that I keep telling them, I don’t have! To be fair, this has been a learning experience – they probe my mind with technology that doesn’t look human and I’ve witnessed magic, like, proper, logic defying magic. It didn’t really come as a shock to me because there is so much unknown in this universe. One thing that made no sense at all but also somehow made perfect sense was Ezra.

I was being escorted back to my quarters by my normal five-man security team after a torture session. Even though it was physically draining, my mind was stronger than ever. Ezra was walking towards us with Craig. If he was allowed to lay his eyes on me, it meant that he was trusted by these horrible people. We locked eyes for a second and it was like I had known him for my entire life. My gaze immediately dropped and found Craig who was gesturing for the guards to stop.

“Hi there Ash, how do you feel after your session today?” He had a smirk on his face that was incorrigible. I didn’t respond, so he scoffed and shook his head.

He moved so close to me that I could feel his breath on my face, “You know, it’s rude not to reply when someone asks you a question.”

I forced a smile, “Sorry Craig, you’re absolutely right, I’m being incredibly impolite. You want to know how I feel, right?”

I could tell he was pissed off, and I knew what I was about to do probably wasn’t the best idea, but I didn’t care. I pretended to readjust my stance, but instead I swiftly kneed him in his privates, “That’s how I feel, Dickhead.”

He bent over in agony as one of the guards pulled me back and then punched me in the face. Blood flew out of my mouth as I dropped to the ground. I saw Ezra clench his fist, but he didn’t move. The guard had picked me up by a fistful of clothes.

Craig commanded he stop and directed his anger towards him, “What is the most important rule about your assignment, soldier? DON’T EVER HURT THE GIRL!”

The guard tried to justify his actions by saying he was protecting him, but it was too late. I could see it in Craig’s eyes and without flinching, he pulled out a gun and shot him in the heart. Craig turned to Ezra and said, “Congratulations, you just got a promotion. Effective immediately. Escort her to the East wing.”

Craig was watching us as we walked the short distance to the East building and entered the elevator. Notification sounds started going off and Craig looked at us in shock. The doors shut, and all hell broke loose. Before we got to the second floor, all of the guards bar Ezra were unconscious. Neither of us said a word as the doors opened and I followed him down the hall. Sirens sounded, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a guard staring right at us while talking to someone on his comms but not making a move on us. It didn’t make sense, so I grabbed Ezra’s hand and pulled him back just as stun grenades went off around the corner. He shielded me from the blast and then we moved quickly and quietly through the vents and eventually onto the roof.

Ezra took my hand as we crossed the roof and helped me climb down the side of the building. Guards were shooting at us from the grounds as we made our way across the clearing and into the tree line. As we kept moving through the woods, Craig and ten guards stopped us in our paths.

“Ash, why are you trying to leave? We haven’t finished with you yet!” He was out of breath and laughing as he pointed at Ezra who was standing between the two of us, “And you. Ezra Becker as I live and breathe. Look at you trying to protect her. Pathetic. You made a stupid mistake by coming here alone.”

Ezra spoke for the first time, “Who said anything about coming here alone?”

Some shots sounded from the tree canopy as two guards grunted and dropped to the ground. Ezra lunged for Craig and the two started fighting as two guys and a girl jumped into the fray. A guard grabbed me, and I screamed which caught Ezra’s attention long enough for him to throw a knife into the guard’s leg and still hold the upper hand with Craig. As soon as he dropped me, one of the other guys fighting with us shot him. I took the knife from his leg at the exact moment Cassidy, Craig’s sister, suddenly appeared in front of my face.

Let’s just say Cassidy didn’t care if I was alive as much as her brother or father. She wasn’t holding back, and while I was dodging a few punches and giving some of my own, I was losing the battle. I was against a tree being choked when I saw Ezra lay a final punch on Craig to knock him out, in a second, he was by my side, throwing Cassidy off me. He caught me and cupped my face while asking if I was OK, I nodded as I tried to breathe. We stayed like that, looking at each other, until his friends were done with the other guards.

We began the long journey to The Castle. All any of them would tell me, was that their leader wanted to see me, and she would explain everything. When we arrived, we were ushered to an elaborate chapel. As the others went in, I stopped outside the door. Ezra squeezed my hand and said, “You can always trust me.” I believed him. I moved through the aisle, looking at the beautiful stain glass windows that depicted tales of triumph and sorrow. But I was acutely aware that all eyes were on me, including Ezra, whose presence behind me was comforting. As I reached the round table that replaced the alter, one woman among them all stood out in stature, beauty and grace.

She smiled kindly at me, and Ezra introduced us, “Ash, this is the High Priestess of Avalon.”

It didn’t matter what Ezra called her, because I called her by another name, “Aunt Becky?”

Today, on October 20th, my life started again. It turns out, my Aunt wasn’t related to me, but she was the leader of a secret organisation whose sole duty was to keep the secrets of the order and shield the prophecy. After Ezra helped me escape, I learned that I was the only living descendant of Merlin. None of us knew what that meant for sure, just that I needed to be protected because I’m a part of it thanks to the blood that runs through my veins.

Another thing I know, is that Ezra and I are linked, I didn’t have to be told that, because I could feel it with every ounce of my body, and he could too. I sat on the roof with him that night. I told him about my life, about those insignificant moments I remembered from my childhood, the way my entire life before him felt like a dream and no matter how crazy it might be, that I now felt completely alive and connected to him. All Ezra did was smile and then whisper, “Ash, my life started the moment I saw you today. All that matters in my heart, is you.”

Even with all of the unanswered questions, I finally felt like my life made sense. I was home.

By Naomi Eleanor

@NaomiEIR on all socials!

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