Worlds Apart
by
Stephen B. Pearl


a paranormal, modern fantasy, romance
novel.


Rated NC17, adult - some explicit sexuality.


Published by Dark Dragon Publishing in trade paper back and e-book.


ISBN-13: 978-0987972682, ISBN-13: 978-0987972699.


Location: UK - Bakewell, Peak District National Park, Derby, and Avebury, England.


Worlds Apart book cover - paranormal romance novel
Worlds Apart Chapter 1

Worlds Apart Chapter 2 Reviews


Chapter 2
A Day in the Life


     If you'd packed your bag last night, like I told you, you wouldn't be so rushed this morning." Alcina stood by the door of her one-bedroom, walk-up flat watching her blond-haired, eight-year-old son race through his morning routine.


     The boy turned large blue eyes on her and smiled. "You say that every morning."


     "Because you never pack your bag the night before. Now hurry up or you'll miss Mrs. Irving." Alcina absently replaced some of the books that had migrated from her bookshelf onto the coffee table.


     "You could drive me?" Tim hid his grin by focusing on the books he was stuffing in his rucksack.


     "Timothy Falkner Lewis Woodgrove, if you think I'm going to chauffeur you to school you have another think coming."


     Tim rolled his eyes. "Yes, mother."


     #


     "You have your lunch money?"


     "Yes."


     "Good, try buying lunch with it this time. No comics!"


     "Mum!" Tim zipped up his rucksack and ran for the door. He stopped long enough for his mother to bend down and receive a kiss on the cheek before exiting into a short hall that led to a flight of stairs.


     "I could walk you," called Alcina with a mock serious expression as Tim started down the stairs.


     "That's embarrassing." Tim vanished and Alcina crossed her living room, taking a minute to straighten the covers on the fold-out couch she slept on and fold it in. Throwing the seat cushions into place emptied the room's other chair and then she moved to the window. Looking out at the street, she watched Tim join a group of other kids escorted by Mrs. Irving, a plump, middle-aged woman. Mrs. Irving noticed Tim and waved at the window where Alcina stood before continuing on her way.


     "Well, that's done!" Alcina walked to the kitchen and loaded the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher, wiped down the small, arborite table, and then sat on a chrome kitchen chair and extracted her appointment list from a battered briefcase.


     "Reading, Reading, Reiki, Shiatsu. Herbal follow up. Lunch. Reading, Herbal assessment, Reading with Jo-Ann. Woman just make up your mind if you want to be with a man or a woman and stop pestering me to tell you how to live! Oh well, twenty pounds is twenty pounds," Alcina smiled. "I should tell her to find a woman who likes both and a man with lots of stamina, solve everybody's problem and make some lucky bloke's day." She sighed. "The cards will say what they say. Light afternoon, maybe I'll get a walk in to round it out." Her gaze slipped to her latest attorney's bill, which stood in a letter-holder shaped like an owl in the middle of her table. "I hope so! Carl is costing me a fortune. Prick! If you cared about Tim you wouldn't be trying to bankrupt his mother!" She stuffed the schedule into her briefcase.


     Sighing, she poured coffee into a travel mug and finished off the remains of a bagel with jam. "What I wouldn't give for a self-operating kitchen, like in the Disney films."


     Carrying briefcase and coffee, she moved into the living room and inspected herself in the full-length mirror that graced the door to Tim's bedroom. She'd dressed in a colourful, peasant skirt and blouse combination, with an excess of gaudy, cheap jewellery.


     "Give them what they expect and they keep coming back. Gods, what I wouldn't give to wear a nice business ensemble to work!" Turning, she made her way to the door and left the apartment.


     #


     Markus stood in front of his first class of the day. All three hundred seats of the many-tiered lecture-hall were full. The crystal sun-globe hanging from the ceiling lit the room.


     Gods, I'll be glad when the department gets another junior. I hate teaching Mystic Manipulation 101, he thought as he scanned the first row of faces. One stood out, a beautiful girl of Asian descent dressed in a tight, red T-shirt that showed her braless breasts to advantage and a miniskirt that exposed all of her muscular, smooth-skinned legs. As he watched she uncrossed her legs revealing that she wore nothing under the skirt.


     Markus swallowed and forced himself to focus on her beautiful face. She smiled and winked.


     She's nineteen and she's a student. You'd just be a trophy. "Very well class, it's time to start, so if I may have your attention."


     The class settled except for a gaggle of girls at the back of the room.


