She knew that there was a killer hiding in one of these rooms, a modern-day medusa, who could kill with a single glance. She knew that if she walked into the room where the killer was hiding, she’d surely become the killer’s next victim, yet if she remained in the hall, the killer would just come to her. She knew her only escape was to take a leap of faith, and choose one of the doors, hoping it doesn’t lead her straight into the killer’s gaze. She knew the odds were slightly in her favor, but that did not make the decision any less stressfull. She walked over to one of the doors, and opened it, hoping for the best.
Evaira was lying on her bed, reading Liza’s manuscript aloud, and writing notes on it. Chira was comfortably lying in the corner of the bed, peering over her shoulder, looking at and listening to the manuscript, and offered her opinions.
“She misspelled stressful,” Chira remarked.
“Good catch,” Evaira responded, crossing out the extra L.
“Also,” she said, “I don’t know how I feel about the words ‘hoping for the best’. I think different words would make the situation a bit more powerful.”
“You’re right,” Evaira said, “I’ll make a note of that.”
“And I don’t think the killer should be compared to medusa,” Chira said, “Medusa didn’t simply kill, she turned her victims to stone.”
“Good point,” Evaira added, adding another note to the manuscript.
“You know, Evaira,” Chira said, “you usually are better than this. I mean, you usually make all these comments before I do.”
“Maybe I’m just off my game,” Evaira said, “it’s just that this is Liza’s last completed manuscript, the last one Mr. Basilworth told me to edit for publishing, and the one that Liza sent me in her last message before she disappeared. I know Mr. Basilworth is going to send me more manuscripts to edit, but it feels strange knowing there won’t be any more of Liza’s.”
“There will be,” Chira said, “when we find her. Remember, now we know for certain she’s alive.”
“I know,” Evaira said, “but until then, the only manuscripts I’ll have to edit are from other writers, and while I’ve edited many good stories, it just won’t feel the same knowing that there may not be any more of Liza’s. I could always quit, but Mr. Basilworth does pay me well, and we need the money. Besides, what other job can I do from the RV, plus have more than enough time for all our investigations?”
“I know,” Chira said, “we’re lucky to have somebody like Mr. Basilworth supporting us.”
“True,” Evaira said, “I still remember the days…”
Evaira thought back, and remembered the Basilworth, Granger & Millhouse Publishing Company, who were responsible for publishing all of Liza’s books. She remembered her own office at the company, when she was still editing manuscripts for them full-time.
She was at one time their highest-paid editor, partially due to the fact that she was the only editor Liza would allow to edit her works. Evaira was the only person to whom Liza ever told the truth, the only person aside from herself who knew that the seemingly impossible events she writes about are actually true stories. This knowledge gave Evaira a different perspective on the stories than any other editor.
She thought back to that fateful day when she was talking with Liza on the phone, completely unaware that this would be the last time they would speak before she disappeared.
“So,” Liza said, “I see you’ve finally got ‘Wind and the Whispers’ published.”
“Yes,” Evaira said, “and based on the numbers Mr. Basilworth showed me, I think you’ve got another bestseller.”
“Great,” Liza said, “so I just sent another manuscript for you to edit. It’s called ‘The Deadly Gaze’, and I think you might like this one.”
“I’ve already got two or three I still need to edit,” Evaira said, “can’t you slow down a bit?”
“Hey,” Liza said, “I’ve got to write the stories while the subject is still fresh in my mind. So if I can get a little prolific sometimes, it means more money for me, and more money for the publisher!”
“I know,” Evaira said, “it was a joke.”
“Yeah,” Liza said, “I know. I’m afraid I’ve just been a little on edge lately.”
“What’s going on?” Evaira asked.
“I don’t know the details yet,” Liza said, “but I can tell this one’s going to end up being my best book yet. Anyway, I’ll send you a copy of my unfinished manuscripts too, just in case you get the time to look. I can always use the feedback.”
“I doubt I’ll have time,” Evaira said, “but if I do, I’ll be sure to help out!”
“Okay, thanks,” Liza said, “I’ve got to go. Say hi to Layla for me.”
“Will do,” Evaira said, “and be careful!”
Evaira hung up the phone, and got back to work. She took out one of Liza’s manuscripts, and studied it carefully for a couple minutes, before she got a knock on her office door.
“Come in,” she said.
A tall, handsome man with long brown hair walked in. This man was Evan Muir, Evaira’s boyfriend at the time.
“How’s it going, Lu,” he asked.
“Liza just called,” she said, “she said she’s sending me a new manuscript. It’s always a good day when I hear from her.”
“Great,” Evan said, “I know how you care about your sister.”
“We work so well together,” Evaira replied, “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
“So,” Evan said, “we going to lunch as we planned, Lu?”
