I have a brand new story from Era: The Chosen today. We’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing writers on this project, such as Jennifer Martin and Darren Pearce!
This story is set in the first Era of the Chosen, when the Anonassi rule over the Lost Lands and Humanity was barely aware of their existence!
Sheila Park sat at her desk, paperwork spread out all around her. Her fingers were stained with ink and her blotter was nearly used up. She had been working late, wrestling with the books for her boss. Accounting was dreary business at two in the morning.
She sat back and rubbed her eyes, leaving ink streaks on her skin. She was too tired to care. The oil lamp was guttering, and she supposed that the reservoir was almost dry. She would need to buy more oil in the morning.
She lived alone in the Outer Circle, a short walk away from the office where she worked for import merchant Christophe Guillen. The garret flat was small, but it was all she needed. She had her desk, a bed, and a chair by the fire for when she had the chance to sit and relax. She had not had that opportunity for a very long time.
A chill passed over her, and she shivered. The window was closed, and there was no wind tonight. There should not have been a draft. She looked around the garret, wondering what had caused the little gust of air, but she could see nothing. There was something, though… a feeling of being watched, a pressure from the weight of eyes staring at her.
She closed her book and rose, facing the rest of the flat, her back toward the desk and therefore the wall. The presence, or whatever it was, seemed to be in front of her, but she could see nothing. There was a sense of movement, and she was convinced that whatever it was, it was coming closer.
The corner of her rug lifted, as if something had kicked it. The hairs on the back of her neck stood, and she retreated, her heart pounding in fear. The feeling came closer, and she retreated again, realizing that whatever invisible creature had come into her room, it was backing her into a corner.
Something brushed her face, cold and rough, and she screamed. She tried to make herself small, crumpling into a ball on the floor, but the presence loomed over her. There was another touch, and this time it felt like claws, leaving a vivid scratch across her cheek.
Sheila screamed again, too terrified to move. The presence came closer still, and she could feel air stirring against her face. It was close now, so close, and she was sure it was going to kill her. She began to weep.
There was a sound, then, like a cross between a growl and a laugh. It was the most demonic thing she had ever heard. The claw returned, and as she tried to recoil unsuccessfully into the floor, it was joined by the unmistakable feeling of teeth.
She howled in pain and horror, and the door to her flat burst open. Her neighbor, Oscar Gwent, came into the room, a dagger in his hand. He raced toward her but stopped halfway across the room. The hand holding the blade suddenly jerked upward, and then he and the presence were gone.
Sheila wrapped her arms around herself and screamed until the constable came. She didn’t stop screaming for a very long time.
They found her like that, arms wrapped around her legs, no voice left from the screaming she’d been doing. The constables who responded to her neighbours’ noise complaints packaged her up in a strait jacket and took her way to St. Telus Hospital, where she was deposited in a locked room in the women’s mental ward.
She finally slept when they forced sedatives down her throat, but when she woke, she would resume her mindless screaming, so they sedated her again. It took them days to even learn her name, and then that was only because her employer came to her apartment to check on her when her uncharacteristic absence from her desk attracted attention. Christopher Guillen, her employer, came to the hospital and provided her name and next of kin, and he kindly paid the expenses for her treatment before he left her to their mercies.
On the fifth day that they allowed her to regain consciousness, she no longer screamed. She talked. She told the nurse who bathed her about the presence in her flat, and the neighbour who had come to her rescue but had vanished. The nurse made a note of the name, Oscar Gwent, and sent word to the constable, asking him to get a statement from the man.
Gwent was never found again, and in time, his flat and Sheila’s were given up to new renters. The march of progress and real estate income needed to go on, after all.
She never screamed again, but on dark nights, she would sit in the corner of her room and shiver, babbling about invisible creatures with claws that grabbed and gusts of chilly air. Nobody much believed her.
Nobody but Charlie, that is.
Charlie was another patient, one who had been locked up by her husband for claiming to see a monster stepping out of her bedroom wall. She knew that what Sheila had seen was real. She just didn’t know who to tell. Her husband had quietly dissolved their marriage after her third year on incarceration, and she wouldn’t have turned to him, anyway. She had only distant family in Harbour City, and none that she was certain she could ask for help. Something drove her to ask, anyway. She sent a letter to her third cousin Rosalinda Garcia-D’Aoust, telling her about what she had seen and about the ravings of Sheila Park.
She hadn’t expected anything to come of it. Then, one gloriously sunny day, Rosalinda and her husband Nicholas came and took Charlie away, taking her back to their home in the Inner Circle. They were kind to her, taking away the shackles and letting her bathe and trim her tangled hair. They called her Chosen.
When she learned what she’d been Chosen for, she wished she’d stayed in the hospital. Fighting monsters is not for everyone.