Fates Avow: The Arbiter : Part One

<Prologue

Connie was having a bad day. A really bad day.

Indeed by the time the day was out there would not be sufficient superlatives to describe just how staggeringly bad this day would be.

It had started with her waking up already late for work. The commencement of this truly bad day would begin with her phone blatantly lying to her about how long 63% of battery would last. At some point as she slept her phone decided to switch off and not undertake its task of waking her up with an irritating beeping sound incorrectly described as ‘morning sunrise’.

Connie had contemplated charging her phone overnight but on seeing a news report about exploding batteries she had thought it was best not to. Her phone irritated her at the best of times and it would be the height of irritation if it actually caused her to die.

The irony of this thought process is that by the end of this horribly bad day she would, in fact, be dead.

Perhaps if her phone had killed her she would not have to endure all the other bad stuff that would occur before her ultimate demise.

Blissfully ignorant that this would be her last day on earth Connie cursed as she rushed out of bed and into the shower, promptly skipping back naked and wet to put her lying unreliable phone on charge.

She quickly got dressed and hurriedly straightened her hair before rushing out of her cramped flat.

Clip clopping her way to the train station Connie took a bite of a breakfast bar she had grabbed from the cupboard on her way out.

She had hoped that the nutritional information printed on the side of the wrapper was correct and this would provide her with sufficient sustenance. The groan from her belly after she devoured the bar told her otherwise. Eating what was effectively crumbs glued together was hardly a hearty breakfast.

Connie arrived at the train station to witness the train already in the process of departing. She had a futile burst of speed in some strange hope that she would be able to catch up with the train and leap on; alternatively she may have expected that the train driver might spot her and happily stop the train. She hadn’t even reached the gates to the platform before she realised that neither of those things would happen.

Connie cursed again. There wouldn’t be another train for at least an hour. She was going to be very late for work.

Yet in the final moments of her life she’d probably look back and think oversleeping and missing a train was rather pleasant in comparison to being dead. Indeed, such was the suddenness of her demise she would have no time to curse at the unfairness of being killed…..and that is really something that is curse worthy.

Connie’s only chance of getting to work at a time vaguely respectable would be to get a taxi. She saw a row of taxis and smiled that perhaps her fortune maybe changing.

She went to a cashpoint to draw some money out but any hope that good luck was now firmly on her side faded when the screen announced she had no money and then promptly ate her card.

Connie cursed once more. It was payday, the only day of the month she could be confident that there would be money in her account.

Pulling out her phone she tapped on her banking app to enquire about her lack of funds. Her phone chose not to break the news to her gently but instead made the pixelated pronouncement that she had been paid but someone had nefariously then took all her money.

Connie cursed even more, she had no money and had no idea how she would pay for things such as rent or food. Had she known she would be dead by the end of the day this probably would have saved her some unnecessary heartache over these issues.

After several more moments of cursing Connie decided she would simply go home, call the bank then just go back to bed and wake up tomorrow when everything would be better.

She turned to walk back towards her apartment when her phone alerted her to a text message, it was from Ann, a colleague from work.

Where are you? Boss really wants to see you Now!!!!!!

Maybe it was the liberal use of exclamation marks but Connie, cursing again, decided she’d better try and get into work. She rifled though her jacket pocket and found some loose change, it would be enough to get the bus.

Connie found herself on her way to work in a cramped bus sat next to a guy who appeared to have chronic bronchitis. The onset of his spluttering coincided with the bus hitting any divot or pothole, of which there were many.

Through the rare breaks in his coughing Connie listened to the various automated security questions she had to pass to be able to speak to someone at her bank. The irony that she had to provide answers to the most ridiculous questions whilst someone had quite easily just wiped out her bank account was not lost on her.

The bus did not go directly to her work place and Connie alighted to begin the walk. As soon as she stepped off the bus, dark clouds appeared in the sky and it began to rain heavily down upon her. She looked at her phone which proudly displayed a big sun.

“Lying. Bastard. Phone!” she muttered.

Her walk to work by the standards already set was relatively uneventful save that as she walked by every puddle a car would splash her.

Connie finally arrived at work, tired, drenched and annoyed. She just wished this day to be over and of course it would be soon albeit with a permanence that perhaps she hadn’t wished for.