“Of course,” Evaira said.
Evaira and Evan went to Ellio’s for lunch, where they talked about Liza, her stories, and their lives in general. It ended just like an ordinary day, but over the next several weeks, things started to change. Liza, who normally called her sister twice a week, stopped calling entirely. Evaira was worried. Three weeks later, she was at her home, talking with Layla, her other sister, and the youngest of the three.
“So,” Layla mentioned, “heard from Liza lately?”
“No,” Evaira said, “and it’s strange. She usually calls me twice a week. Well, if she’s busy, she may only get a chance to call once that week, but she’s always been able to make at least enough time for that. I’m getting a bit worried.”
“You could try calling her,” Layla suggested, “You have her number.”
“I’ve been doing that,” Evaira said, “and she’s not answering. I can’t help but fear the worst.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much, Luna,” Layla replied, “Liza may just be a bit busy, or she may be away from her RV on some kind of long-term research thing.”
“If she was planning something like that,” Evaira said, “I think she’d have told me.”
At this point, Layla started to realize that her sister’s concerns were more than just paranoia.
“Did you call the police?” Layla asked.
“Of course,” Evaira said, “but what can they do? Liza rarely tells me exactly where she is. Thus, she could be anywhere in the country, and they’re not going to begin a nationwide search for something like this, at least, not without more evidence of foul play.”
Evaira knew there was another complication to relying on the police: they wouldn’t be very effective without knowing that the stories Liza investigates are real. If she tried to tell them the truth, not only would she be violating her sister’s trust, but she would be making herself look like a nut, and making the information she provided seem less credible.
“Then I don’t know what else to do,” Layla said.
“Me neither,” Evaira said, “but we have to do something.”
“Unfortunately,” Layla said, “I don’t think there’s anything we can do.”
At this point, they heard a knock on the door.
“Hold on,” Evaira said, “I’ll get that.”
She walked over to the door, opened it, and saw Evan.
“Hello, Lu,” Evan said, “I just stopped by to ask you if you’d care to go to dinner with me tonight.”
“I’m sorry,” Evaira said, “but I’m just not in the mood.”
“You haven’t been in the mood for almost three weeks,” Evan said, “I know Liza is important to you, but she’s probably just fine. It’s nothing to worry about.”
“Not contacting me just isn’t like her,” Evaira said, “something is definitely up.”
“I still think you’re overreacting,” Evan said, “but if you want to talk…”
“I’m fine,” Evaira lied, convinced Evan would not understand.
“Alright,” Evan said, “but I don’t think we can continue dating unless we get this worked out. If you want to talk, call me.”
Evan left, and Evaira closed the door and sighed. Over the next two weeks, Evaira still hadn’t heard from her sister, and was getting more and more curious as to what was going on, and started thinking harder to figure out something she could do. Though Layla was supportive and helpful, and at least seemed to agree somewhat with Evaira’s concerns, her relationship with Evan was slowly falling apart.
Then, one day, on the way home from work, she ran into a strange man. This man was handsome, slightly taller than she, and dressed in a tweed jacket with a bow tie. He was carrying a brown canvas briefcase.
“Excuse me,” he said, “are you Luna Evaira?”
“Yes,” Evaira said, “who’s asking?”
“How rude of me,” the man said, “I should have introduced myself. I am Professor Edgar Payton, a teacher of advanced physics, and hobby researcher in fringe sciences. I also was an acquaintance of your sister, Liza.”
“I’ve heard of you,” Evaira said, “Liza used some of your books for her own research.”
“Of course,” the Professor responded, “we have discussed them several times, along with some of the events she encountered. Now, you don’t have to keep secrets around me: I know full well that all of her stories are real.”
“So,” Evaira said, “have you heard from her lately?”
“Actually,” Professor Payton answered, “I have. I received a package from her containing something for you.”
He reached into his briefcase and pulled out a brown book, though it was badly burned.
“I recognize this,” Evaira said immediately, “that’s Liza’s diary! Where did you get this?”
“Liza sent it to me,” Professor Payton explained, “she sent it with a note that I am to deliver it to you after a few weeks, once things cool off.”
“But how did the diary get burned?” Evaira asked.
“I have no idea,” the Professor responded, “but the situation makes me suspect that something has happened to her, and not something good.”
“I have my suspicions too,” Evaira said, “but what can we do about it?”
“I can’t do anything,” Professor Payton said, “aside from deliver the diary. I suspect it might contain some clues as to where she is, but I can’t open it myself.”
Evaira looked at the diary, and saw a black leather belt was wrapped around it, there was a small keyhole inside the buckle.
“Considering the secrets she had to keep,” Evaira explained, “she had to keep just anybody from reading the diary. She gave me a spare key, though, in case of emergency.”
