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The Dominicus Tales: The Fall

Short story By: tfg90

The mysterious Otherworlder known as Dominicus and his young companion Ronald have a brush with Death, possibly for the final time.

Submitted:Apr 18, 2014    Reads: 25    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

Young Ronald, his curly hair the shade of tumbleweed and blue eyes brighter than the sky, kept watch over his guardian. The child no older than eleven hugged his knees as the fire crackled on in their damp cave. Ronald's guardian, a man who was more than that, startled awake, his charcoal hair disheveled and his eyes of jade wide. Those fearful eyes searched the wet, glistening rock for whatever struck fear in the more-than-a-man. His angelic face looked wrong with that fright in it.
"What is it, Dominicus?" the boy asked, fright settling into him as well.
The older one found his young companion when his voice bounced against the stone, and in the sight of the boy, he eased.
Wiping the cold sweat from his brow, Dominicus explained:
"The nightmare that I've been avoiding for many years."
"What happened in your nightmare?" The fear in Ronald did not ebb just yet.
"After working a hard day, I came home to see my girlfriend cradling our child. I didn't know which was more frightening: seeing my dead girlfriend and stillborn child or knowing that someone broke into my house to place them there."
The cave sat silent, save for the cracks and pops of the kindling. Dominicus rubbed his eyes with a low and soft exhale. Ronald kept his blues on his guardian.
"It was long ago, a century before your birth," Dominicus explained further. "We were planned to wed when we received the news that she was with child. But as the baby grew, she became weak. She did not survive the birth, and my son never took his first breath outside the womb. My first brush with Death. This scene comes to me whenever a passing is near, and I fear that it is yours."
Ronald stood, after a long minute, and walked out of the cave. Dominicus strode after him. The boy stared off into the sea, his feet close to the edge of the cliff. His guardian, who Ronald had thought of more as a mentor or even a father, approached with caution.
"What kind of man can you be to tell a child he's about to die?" the boy with tumbleweed hair struck out when the footsteps ceased.
"I am sorry, Ronald, but we all die someday. Death comes to all. Such is life."
"Not you." The words came over the boy's shoulder, spat with anger and poison.
Dominicus stayed quiet for a long time, the wind rippling his cloak. There was nothing but the truth in his companion's words, something he had always respected in this young one. The more-than-a-man had cheated Death more times than he could recount. Perhaps to save his young friend, Dominicus would finally surrender. But how long until Death claimed this honest and brave boy for his own? Fifty years? Twenty? Two?
"I can keep you from Death if you allow me," Dominicus said.
"For how long?"
"As long as you'd like."
Ronald turned his eyes to the stars, took in a deep breath, and let it out. He looked down to the basin below, a foot reaching out over the edge.
"And what if this is where I should meet my end? What if I am to fall here?"
"Then I shall catch you before you make it to the bottom." Dominicus's hand rested upon Ronald's shoulder, a simple yet caring motion.
Ronald's foot retreated to its place by its mate. A wolf howled somewhere behind them, its call followed by that of its pack.
And from where Ronald's foot had been, a bony hand appeared. It stretched for the boy, who remained unaware. Dominicus, however, spotted the glaring white bone in the darkness. Pulling his companion back, they entered the Nothing and came out on the other side.
The two of them stood in an old home, vacated for decades. The walls sported large wet spots and peeling wallpaper. The fireplace sat dark, a black hole on the wall. The sofa that once was a lovely pink had become a pale and moldy thing.
"I'm going to check the rest of the house to make sure we are safe here," the more-than-a-man told the boy. "Stay here."
The cloak whipped behind Dominicus as he left the living room. Ronald could hear the creaking wood under the weight of his guardian as he roamed the house, but he could also hear something in the room to his left. Low growls, a busy and greedy jaw, the rip and tear of flesh. And from the room in which Dominicus first ventured into, a whisper:
"Psst! Hey! Over here."
The little girl was younger than Ronald, nine at the most. Her hair hid up in a black stocking cap, her white shirt with long red sleeves filthy with dirt and dried blood. Her jeans did not fare any better. Her brown eyes, or at least they appeared brown to Ronald, showed her urgency and fear. A gloved hand beckoned to the boy. And despite his guardian's command, Ronald went to the girl with careful and quiet steps.
"What's in there?" the boy asked, motioning to the other room.
