Bailey’s fingers, being the only part of him exposed to the outside, were the coldest part of his body. They were gripping the hood of his cloak and pulling it as far down as he could, hiding the rest of him from the fog settling over the forest like a bad omen. He liked the shadow the hood cast on his face, it hid him from unseen horrors that could be lurking around any corner, behind any tree...
His pace sped up in response to the thought. With every step he was reminded of how long he had been walking. Wondering absently how far away he was he realized he didn’t care, he got out, he was free.
Surely that was all that mattered?
No. He was not going to think about it now, or hopefully ever.
“Hhhhhhello gggood sssir!” A raspy whisper echoed through the forest sounding as if it came from everywhere at once. With a gasp and a slip of fingers the hood fell from Bailey’s face and a gust of wind curled around his newly exposed skin.
“W-who goes there?” The question was useless, the answer was staring at him right in the face.
“Mmme,” A pair of piercing blue eyes shone through a veil of fog like lasers. He inhaled sharply and stumbled backwards tripping over the hem of his cloak, heart pounding in his chest.
“Nnno nneed tto bbe-oh shit I still have the voice changer on, this is a terrible first impression,” The fog evaporated, unraveling like yarn to reveal the form behind it.
It was unmistakably human. An oval-shaped face with blue eyes, caramel hair and freckles on a tall, lanky body covered in an outfit similar to Bailey’s, a black cloak reaching his ankles with the hood flipped back from his face.
“Like I was saying, no need to be alarmed,” he smiled politely, and gestured towards Bailey’s frozen form on the ground, “My name is Malcolm,”
Bailey stared at Malcolm with wide eyes, unsure of what to say. It was safe to say that he was relieved, Malcolm did not seem too dangerous.
Malcom cocked his head to the side curiously, “Ok,” He said softly more to himself than to Bailey. Malcolm hesitated a moment before speaking again, “At least tell me your name,”
There was something about the eager glint in his eye that made Bailey’s mouth open and his next word spill out, “Bailey,”
Bailey thought he saw a flash of something across Malcolm’s face, hunger maybe? But it vanished. Bailey must have imagined it.
“Sorry for scaring you, Bailey,” A chill raced down
Bailey’s spine when he said his name, “It was just a voice changer and some special effects, you never know who might show up,” He laughed to himself, and dropped his hands to his side.
“It’s ok, I’m...jumpy,” Bailey stood up, surprised at the sudden wave of confidence he had. He felt numb almost, as if everything that had happened that night was like energy surging through a circuit that finally fried.
His eyes were flickering to Malcolm’s expecting a response when he realized how truly pretty Malcolm was. He wasn’t sure if it was the strong line of his cheekbones or the fact that his eyes still managed to glow in the impossibly darkness of the woods, but there was something pleasant about his face.
“So where are you from?” His voice flowed like honey.
“Prussia,” Bailey replied. He could tell him where he was from just not why he was here. He threw up a mental wall to shield himself from the memories. Grasping the flap of his hood he pulled it back over his face and continued walking in the same direction ignoring the strange character that Malcolm was.
“That’s quite a ways away, may I ask what you are doing here?” Bailey heard the sound of footsteps as Malcolm turned to follow him. Why?
I could ask you the same thing, Bailey thought choosing his words carefully, “I’m looking for someone, someone who can help me,”
“Well you found them,”
A pause, “What do you mean?”
“What?” Bailey whipped around and locked eyes with Malcolm. Malcolm suddenly smiled, a sly sort of grin. A spare shard of light caught in his teeth, the glint making him look menacing.
“That’s who you're here for, right?”
His brain was slowly dethawing. Thoughts whizzed around like loose bees. They all started with one word; how. “How-”
“Do I know?” He smiled at the ground, “Your not the only one to come here for them,
your not that-”
“Take me to them,”
“Follow me, good sir,”
Bailey was unsure if he was afraid. The emotions he felt he could list on one hand. There was curiosity, determination, excitement...and then there were others he couldn’t name; a strange warmth in his chest, a buzz, and another one. This one was darker with equal parts of anxiety and distress, but not quite fear. Turning over these thoughts in his head, he followed close behind Malcolm who was leading him-
Wait where was he leading him?
In other words, freedom.
A few phrases slipped through his mental defenses.
Find The Attendant, free yourself from this war and bloodshed.
Prince Bailey! Thank God you're here.
Prince Bailey, where are you going?
Bailey inhaled sharply, throwing the mental wall back up and focusing instead on his surroundings.
He noticed one thing in particular, the path they were walking on was getting narrower. The trees were moving closer together, a once clear path was now riddled with turns. Bailey found himself having to stare at the ground to avoid tripping over something. That was why he ended up running into Malcolm who had stopped walking.
“We’re here,” Malcolm said.
The weight of that statement crashed down on Bailey, “We are?”