“Great,” Professor Payton said, “because whatever’s in this diary could be the secret to finding out what happened to her.”
“I’ll let you know,” Evaira said.
“Thanks,” Professor Payton replied, “but I must be going. I have classes to teach. I am a busy man.”
Evaira took the diary home. She went through her drawers, and found a small gold key, the key Liza gave her. She inserted the key into the lock and opened the diary. As she opened it, she noticed most of the diary was very badly burned. A majority of the pages were illegible, but what Evaira was able to read fascinated her. Though she knew that all of Liza’s stories were true, she didn’t know all the details. Liza had to keep a lot of secrets, even from her, because the people she investigated very much valued their secrecy.
Then, she turned to the last legible page. The rest of the book was completely unreadable, but the last page mentioned a fortuneteller, Maya Wu. Though Liza knew that most fortunetellers were phony, she mentioned that there was something unusual about this one. Most notable of all, this fortuneteller lived only a couple hours’ drive away. Evaira could take a day off to visit this fortuneteller, and see if she knows anything about Liza. Though part of her felt like she was crazy for even considering this, she was deeply concerned about Liza, and felt this was her only chance at finding her.
The next day, Evaira began her trip to the fortuneteller’s shop. As she felt it would be good to have some backup, she asked Evan to come along. He reluctantly agreed. The two of them began the trip in Evaira’s sedan.
“I really don’t think this will lead anywhere,” Evan said, “this seems like a shot in the dark.”
“You didn’t have to come along,” Evaira replied.
“I know, Lu,” Evan said, “but if this will help you get over the missing Liza, I’ll help.”
“You still think I’m overreacting, don’t you?” Evaira asked, “You saw the diary, how it was burned, and all.”
“Then you should turn it over to the authorities,” Evan said, “let them handle this.”
“What can they do?” Evaira said, “She could be anywhere.”
But aside from her concerns that the police wouldn’t be able to do anything, Evaira also realized that they would never take the diary seriously. It described the supernatural and unusual phenomenon that Liza had encountered. The police would probably think it was a draft of a novel, written in a diary-like format, and if Evaira tried to tell them otherwise, the police would likely dismiss her as a nut.
They continued to argue about what they should do about Liza but after a while they gave up the argument and the rest of the trip the car was strangely silent. After about two hours on the road, they arrived at a small wooden house. A banner was hung in the window, reading “Maya Wu, psychic predictions.”
Evaira approached the front of the building, and reached up to knock, but she was interrupted by a woman’s voice that said, “Enter.”
“I guess she must really be psychic,” Evaira said.
“Or she just has a conveniently placed hidden camera,” Evan dryly replied.
“Liza thinks she’s not just another fortuneteller,” Evaira said, “so I doubt it. Still, we should pay close attention. If Liza did visit here relatively recently, Maya may be able to give us a clue as to what happened to her.”
“Hopefully something we can take to the police,” Evan said, “and not just some psychic future mumbo-jumbo.”
They walked inside. The inside of the house looked old, and the wooden walls were covered with posters and pictures depicting various psychic and occult symbols.
“I am at the end of the hall,” the woman’s voice echoed, “come, Miss Evaira.”
“How did she know your name?” Evan asked surprised.
“She’s psychic,” Evaira said, “how else?”
They continued to the end of the hall. There, they saw a dark-haired woman, wearing a gypsy-style dress sitting in a wooden chair.
“You have come seeking information about your sister, correct?” she said.
“You must be Maya Wu,” Evaira said.
“That I am,” the woman, Maya, said.
“Yes,” Evaira said, “My sister, Liza was here, wasn’t she?”
“She was,” Maya said, “we had a nice friendly talk. She was interested in my abilities, so I told her about them, and gave her a few demonstrations of my more unusual powers, to help her with her book. I enjoyed her company; she is a fine woman. It’s a real shame what happened to her.”
“You know what happened to her?” Evaira asked.
“No,” Maya said, “but I had a vision that told me some things.”
“In other words,” Evan said, “she doesn’t know a thing.”
“I do not know much,” Maya said, “my visions are often vague, incomplete, or cryptic. It is very easy for me to misinterpret one; probably the reason there are so many skeptics about psychic abilities.”
As she said the last part, she turned to look at Evan.
“But what can you tell me?” Evaira asked.
“Danger,” Maya said, “she is in danger.”
“What sort of danger?” Evaira asked.
“I am not sure,” Maya said, “it doesn’t appear to be mortal peril, or any immediate danger, but I cannot be certain. What I can be certain of is that you hold the key to saving her.”
“The key?” Evaira asked, “You mean, the diary?”
“Follow the clues in the diary,” Maya said, nodding, “they will lead you to her.”