As she walked through the vast lobby of the building where she worked she cursed again on seeing that the lift was out of order. After ascending 16 flights of stairs she eventually reached her desk.

“Bad day?” Ann enquired looking at a drenched and exhausted Connie with a mixture of concern and bemusement.

“Horrible ” Connie replied “I don’t think this day can get any worse.”

No sooner had those words left her lips but her phone bleeped, it was a message from Darren, her neighbour and head of the Resident’s Association for her block of flats.

Hey Connie. Look I don’t know how to tell you this but your flat has just burnt down.

Connie stared at her phone in disbelief. She read the message a number of times before she believed what she was being told, even then her primary thought was whether it was appropriate for Darren to sign off with a sad face emoji.

Connie slumped into her chair and raised her hands to her face. She cursed loudly at the culprit of the fire

Fucking hair straighteners!

In her rush to get work she had forgot to turn them off. Her desire to look presentable had now, in effect, left her homeless.

No money. No home.

“Everything okay?” enquired Ann

“My home has just burnt down” replied Connie, tears beginning to form in her eyes.

“Oh dear! You could do without something like that happening”

Connie decided she would have to go home to see whatever was left of the charred remains of her home; she’d also have to make arrangements to find somewhere to stay. Maybe she could stay at her boyfriend’s house, although she remembered he was away on a conference for the next few days.

She had been dating Luke for over a year and things had become quite serious. Secretly she had been hoping he would ask her to move in. Perhaps her burning down the flat would force the issue. Every cloud and all that.

She wished Luke was with her now. To hold her in his large arms, kiss her on the top of the head and tell her everything will be okay.

“I gotta go” Connie announced to Ann

She got up to leave but was immediately faced with Clive, her boss.

“Ah Connie. You’re finally here. I need a word if I may” said Clive, clearly oblivious to the level of distress Connie was experiencing.

“Can it wait Clive. My flat has just burnt down” she replied

Clive thought for a moment then responded “Not really and if it has already burnt down a few minutes more won’t matter’

Connie sighed “I’ve really got to go”

“Okay” Clive said “I’ll be quick about it. We are having to downsize the department and your employment here will be terminated in a week.”

“Seriously?!” replied Connie “You tell me like that!”

“Well you did want me to be quick about it”

Connie just stared at Clive as her brain desperately tried to process yet another bombshell.

“Anyway I’m sorry your flat has burnt down ” said Clive offering a sympathetic pat on her shoulder before he turned and left.

Connie looked around at her co workers who stared back at her in open mouthed silence. Fighting back the tears she grabbed her bag and left the building.

It was only after emerging onto the street, which was now bathed in brilliant sunlight, that she realised she had no money to get home. She then realised she actually did not have a home on account of the fact it had burnt down.

No money. No home. No job.

Her brain offered no ideas on what next to do and so she just walked, her eyes brimming with tears.

Her brain that had failed in offering any solutions could only remind her of the extent of her problems.

No money. No home. No job.

She was momentarily distracted from the magnitude of her problems by her phone bleeping. She stopped to search through her pocket right next to the only remaining puddle left over from the earlier downpour.

As Connie desperately tried to locate her phone in her pocket a HGV drove past and covered her with dirty puddle water. She let out a few expletives at the driver before turning her attention back to retrieving her phone.

As she wiped the grimy water off the screen she became aware that she was in the shadow of a large building. She’d probably had walked past it countless times but never really noticed it. The facade was quite worn and the stain glass windows were dirty and cracked.

Suspended by a rusty iron chain was a sign. The wording was faded and she could not make out precisely what it said but there was a symbol that looked like a star and she could just about read the words ‘Public House’.

She contemplated for a moment going inside to get dried off but there was nothing about this place that looked inviting. Indeed, Connie didn’t even think it was open.

Having dried her phone she clicked on her messages, it was from Luke. Oh sweet Luke. He’ll know what to do.

However any comfort in seeing his name quickly turned to confusion. The message was a picture of him laying on the bed in nothing but tight underwear, below the text read;

Come and get it Tiger! Room 113. Ready when you are! Grrrr!