Malcolm didn’t reply, instead he weaved his way between two trees, Bailey following close behind. They emerged into a field. Stars shone in the sky with no canopy of leaves to hide them and illuminated particles of dirt that swirled through the open area carried by the constant breeze. Bailey’s eyes followed the motion and he saw just how massive the circular clearing was. It was lined with the shadows of trees standing like silent soldiers in the darkness guarding a surface in the middle which at first glance could have been glass, a tiny pond.
His observations were suddenly disrupted by a flash of motion, a flying arm headed for his face. Bailey reacted, falling backwards like limbo and landing on his wrist. He turned onto his side and swung his legs and felt the oof of impact as they hit someone, Malcolm.
Bailey stood, shocked.
“Perfect,” Malcolm cooed, standing up also, “You can fight,”
“Of course I can,” Bailey hissed, “What was that for?”
“I need to be sure The Attendant isn’t switching with a coward,”
“Isn’t that what you came for? To ‘escape your life’”
Yes. “What’s ‘switching’ got to do with anything?”
“Isn’t it obvious? The Attendant takes your place and you take theirs,”
“Think about it,” Malcolm whispered, he shuffled closer to Bailey, eyes boring into his, “No longer feeling trapped by society, by your job,” He laughed darkly, “I don’t think I can call it a job, it’s more of a prison, a trap,”
Bailey went rigid, focusing on keeping a firm grip on the mental block he had.
“Imagine,” Malcolm said, “leaving all that behind,” somehow Malcolm was even closer, “Living freely, what you have wanted to do your whole life,”
No no no no….Bailey could feel his hold on the wall loosening and memories slipping
through the cracks.
Prince we’re in a time of war.
“Being able to do whatever,”
Prince, what do we do now?
“To be with whoever,”
“And most importantly,”
PRINCE! The wall shattered like glass, and he was standing in his father’s throne room.
“Bailey,” his father said, “Where were you? The kingdom needs you,” Bailey stared at his father. He had heard many people comment on how similar the two looked, he never could see it. They might have had the same long blond hair, the same green eyes, the same crinkle in their eyes and dimples when they smiled...but his features were hardened with a rage that Bailey never hoped to see in himself, “I’m here now,”
“We’re in a time of war, Prince,” Bailey’s father was the only one to use his title as a weapon, “There’s no time for dilly-dallying,” He turned around, his hunter green cloak billowing in a non-existent wind, “Get out there and be the son that I will be proud to call my own,”
Bailey unlocked his muscles and stumbled to the door.
One hour later Bailey was sprinting through a forest his own tears, the tail end of his fathers cloak and one interaction he couldn’t seem to shake flying in the wind behind him.
Find The Attendant, free yourself from this war and bloodshed.
“STOP!” Heart racing and breathing hard Bailey collapsed to the ground, “I-I’ll do it!”
Bailey’s eyes flew open and was met with a pair of blue ones. When he fell he hadn’t hit the ground, he landed in Malcolm’s arms who was now propping up on one knee, his face uncomfortably close.
His circuit was no longer fried, it was simply gone, blown to pieces, “Get The Attendant,”
Bailey wondered if his mouth even formed the words, and if he did say it he couldn’t hear it over the roar of his thoughts. He must have said it, for Malcolm smiled and replied, “I’m here,”
Malcolm is The Attendant, this piece of information could make his was into his brain, “Your The Attendant?” He mumbled.
“Not for long,”
“Wh-” he couldn’t finish his sentence and was stopped forcefully by Malcolm’s lips. He kissed him.
Dddon’t fffight iit. This was no voice changer.
And this was no kiss.
Bailey’s eyes slid closed, not by choice. The energy he had in his body, the control he once contained over his limbs were being sucked to the center of his body, by Malcolm. His arms and legs went limp, his eyes rolling back into his skull.
There were no thoughts to distract him now.
Only one demand.
Fight. This demand was impossible to meet. Bailey no longer had control over anything, he was simply a ball of energy floating in the center of his own body. Cause it
That was when it clicked.
Bailey was a soul.
Yyyou fffigured iiit ooout…tttoo lllate.
Whoosh. There was an instant of time where if felt like he was plummeting through
empty air, and then it was calm.
Then his eyes snapped open
For one second, Bailey thought he was staring at his father. The figure had the same long blond hair, the same green eyes, the same crinkle in their eyes and dimples when they smiled…The one difference that alerted him that this was not his father was the fact that his father was dead.
This wasn’t Bailey’s father, it was Bailey.
It was like looking in a warped mirror except the only alteration was an added glint of malice in his green eyes.
That’s when it hit him.
Switching. They had swapped bodies.
He scrambled across the floor, tripping over himself and reached the pond’s edge and peered in. An oval-shaped face with glistening blue eyes, caramel hair and freckles. A firm cheekbone and a certain pleasantness to the face. The rest was hidden in a long black cloak. He was in the same body that lead him through the woods, with the same face that had lured him in, with the same lips that-
“W-what did you do to me?” Bailey’s voice flowed like honey. Hands that weren’t his pushed him up onto legs that he didn’t own. A face that felt foreign to him turned back at the figure.
“What did I do?” He heard his own voice hiss, “Why I set you free, good sir,”