"A big monster. Do you think your daddy can kill it?"
Ronald nodded. "He can do anything. I'm Ronald."
"Charleen," the girl answered. "My daddy calls me Charlie, though."
Charlie stepped away from Ronald, looking behind her. There was a closed door that Ronald assumed led to the room with the monster. Next to the door, in the corner, was a square hole in the floor. Charlie stepped into it and Ronald followed.
The ladder led to the basement, a dark, open room. Two sleeping bags lay on the cement floor, a dead lantern between them. Charlie sat atop one, and Ronald sat next to her. A rat scurried along the wall behind them, but neither child turned to look.
"So where's your dad?" Ronald asked, but received no answer. "What about your mom?" Again, nothing. He contemplated asking about what the monster was eating up in that room, but as the question formed in his mind, he knew the answer.
"Skyler tried to kill the monster," Charlie said, her voice small and morose. "He thought it would be easy, like hunting."
"I'm sorry," was all Ronald could offer.
"How did you and your daddy find us?" Talking about Skyler, whoever they were, was difficult for her. This was clear to Ronald, but who Charlie meant as "us" was less so. Skyler, as she made it sound, was dead. Her silence when asked about her parents told him that they were dead as well. Maybe there was a fourth member of their family?
"We just happened upon this place," Roland told her. "We didn't know if anyone else was here."
"Do you think your daddy will let us come with you after he kills the monster?"
Ronald didn't know, and he said as much. "I can ask, though," he added.
Something moved above them. The growl that soon followed the footsteps signaled to the monster. Ronald's eyes tracked the monster's movements into the living room, and a familiar voice found its way to the basement.
"Skyler, you damned beast," Dominicus snarled. "Where is your master?"
Ronald arched an eyebrow as he looked to Charlie. Her brown eyes turned black and her gloves came off. Underneath were bony fingers, glaring white in the darkness.
The girl who was not really a girl pounced on the boy. Her skeletal claws dug into the flesh of his stomach, and he let out a cry of agony. Up above, a body fell hard to the floor. And in the basement, Charlie continued to rip through Ronald and shred his insides.
The boy went limp as his blood pooled around him and his attacker. His brighter-than-the-sky blue eyes rolled and found the narrow ladder that led to the first story of the house. Something dark fell through the hole, and in his weariness he thought it to be his Dominicus to save him. The large mass flowed with every movement, and soon something shone against the dark. A face, an angelic face.
"Dom…in…cus," Ronald wheezed, the air leaving his lungs.
"Get away from my boy, Death!" Dominicus shouted.
"It's no use, my friend," Charlie taunted in a voice that was not hers, a deep and booming noise. "He's almost gone. He is mine."
A beam of light filled the basement, and Ronald no longer felt the claws of Death in him. Coldness took him, and he could sense the brink fast approaching.
"I am so sorry, Ronald," Dominicus cried over the boy. "I have failed you." He raised the boy's head, to look into those eyes once more, and there he saw a solution.
The basement disappeared as they entered the Nothing once more. They came to a mountainside, the gusts of wind bringing an icy chill. Dominicus scaled the rock until they rested upon a safe and flat surface. He lay the boy down and made a circle around them.
"Death shall not take you this night," he whispered. This boy had been a friend, a son to the man who was more than a man.
They had weathered many storms together in their three years together. They had saved each other's lives numerous times. Dominicus had brought the boy to the very mountain on which he lay to save him from Death thrice before, each time managing to escape his grasp. But on this night, not even Dominicus believed Ronald would pull through. It was not a matter of doubting his skill, but of the boy's willingness to live on.
Death appeared outside the circle, still in the form of little Charlie. His brown eyes did not convey the long awaited sense of victory Dominicus had seen so many times before. Instead, Death waited with an air of solemnity.
"Dominicus," he said in Charlie's true soft voice, "Ronald's time has come. Please, surrender him unto me. No harm shall befall you, of this you have my word."
The guardian, the mentor, the father looked down to the dead boy. The blue eyes that had been brighter than the sky were now dull and lightless. The flow of his blood onto the stony ground stopped. Dominicus rose with a tear in his eye and a pain in his heart, and broke the circle. Death stepped through, took the boy's hand, and disappeared. Dominicus fled into the west with the boy's body in his arms. Ronald was laid to rest, and Dominicus moved on.


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