     "Today we are going to further explore the nature of the psison particle, which as we discussed earlier is the source of all magical force. It also holds the electron fixed in the atomic structure, so it cannot leave its atom and travel through inter-molecular space. Thus atoms can only compound with atoms when the spheres of their molecular influences intersect. Atomic stability is otherwise maintained. An easy way to conceptualize this is to look at the macrocosmic scale. If our solar system was an atom it could only combine with solar systems, atoms, whose sphere of influence, defined by where the solar wind is balanced by the interstellar wind, over lapped with our own system's sphere of influence.


     "As the solar wind defines the border of our solar system so the atomic reaction sphere is similarly defined by forces emerging form the nucleus of the atom." The inane babble at the back of the room persisted. Markus smiled and continued his lecture.


     "The mobility of psisons and the ability of the trained will to affect them, and through them material structures, allows the mystical sciences to exist and gives us the standard of living we enjoy today." He listened with half an ear to the babble, biding his time.


      "Many material effects can be achieved by focusing the will such as--" Markus gestured with his hand. "Ken is so cute and have you seen him in a swim suit. His package is huge. I'd like to--" Blasted across the lecture room.


     A dark-haired girl at the back of the lecture-hall went red in the face while the girls around her looked horrified. The rest of the class laughed.


     "--amplification," continued Markus. "Ladies, while I can see how Ken's attributes might be of more interest to you than the subject matter, I do not insist you come to class. I do ask however, that if you do come, you do nothing to distract your fellow students or their instructor." He smiled at the beautiful Asian in the front row as a guffaw spread through the room.


     "You didn't have to--"


     Markus made another motion with his hand and the dark-haired girl went silent. "This is not a debate, your fellow students came here to learn, and I will continue my class. If you come down after the lecture, I will restore the tension in your vocal cords. If you do not, the spell should wear off in a day or two. Personally, I wouldn't come down if I were you. Being silent is probably a totally new experience, you should savour it." Markus smiled. The Asian in the front row blushed and closed her legs. Markus nodded at her then continued his lecture.


     #


     Alcina focused on the cards in the centre of her Celtic-cross, tarot spread. The Empress reversed sat in the middle representing the present. The Devil card lay across the present card signifying the nature of the problem. The older woman that sat across from her wearing an austere dress and sour expression shouted.


     "I am nothing like that! It's all the fault of that tramp my son married. She hates me for no reason!"


     "If you want someone to tell you what you want to hear, go to a fraud. I'm telling you what the cards say. You dominate and abuse the people closest to you and believe you are always right. As a result your son and daughter-in-law don't want you in their lives. The good news is you can fix this. You can back off and let them live their own life without criticizing, and--"


     "You don't know your business," The old lady snarled.


     Alcina started tidying up the spread.


     "What are you doing?"


     "I assume you will be utilizing my, 'Satisfaction or you don't pay' option? As such, I don't see why I should put up with being abused for nothing." Alcina fixed her client with an icy gaze.


     The old woman held against that glare for five seconds before she looked away.


     "No, please. Martha said you weren't like the others, that you weren't all feel good. Please, I'll pay, I promise, just finish the reading. I...I miss my grandson."


     "Fine, but this is how I read. I tell you what you can do to make things better. I don't do the 'tall, dark, handsome stranger' and I'm damn suspicious of anyone who does."


     The woman nodded and pulled a twenty pound note out of her purse. "In advance."


     "It's not how I normally do business, but if you like." Alcina took the bill then returned the cards to their places in the spread. "You see to my left your right of the present card, that's the past position. You have the Queen of Swords reversed. A very dominant woman sought to oppress you. Probably told you." The words seemed to echo in Alcina's mind and her voice became sneering. "You are a stupid girl! You do nothing right! Why I even bother! I am only glad your father didn't live to see what a waste you are!"


     The old lady gasped and tears sprang to her eyes. "How could you know that? Those exact words. How?"


     Alcina gave a half smile and gestured at the tarot cards.


     "Sweet Jesus, you are for real! My father died in the war before I was born. It was hard for my mother. She lost her temper sometimes, that's all. I..."


     Alcina had the key now, the root of problems that had plagued the woman's whole life was exposed and now healing could begin. She took her client's hand and said, "It wasn't your fault."


     Half an hour and many tears later Alcina helped the old woman to her feet.


     "Martha was right, you are everything she said you were. Mary bless you, dear. You have a gift. I'll try not to criticize so much." The client dabbed at the last of her tears.


     "Be gentle with yourself. You're changing a pattern you've had all your life."


     "I'd like to book another appointment."