Why would he send this to her. He was miles away. Was he honestly expecting her to go all that way to meet him? And since when as he ever called her ‘Tiger’?!

Connie replied with a simple question mark, followed by ‘Luke?’ then ‘Luke??’ and finally ‘Luke??!!’

She stared impatiently at her screen but no response came. She tried calling him but there was no answer.

Her brain, reeling from failing to comprehend her other problems gleefully announced that it had solved what was going on here.

He’s cheating on you!

That was it. The final straw. She threw her phone to the floor and began stamping on it whilst screaming every obscenity she knew, including some she had never previously uttered.

Her phone had done nothing but conspire against her to make this the worse possible day ever.

Dictated by rage she stalked off down the street, each angry step she took a reminder of what her life had now become.

No money. No home. No job. No boyfriend.

In the midst of anger and confusion she found herself down a secluded alley. Had she not been so preoccupied with her problems she may have paid more attention to where she was.

If she hadn’t been replaying every bad thing that happened she might have noticed the two shadowy figures approach from behind her.

She may have been able to run away before they grabbed her and slammed her head against the brick wall.

Had she not smashed her phone it may have aided her in calling for help.

As it were, it was in that alleyway that Connie died.

It was reported in the press but only briefly. Connie simply became another statistic to add to all the other statistics about the rising levels of crime.

She would be mourned by her close family and friends but not really by anyone else. A few who had noted the brief report of her death would comment on social media but merely to reflect upon their own self worth.

‘OMG. So sad. RIP. I visited that place 3 years ago. That could’ve been me’

But for the billions of other people Connie’s death would go unnoticed. As her story came to an end theirs would continue unimpeded by her unfortunate demise.

Yet however tragic this tale may be there are always other stories waiting to be told. Each life carries an infinite amount of possibilities. Inevitably, these stories all conclude in the same way…..with death.

Connie’s story ended as she drew her final breath alone, bleeding in that alley. It marked the final chapter of her tale. A story that to anyone who didn’t know her would seem unremarkable.

However, the story of what happened if Connie did not die in that alley….well that is a far greater story to tell.

Part Two >

The Fates Avow : The Arbiter : Prologue

“Time for bed!”

The voice of the Mother startled the young girl who had been entranced by the stars in the clear night sky. Normally, she would have heard her Mother’s footsteps on the staircase, the fourth step creaked and that would be her cue to get into bed. She’d have precisely fifteen seconds from that ominous creak to get under the covers and feign sleep. But not tonight, she had been distracted by the beautiful dark sky.

She gazed wistfully out at the stars that shone a bright path to the candescent moon. It seemed larger than normal and it’s immense prominence in the sky had an hypnotic effect upon the girl.

“Come on monkey…Bed…Now!”

The girl reluctantly got down from her perch near the window and climbed into bed. Her gaze drifted once more to the illuminated sky and she hatched an impromptu plan for her to stare a little longer at its brilliance.

“Can you tell me a story?” She asked, ensuring she adopted her best doe-eyed look.

The Mother tired and hoping she could just return to the wine that waited for her downstairs replied “It’s getting rather late!”

Such a feeble excuse would not stop the demands of the child

“Pllleeeeeeaaaaassssseee Mummy”

“Aren’t you a little old to have Mummy read you a story?” said the Mother, the futility of the question evident in the tone of her voice.

The child shook her head with youthful enthusiasm. Sighing the Mother reluctantly stood up and went to a small wooden bookcase adorned with bright stickers and graffitied in crayon.

“No Mummy! I want you to tell me a story. Like you used to do” said the child.

The Mother sighed again, her hopes that she could get away with reading a few pages of ‘Daring Duck Goes On Holiday’ had faded.

“What would you like me to tell you a story about?”

“The Stars!!” replied the child enthusiastically.

The Mother smiled “Very well then let me tell you a story that my Father….Your Grandfather used to tell me about the stars. Lay down.”

The child happily obliged, pulling the covers up to her chin and rolling over so she could stare out of the window at the dazzling sky whilst her Mother told her a story about the stars.

A long time ago before there was even anything you know exists, there was nothing but the infinite density of space. A vast black canvas that stretched beyond anything you can comprehend.

