He sat next to her bed in a small, cherry wood rocking chair. It seemed rather old, possibly an antique. Evidently, Hallie was fond of rocking chairs. He’d counted four in the house. He listened peacefully to her light breathing. Being near her did seem to have a calming effect on his well-challenged nerves.
And he had always been drawn to beauty. There was no denying that Hallie Barkly was beautiful.
It wasn’t an aggressive beauty or even an obvious one. But rather like a subtle painting whose dimensions of texture only become apparent upon close scrutiny. She was a person you needed to take time with. And just now, he seemed to have all the time in the world.
Her hair was one of his favorite things. It was just packed full of shades and highlights. At the moment, it lay carelessly and unevenly strewn amongst her six, well beaten down pillows.
These he’d counted twice. Indeed, there were six. He wondered vaguely how she didn’t smother herself at night amongst them all.
His initial opinion of her hadn’t changed that much. She certainly was for lack of a better description quirky — soft, perhaps gentle — but amusingly quirky. He wondered what she would think if she knew he was sitting next to her bed watching her sleep.
Jack had accepted that he was a ghost, a member of the non-real sector of society. This was incontrovertible now, but he still didn’t feel it at all. He felt as he always had, like a man — a confused, lost man. In fact, right now he was feeling like a bit of a voyeur, peering into a life in which he had not been formally invited.
He relaxed back in the chair and closed his eyes. Vaguely, he wondered what Hallie might be dreaming. And in that instant, he discovered how quickly what he thought could be translated into reality. In one blindingly rapid sweep, his curiosity drew him instantaneously to a place where he had not expected to be.
It was a room – a vast, enormous, cold room made almost completely of stone.
He stood motionless on the panoramic threshold, frozen in a bit of shock at this turn of events.
Where in the hell could — he turned about shakily, still stunned by the utter massiveness of this new environment. It was absolutely overwhelming. It felt as though he’d fallen into another time, centuries and centuries ago.
The room itself was void of ornamentation, except for a few, sparse arrangements of what appeared to be medieval armor, and boldly colored, wall tapestries. The chill of the stone walls actually seemed to be physically seeping into him, which only served to increase his mounting sense of panic.
All of this reminded him of something. It was like a sort of medieval throne room that he’d seen in an old Sinbad movie once.
“Sir Jackoryn, welcome to my domain.”
The booming voice nearly jolted him into a back flip. He’d been so overcome by the surroundings that it hadn’t occurred to him that he wasn’t alone. He whirled around in the direction of the sound. Well naturally, he hadn’t noticed. He had been addressed from across a football-field of a distance.
Again, it boomed, “You may approach Sir Jackoryn.” Peering toward the source of the sound from what he could make out, it looked to be a figure seated on an elevated pedestal made of, what else, stone, on what could be nothing else than a throne.
His guess was that he approached the reigning monarch, speaking out from the seat of power of whatever bizarre realm he’d stumbled into.
What was the protocol in such instances? At a loss at how to respond, he slowly began to make his way toward the imposing figure that awaited him across the granite-like expanse.
The walk itself was tough going. It was absolutely sluggish. He dragged as he walked. Something tangible seemed to be weighing him down.
As he struggled to approach the kingly one, he could make out that the figure was cloaked in purely white-silver battle armaments, accented by drippings of dark red cloth that peaked dramatically from beneath the armor. Quite striking, even he had to admit.
The barbarian monarch, as he labeled him, was quite a picturesque display — a startling contrast of color against the blackest coal-colored beard and the pale white skin of his flesh.
He made a vivid image — a dark prince, a vision right out of a cheap gothic novel.
Ahhh, he halted. It dawned on him like a delicate sledgehammer, perhaps just like something out of one of Hallie’s novels.
Awkwardly, he continued his trek for a closer view, simultaneously acknowledging for the first time that he clanked as he walked. He looked down. Now why hadn’t he noticed this before? Maybe because it wasn’t there before!
His chest, his legs, his arms — all was armored. Also, in his newly arrived wardrobe was a tunic beneath the armor made of light green cloth that protruded enough to noticeably contrast markedly with the dark prince across the room. Now his mind was beginning to get with the program. In this unfortunately, predictable tableau that would cast him as, and his heart dropped perceptively at the realization, the good guy.
The realization gave him chills. It all fit together in a peculiar, skewed sort of way. The scene was cast. Evidently, tonight he was playing the pure, good, boring character, and whoever the joker on the throne might be was the dark, conflicted, smoldering anti-hero. It wasn’t hard to size up how heavily the deck was stacked against him. In the purest of female hearts, in particular what he had gleaned of Hallie Barkly’s during his limited exposure to her, he felt intrinsically that he didn’t stand a snowballs chance in hell at being victorious and achieving the spoils, whatever the spoils might be.