Evaira took out the diary and showed it to Maya.
“There are a lot of adventures written in the diary,” she said, “can’t you point me to the one I need to look into.”
“I’ve told you all I can,” Maya said, “unless you’d like me to look into your love life. I can do that for five dollars.”
“We’ve heard enough,” Evan said, getting really annoyed and turned to leave the room, “come on, Lu, let’s leave this nut.”
“Only the one with the diary can save her,” Maya said, “but only if she follows the clues.”
“Thank you,” Evaira said, heading out.
The two of them walked toward the exit.
“This was a waste of time,” Evan said, “she’s obviously just playing with you, reading you. I’ve seen those fake TV psychics.”
“I don’t know,” Evaira said, “psychic or not, she does make a good point. The clues in the diary could lead me to her.”
“Then send them to the police,” Evan said, growing increasingly annoyed, “let them handle it. Liza’s been all over the US, and even into a bit of Canada.”
“I can’t,” Evaira said.
“Why not?” Evan asked.
“They’d never understand,” Evaira said.
She couldn’t tell Evan anything more since she was the only person aside from Liza, and the people Liza visited, who knew the truth behind Liza’s stories. Thus, like Maya said, she was the only one who could find her sister. Her mind was made up, she was going to plan a trip to follow Liza’s journeys, and try to find her.
“Then do what you want,” Evan said, having had enough, “but I’ll have no further part of it. Once we get back in town, we’re done.”
Evaira and Evan headed back to town. They did not speak for the whole ride. The next day, Evaira told Layla what she was planning.
“This seems unlike you,” Layla said, “you’ve never been much of a traveler.”
“But I feel I’m the only one who can find her,” Evaira said, “I’ve already made a down payment on an RV.”
“Well,” Layla said, “good luck, then.”
“You don’t think I’ve lost it,” Evaira said, thinking about Evan’s reaction.
“I’m concerned about her too,” Layla said, “and you know her better than anybody. I know you, sister, and I know you won’t do anything foolish.”
“Thanks, Layla,” Evaira said, “I’ll be making the arrangements over the next couple days. I hope to leave by the weekend…”
At this point, Chira interrupted Evaira’s story.
“So, wait,” Chira said, “you’re telling me the whole reason you decided to go on this trip was some fortuneteller’s prediction?”
“No,” Evaira said, “I didn’t just follow Maya’s words. I realized that she was right. I was the only one who knew the truth. I was the only one who could understand the diary. It wasn’t just Maya’s prediction, it was the fact that everything she said made perfect sense. Psychic or not, I knew she was right.”
“When you put it that way,” Chira said, “it does make sense.”
“Right,” Evaira said, “I knew this was what I had to do. Thankfully, most of my family and friends were supportive. They still probably think I’m crazy for doing this, but at least most of them were more understanding than Evan. I mean, Mr. Basilworth even lets me continue my editing job from the road, though I think he may be more interested in recovering one of his bestselling authors than supporting me.”
“You never told me,” Chira said, “What did happen with Evan anyway?”
“Never saw him since,” Evaira said, “he may have been a steady boyfriend of mine for three years, but I’ve moved on.”
“You know,” Chira said, “I think I saw Bill eyeing you in a rather special way. He might just have a crush on you.”
“You think?” Evaira asked.
“Either way,” Evaira said, “I don’t know if I’m ready for another relationship just yet. Anyway, let’s get back to reviewing this story. Now, where were we?”
“Chapter nineteen, page six, paragraph two,” Chira reminded her.
“Right,” Evaira said, picking Liza’s manuscript back up, and continuing to read it. Though she still had bittersweet feelings about reviewing Liza’s last manuscript, she confidently thought to herself that they would find Liza, and get more stories from her then. Evaira and Chira continued to look it over as the RV continued driving down the road.
Author’s Notes (may contain spoilers):
And it’s finally here, I’m posting the first of twelve short stories that make up Evaira, volume two. However, I’ve decided to stagger posting them a bit, so I’ll be posting the first six over the course of the next six weeks, and the remaining six in the spring.
Now, from when I first started Evaira, I knew at some point, I’d want to do a flashback story of Evaira’s life before her search, and the events that led her up to her journey. I figured it would be better to do it sooner rather than later, and with the recent revelation that Liza is indeed alive, it seemed the perfect time.
I originally thought the idea of following a fortune teller may be cliched, and make Evaira look like a nut, which is why I redid it a bit from the usual way. She doesn’t blindly follow what some possibly phony fortuneteller predicts, but rather, listens beyond the predictions, at what they imply, and what they suggest – which Evaira knows to be true. I thought it was an interesting variation on the standard story of somebody blindly following a fortuneteller just because they’re believers.