Over time within this intense darkness tiny white lights appeared, in the expanse of space they seemed like nothing more than pin pricks. You know them as stars and people will tell you that all they are just balls of hydrogen and helium waiting to explode and light up the darkness around them. But they are not..well not back when it all began.

For these celestial bodies that appeared were for all intents and purposes as human as you and I. They could feel, communicate….dream. In their infancy they would move around space with the same enthusiasm as a toddler would in a park. They played, chasing each other in this infinite playground, gleefully laughing; all the stars together swirling with playful abandon. But as the millennia passed they grew bored of this pursuit. One can only tolerate so many years before the monotony of simply running through the endless vacuum of space would become tiresome. It is surprising that they lasted as long as they did.

The stars therefore no longer ran and played but instead stood and talked. To relieve the crushing boredom they now felt they told stories just like the story I am telling you now. They would create characters and scenes and together they would live out the most fantastic of adventures.

Now I know what you are thinking – how can these stars tell stories? How could they know anything when all they had experienced was just the dark nothingness of space? Well, these were not just stars and were not restricted by what they had experienced or what they had been told. The canvas of their minds was as infinite as the vastness of the space that they occupied.

Have you ever wondered why you have two arms, two legs and a head? Or why a whale looks the way it does? These are not moments of evolution but by design – the design of the stars.

However, they began to grow weary of these stories and the companionship of sharing these adventures faded.. They then began to do the most human of things – argue. In the early days of this story sharing they would rejoice in the collectiveness of their creation but as the stories grew in grandeur and became more elaborate voices of discontent could be heard.

Initially the arguments were rather miniscule in nature just some odd disagreement over names or places or a description of something in particular. Take the elephant for example; well it got its large trunk as a result of particularly mischievous star who objected to the way a story was being told. One day I will tell you what really led to the Alpaca being created.

You may think it ridiculous that such pettiness could occur over the way a simple story was being told but there really was not much else for them to do. They had told stories for so long that this is all they did, all they knew and it was important to them.

Slowly the resentment grew and these disagreements became larger and more intense until no longer could the stars remain together and they split into two groups. Imagine space as a giant blackboard, at one end you had a group of stars who all believed that a story should be told one way and at the other end another group who wished the story to be told differently.

And there in the middle was a single star shining bright. He never participated in the story telling but instead just glowed bright in a beautifully translucent meditative state. He was not creating places or things but just imagining himself running freely around the entirety of space. He liked when they all used to do that and hoped one day they would all return to such gleeful pursuits. The vastness of space was too scary for one little star to do it alone and so he just waited for his friends to once again join him.

For a while the stars cohabited with very little issue, they enjoyed sharing their stories with other like-minded stars and were pleased there were no more disagreements and that their creative adventures could continue unabated. But soon the groups became suspicious of each other and wondered what each other were up to. One group would often get disturbed by the other with loud laughter or cheering.

Curious, the other group would confront them and ask “What are you up to?” Of course they did not speak in a human voice what with them being celestial beings and all. However, I can only communicate this part of the tale by expressing it as a human would.

So the other group would reply “Nothing we were just telling a story”. The other group interested to know what had caused such mirth and merriment would ask what the story was about and so the group would tell them.

“That’s rubbish” they would say “It’s not even funny.” Or words to that effect.

This continued with each group seemingly more interested with what the other were doing than themselves. Like a virus the willingness to sabotage a story rather than assist spread through the groups. There would be shouts of ‘Rubbish’ or ‘That didn’t happen’ and ‘We tell it better’ and before long neither group could finish a story due to all the interruptions.

This then led to a different emotion being experienced by the stars – Rage. They became angry and what started off as name calling soon escalated. Whilst shouting insults at each other the star in the middle was blissfully running through the miles of space in his mind unaware the changes that were occurring in his friends.

Then one day the insults escalated and two stars one from either group ran at each other. I say ran only so you can picture it in your mind, stars of course do not run. They headed towards each other at some velocity neither one willing to change course. They collided with some force and with a…poof…they were gone.

The others in the groups watched in initial disbelief at the destruction of two of their fellow stars. Then the accusations began as to who or what had caused that to happen – each blaming each other with some venom. With rage running through them they all charged at each other whilst the star in the middle hovered unaware above them.