He stopped, out of breath, still yards away from the throne. Even from where he was, he could see his eyes — his nemesis’ eyes. They were a deep, sparkling, dark color. It gave his appearance an unreal, hypnotic quality. Much as he hated to admit it, there was no denying it. He was compelling. Hell, if he were a woman, he’d throw his hat in with this guy.
“Sir Jackoryn,” boomed the deep but velvety voice.
He looked around for a moment, and then asked pointedly. “Is that really my name?”
The dark prince smiled widely enough that his perfectly shaped, uncannily white teeth presented themselves. “Well, you have to admit Sir Jack wouldn’t quite fit the motif. And, after all, I am not its author.”
“Yes, well speaking of that, where is the fair damsel?”
And as if on cue, she suddenly appeared on the threshold of the great medieval throne room that Jack concluded had been borne out of her imagination. It was Hallie, but not the Hallie as Jack had seen her. Here, she was not that odd, quirky, unpredictable woman that he’d been coming to know. Here, she was transfigured, draped in a shimmering gown made entirely of golden cloth. Her skin was absolutely luminescent against its luster. And her hair, which was drawn up loosely by jeweled combs, cascading with escaping golden ringlets framing her perfectly creamy skin and dark pink mouth until all he could manage to utter was, “Wow.”
“Does Sir Jackoryn approve?” The male counterpart to her loveliness inquired from the throne.
“Would you please stop calling me that?” He snapped with irritation. He didn’t want intrusion right now. He was still drinking deeply of the vision that was Hallie. His mind was calculating furiously at lightning speed. There had to be a way for him to turn this around and get the girl, just had to be.
Hallie floated toward him, her mouth trembling with the fullness and intensity of her thoughts, or so he guessed.
“Jackoryn, I did not know you would be here.”
He smiled. This was novel. Here, they were actually speaking, instead of her just looking right through him. “That makes two of us.”
“I know you can’t understand, but I must stay here with Samory.”
“Ah, so this is Samory?”
“You mustn’t be so jocular with my heart.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was doing that, uh Lady Hallie.”
“Of course, right, Lady Hallea, can we take just a moment or so to talk about this? Don’t you owe me that much?”
The guilt card was always helpful. “Honestly, this guy over here, I can tell you right now, you have no future with. It’s written all over him.”
She frowned, seemingly a little befuddled by his responses.
Perhaps he was not following the script. “There is nothing to say, Jackoryn. You have lost,” the anti-hero boomed behind him.
He turned to the overconfident monarch. “Look, big guy. I walked in on the middle of this. But I’m here now and not ready to give up before I’ve started.” And then, he added, “You might want to check that anemia, pal. You look like you’re one foot in the grave already.”
Small cold hands gripped his arms, “Please Jackoryn, you tear my heart out. I must stay with Samory. I must try and save him.”
He stopped for a second and looked into her eyes, deeply into her eyes. It was there — that same soft, vulnerable look that had become as of late become so familiar to him. There was no doubt that she had created this. But he also saw something else that disturbed him — the fringes of panic in her expression. She was in trouble here. She needed him. Something was smoldering, brewing beneath all the finery of this illusion. Hallie seemed extremely ill at ease, and why should she be? After all, wasn’t this her ball game?
He returned her gentle embrace, holding the sides of her arms gently. “Hallie, Hallie,” he whispered, “listen to me. Let me take you out of here. I bet I have a nice white stallion outside just waiting for the two of us.”
Her eyes narrowed a bit, “You jest Jackoryn.”
“Well, if not then we can walk, but I can’t leave you here like this, not with him.”
“But he is my destiny. I am here to save him.”
“Maybe, maybe not, maybe it isn’t him you’re supposed to save. Maybe it’s me.”
An eyebrow lifted, “You?”
“Yes me, my life hasn’t been too wonderful, and you have to admit that I don’t come quite with the baggage that guy seems to have.”
“Enough Jackoryn, leave now or I will have you flayed,” Samory boomed.
She pulled away, “You must go Jackoryn. It isn’t safe for you here.”
He grasped a small delicate hand. It felt so cold. Why did she feel like ice here? “Hallie, I have a strong feeling that it isn’t safe for you either. Let me help you.”
And then for a split second something shifted. He felt it, a feeling just like what had happened for only seconds in the study. An odd recognition swept across her features, and her soft brown eyes widened.
And then, he was back, next to her bed. She was awake, sitting up, just staring forward. “Hallie,” he whispered again.
But there was no response this time, none at all.
Copyright © 2019 by Evelyn Klebert