The courtyard is vast, far larger than the garden in my back yard. Several yards away in every direction, a tall brick wall stretches, adorned at the top ornaments of white plaster. The sun sits high in the sky, casting down bright white rays onto the scene before me.
Birds chirp in the distance. Not the hoarse cawing of seagulls nor the shrill squawks of crows. Sparrows, maybe. Something high-pitched but pleasant. Almost a song. The wind carries the melody around me, and I close my eyes, my head tilting back. Around me, I hear the rustling of leaves, and I can see their lush greens and vivid colors winding around every structure, towering above me.
Sweat drips down the back of my neck, sticks my hair to the skin. To my left, there’s a fountain. It’s familiar – almost. Not quite. I follow the cracks in the plaster around the statue’s body, confident, as though they’re roads and I know where they lead. The cracks end at the statue’s headless neck, the plaster sheer, as though it had always been this way. As though it had never been broken. Water flows from the neck, clear, and my eyes follow it back down the statue’s body. It slips against the statue, turns white, then clear, then the sun hits it and colors explode from the water, every part of the spectrum, a cauldron of iridescent rainbow by the time it pools at the bottom, at the statue’s feet.
The clang of metal. Two cymbals crashing. My head jerks to the source of the sound, and who should be there to greet me but Mr. Winters?
His eyes are dark this time. I peer into them, expecting to see that strange, shimmering paleness, the same which curses the fountain’s water. He watches me, his eyes glued to me, and I take a step back. I try to. I try to lift my leg, but it’s rooted to the cobblestone beneath me.
Mr. Winters watches me, and I watch him. To his credit, he can take what he gives.
In his hands, a strange instrument rests. A wide circle, hollow, with a smaller, circular metal piece in the center. He beats it against the palm of his hand, his eyes unblinking. His shirt, white linin, lies open against his chest.
Beneath the hot sun, his skin shimmers, tan becoming pure gold.
I open my mouth to speak, but I can’t conjure the sound. My vocal cords don’t come into contact; there’s nothing but the air moving through my windpipe. My hand claps to my throat and I pin my eyes back on Mr. Winters, my mouth hanging open.
Mr. Winter’s mouth spreads into a smirk.
“Drink,” he says, and he follows it with a beat of his instrument.
I frown. I glare. I stand my ground. Mr. Winters nods to the fountain, keeping perfect time with his music.
“Drink,” he says again, and I cast my gaze back to the fountain. The water bubbles from the statue’s neck, and I watch it as it flows down its body. The pearly substance at the bottom becomes enchanting, mesmerizing, hypnotizing.
Without thinking, I reach down, and I let my fingers play in the iridescent water.
I confess myself quite the bachelor, so I can’t attest to personal experience, but those who shy away from marriage, from love unconditional… I’m afraid they’re shying away from eternity,” he says, and between his pretentious proclamations at the dinner table and vague threats, I never knew Harlan Winters to be a poet.
I have to recover.
I bite, “You won’t live forever, then,” and I throw it like a weapon toward him. If he wants to be a bachelor, perhaps he has to pay the price.
“Jasper!” Maman scolds. Harlan only laughs. He looks away, but my eyes stay on him.
“No, I suppose he’s right,” he considers, his head nodding from side to side as he considers it. A lock of silver hair falls into his eyes. “I’d be foolish to include myself in that.”
I want to be satisfied, but his words carry a melancholy that isn’t lost on me, that settles heavy over my shoulders. Harlan turns to me and smiles.
“Will you live forever, Jasper?”
I spit steel into my voice as I answer, “That’s impossible.”
The intensity of my defense is apparent, an elephant forcing its way through the walls, leaving nothing but rubble and carnage behind, but somehow, I can’t stop the fury. I’ve come for dinner, at his request. Do I truly deserve this conversation? And so early in the meal?
Harlan takes it in stride. He says, “I hope you aren’t destroying your chances.”
I take a breath to calm myself, and I reach for the bottle of wine. I take my time pouring myself a glass.
“I haven’t the slightest idea what forever feels like,” I tell him, focusing on the way the wine flows from the bottle like a waterfall. “I can’t miss something when I don’t know what it is.”
“Look up,” is Harlan’s response.
My glass full, I set the bottle back upright, and I cast my gaze toward the ceiling. I frown. There’s nothing there but wooden rafters. Harlan laughs.
“Not like that,” he says. “Not quite.” He crosses his arms across the table, settling in, mischief and folly on his face. I find myself leaning in, my neck craning toward him as he says, “I speak of the stars. When you see them, pinpricks of light against that vast darkness, never-ending – that’s the closest thing to eternity that humans can imagine.”
He lifts his glass and takes a drink of wine, his smile secretive, knowing. Jocelyn studies her menu, and I sit, transfixed by the man across the table. I want to pull more from him, more words, an explanation, but he stays quiet.
Title: The Goblin King: Part 1
Author: A.E. Blair
Genre: LGBT Romance / Dark Fantasy
Jasper Woodworth expects the summer of 1963 to be filled with thunderstorms and the comfort of his childhood home. He’s prepared for the attention of his doting mother, for dazzling parties, for whispered rumors of Briarford’s townspeople.
Everything changes upon meeting his mother’s new tenant: the mysterious and ethereal Harlan Winters. Harlan is entitled. He speaks in riddles, and he uses half-truths like bait on a fishing wire. What’s worse? He won’t explain himself, or his intentions, or his hypnotic interested in Jasper.
Overwhelmed by suspicion and a strange attraction, Jasper’s dreams take a turn for the unusual. He dreams of hands roaming his body. He dreams of Harlan’s warm, golden skin and those unearthly opalescent eyes.
Enabled by Harlan, Jasper finds himself tumbling down a steep cliff, rolling in his obsession and lust as they twist into something new, something he doesn’t understand. The only way to gather the answers he seeks is to confront Harlan directly, but how does one trap a supernatural entity?
A.E. Blair is currently setting her keyboard alight with typing speeds in Orlando, Florida, but she’s been writing ever since she could hold a crayon upright on construction paper. Inspired by 80s fantasy movies and anime, she’s often dreamed of spiriting herself away to another world – and becoming supernatural royalty certainly wouldn’t hurt.
While A. E. is no stranger to writing, having gotten her start with fanfiction, The Goblin King: Part I is her first novel, and is expected to span six parts. In her spare time, A. E. likes to dabble in screenwriting, playwriting, and acting.
Mailing list: http://tinyletter.com/aeblair
Buy the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0762CFCVT