They could have stopped, they all could have realised , having witnessed what they had, the folly of this pursuit but the rage consumed them and destruction was all that they cared about. Having spent millennia together they could no longer bear to spend one more moment and this huge cluster of stars collided with each other…BANG!

It was the biggest bang that you could ever imagine and out of this chaos and destruction all their dreams, ideas, stories flowed; leaking out into the blackness of space. When the dust had settled the previous endless void of space was filled with planets, the sun, the moon and of course earth.

Hovering in the sky above earth were three stars – one from either group and of course the star in the middle who had remained passive to the destruction that had occurred below.

Before they noticed anything they were struck by a feeling of loneliness. Space was no longer filled with these celestial wonders and the two stars felt a feeling of remorse.. The two stars did not blame each other but instead called a truce to the fighting that had seen so many of their fellow brethren fall. In honour of the fallen they flew through space which now hosted so many wondrous creations and every now and then would stop and leave a little ball of light amidst the darkness. The middle star had followed, happy to once again be flying through the infinite sky.. Before long space was once again alit with stars but these were not (and still aren’t) real stars. Only three real stars remain and they shone the brightest of all.

Once they completed their memorial journey they returned to hover over earth as they found this to be the most beautiful of all their creations. They admired how much better it looked compared to the image conjured by their storytelling. The two stars were excited to be able retell their stories and create new ones using this wonderful plaything that had appeared, just as a child would create wondrous battles with his toy knight and horse.

The middle star did not want to join in and still very much childlike he just wanted to fly through space again. But the other two stars would not join him as they were too busy creating more stories on this planet, weaving tapestries of glorious tales, each event perfectly planned and created.

But it was inevitable that this creative harmony would not continue and soon the disagreements begun and they could no longer agree on how this story taking place on earth should be told. Recognising that such disagreements had brought about such previous destruction they went to speak to the middle star for him to decide. They requested he be the arbiter in their dispute. At first he was reluctant, much preferring to allow his mind to wander across space, however his fellow stars persisted and so somewhat reluctantly he agreed.

Initially he was not called upon to arbitrate that often perhaps every once in a while but then the demands of him as an arbiter became more frequent. This irritated the middle star who having never participated in this storytelling had no inclination to do so now and just wanted to be left in his meditative peace. He therefore refused.

This of course angered the other two stars but they did not return to their previous rage, instead they grew bored of telling this story on earth, indeed they grew tired of telling stories altogether. Therefore they just sat in the sky and looked down and watched the story unfold before them below. Observing what they had created as it begun its first unscripted chapter.

However, the urge to intervene became too great and as the stars looked down they could not help themselves but to weave the tapestry of the story once more. This time, however, they did not tell this story in unison. Like they did with their brethren they kept to their side of the sky and told their own story. But there was now no coherence to the narrative and it was as if one had written his story in ink on a page only for the other to write over it in a different colour.

The stars began to move further away from each other, paranoid that the other would see what they were doing. Soon, they were telling new stories just to spite the other and they no longer cared about their beautiful creation. They would purposely seek to destroy what the other had created and the other would reciprocate. More and more they moved away from each other until they could no longer be seen, leaving only the middle star in the sky to shine down on the consequence of their spite and rage.

When the middle star awoke from one of his meditative journeys through space he felt immediately alone. The last time he awoke from a trance all the stars had disappeared save for two and now this time there was no-one. They had gone. He looked down at the curious green and blue sphere and thought his friends maybe down there, experiencing up close what they had created.

He therefore descended upon the earth and took the form of one of his fellow star’s creation and began searching for his two celestial companions.

No-one knows what ever happened to those three stars. All that we do know is that they never shone in the night sky again.

The End…..Now go to sleep.

“That was a silly story Mummy” said the child, desperately stifling a yawn “Tell me another one….A better one.”

“Not now. Sleep!”

“But Mummy…”

“Get the fuck to sleep!” mumbled the Mother under her breath before leaning in and kissing the child on the forehead “Night monkey.”

As the Mother turned off the light and gently closed the door the child let out one final cry of “Its a silly story!” before sleep finally overtook her.

The Mother leaned against the door and thought;

A silly story? Perhaps. Most true ones are.

Part One >