     Alcina nodded. "I think that's a good idea. Next time we should focus on life skills. Knowing what the disease is is a start, but you have to have the right medicine."


     Several minutes later Alcina settled behind her cards with a cup of tea. Shuffling the deck she picked cards at random.


     The Knight of Swords; a champion to defend her in her need. The Magician; determination, will, magic. The Chariot; a force that breaks through all boundaries, possibly travel, and finally the Lovers.


     She stared at the cards. "Three Major Acarina in four cards. Something big is coming. Or maybe it's just wishful thinking. Only a master or a fool reads for themselves. Girl, with the mess your life is in, you sure aren't any kind of a master."


     #


     Markus flicked his wrist, restoring the dark-haired girl's voice then turned to face the beautiful Asian.


     "Professor I..." The girl blushed prettily. "Thank you for not making me your example."


     Markus smiled, he had done a quick scan of the class list and been able to match a name to her face. "You were only distracting me, not the class, Sue." "You found me distracting?" A coy note entered Sue's voice.


     Markus sighed and his voice took on a fatherly tone. "Any hetero-sexual male with a pulse would find you distracting. And Susan, you don't need blatant, cheap and untoward displays to have that effect."


     Sue's smile lit the lecture hall. "I'm so glad you feel that way. I think you're pretty distracting too, and well..." She bit her lip.


     Markus clapped down on a variety of urges that would definitely be frowned on by the faculty. "Why don't we talk about this later? Possibly in three years, once you graduate and are no longer a danger to my career."


      "Oh." She sounded disappointed.


     Markus's voice lightened. "Reality sucks, doesn't it? If this were another time and place, I would be most interested in getting to know you, please believe that. You are lovely. Now, I suggest you go find a fellow student who has eyes and a pulse, and I'll get back to my humdrum life."


     Sue smiled a little shyly. "Thank you, Professor Tep, for everything." Tugging her skirt lower, she ascended the steps to the room's exit.


     Markus watched her leave and sighed. "Three years isn't that long a wait."


     "Another broken heart? Why don't I ever get students like that?" A plump man of maybe forty with thinning, sandy-blond hair stepped down from the stacked rows of seats.


     "Maybe because eighty percent of mechanical engineering students are male. So have you finally escaped the clutches of the dreaded senior faculty meeting, or is the great Professor Wilbur Bell here to escort me to my doom?" Markus stacked his lecture notes and slipped them into a briefcase.


     Wilber nervously fingered the wide belt covered in tool holsters that girthed his waist. "We need to talk, and don't be a smart ass. I'm doing you a favour. Your last paper on chaos magic so obviously had new research that this time they're not just talking about a school censure. You could be charged with acts of terrorism."


     Markus focused his full attention on the shorter man and lowered his voice. "The ban is asinine. You can't fix something if you don't understand what's wrong with it. The war scared everyone silly, but we can't afford to bury our heads in the sand. We have to--"


     "Not here!" Wilbur pulled off his glasses and cleaned them on the hem of his black tunic.


     "Why so nervous?"


     "I'm not nervous." Wilber put his glasses back on and began smoothing the line of the loose trews he wore.


     "You always fidget with things when you're nervous. Don't worry. I've blocked all spy spells in a ten meter radius of me."


     Wilber glanced at his hands as if they were alien creatures then clasped them in front of himself. "There are other ways to listen to a conversation. Trust me, I designed some of them when I worked for the Defence Department. Come with me to my lab." Wilbur started up the stairs revealing a pronounced limp. A metal brace encased his left leg.


     "You've improved the design." Markus gestured to the leg brace.


     "It's twenty percent more mobile than the old unit. One day I may even get rid of the limp." Topping the stairs they exited the lecture hall and stepped into a wide hallway with grey stone walls and floor. The floor had groves worn into it from hundreds of years of passing feet.


     "How's the other project?"


     "I'll be ready when you are."


     "Good." Markus slowed his gait so as not to outdistance his friend as they walked towards the building's exit. Students walked, or in some cases hovered, by them as they moved.


     "They're doing sustainable yield exercises in the year two class already?" Markus sounded incredulous.


     "Professor Williams likes to start them early."


     Markus let his gaze linger on the rounded curve of a small-busted redhead's buttocks as she floated by.


     Wilbur noted the direction of his friend's gaze. "You are half a step away from being a lech, you know?"


     "What can I say, I like the body type." Without breaking stride Markus swept his hand out in a fluid motion just as the redhead plummeted face first towards the floor. A wave of force caught her. She rose into the air then settled gently onto her feet.


     "Remember what it felt like just before you fell, that will be your warning that you're running low on energy." Markus spoke as he walked by the girl.


     "Rach, are you all right?" gasped a young man that ran to the girl's side.


     "I'm fine. Thank you, Professor Tep."


     Markus waved as the two students walked off arm in arm.


     "This school needs you. Most of the Profs wouldn't have caught that she was running dry."


     "If she hadn't had such a stellar backside, I probably wouldn't have either," Markus grinned.


     "Right? Speaking of stellar backsides, Debby dropped in on me last--"


     "Don't!" Markus stopped dead in his tracks and glared at Wilbur.


     Wilbur swallowed hard before continuing in soothing tones. "She only wants to talk."


     "Well, I have an opening at high noon tomorrow. We'll have a picnic, just like old times." Markus scowled and started walking with less care to his friend's ability to keep up.


     Doing a kind of hop jog, Wilbur regained Markus's side. "She regrets what she did. She was young and--"


     "She's not getting any older."


     "You could at least hear her out. It has worked for some people."


     Markus stopped and glared at Wilbur. "She dumped me. I was away for six months doing my wizard's research, and it was too much to ask her to wait. She took up with that... that..." Markus's hands clenched into fists his face turning red with rage.


     "All it really means is you have to rearrange your schedule and your way of thinking. Lots of people have made the adjustment. With some flexibility and understanding two people who love each other can make it wo--"


     "One person. You know what they're like, feeding and sex, all tied up together. I'm no one's food! As to the other, I don't like to share. She let that thing feed on her. Let it infect her. Why am I even talking about this? It's ancient history."


     "Then why haven't you lasted more than three months with any woman since?" Wilbur took Markus's arm and moved him towards the door. Several students had stopped to watch the exchange.


     "She's not a woman! Not anymore. We were going to get married, and then she threw me off for a walking corpse." They passed through a set of double doors into daylight.


     "Quiet. You know the rules about political correctness on campus. They're alternative life." Wilbur's gaze swept over the university grounds with its manicured lawns, well-spaced trees and paths.


     "Vampire, nosferatu, undead, blood sucking animated corpses!" bellowed Markus. "There, I've said it! Let the sky fall in. I've used the language correctly. The woman I loved threw her life away to walk the night with a bloody-mouthed corpse. Then when she got bored, she came flouncing back as if nothing had happened and wanted to turn me into a slab of meat."


     "Even you know that's unfair. Deb's my friend, just like you. I didn't take sides when she left you, I won't take sides now." Wilbur returned Markus's glower with equal heat.


     Markus gritted his teeth. "Is she still with the chaotic zone research project?"


     "Yes. It's only luck that she didn't get caught in the New York disaster. Her team was scheduled for the next incursion."


     "At least something good came of her becoming un--"


     Wilbur glared at Markus.


     "--alternative life. It gave someone who knows something about chaos magic the resistance they needed to study it up close and personal." Forcing a smile, Markus gestured towards an odd device with wheels and a boiler parked by the building's doors. "So have you got the gremlins all worked out of it?"


     Wilbur climbed into the device's single seat and settled himself, motioning for Markus to stand on a platform behind him.


     Markus swallowed and moved reluctantly closer. "You know, a micro-carpet would be a lot easier, and I wouldn't worry about it blowing up."


     "Don't be silly. I haven't had a boiler explode since I put in the over-pressure valves. It's perfectly safe." Wilbur pulled a lever and a crystal pyramid that sat under the boiler began to glow. "Hop on."


     "Do I have to?" Markus eyed the device dubiously.


     "It's safe. I fixed the problem with the steering. I'm using a rack and pinion system on the front wheels and posi-traction on the rear."


     "I haven't lost all the bruises from the last time you said that thing was safe."


     "Hurry up, the boiler is nearing peak pressure. We're going to waste steam if we don't get moving."


     "One or both of us has been sniffing cauldron fumes." Markus climbed aboard the device, stood on the shelf behind the driver and griped the back of the seat.


     With a blast of steam the contraption jerked ahead and sped along a footpath at carpet-like speeds. The sound of pistons slamming back and forth filled the air. Markus grit his teeth, trying to hold in a scream as students jumped out of the way.


     "Can you slow this thing down?" yelled Markus.


     "It will slow as the pressure drops. I'm working on a limiter, but it's not ready yet." Wilbur turned the steering wheel and they shot onto a path leading to the far corner of the university grounds. Students and teachers stopped to stare and shake their heads as the vehicle jolted by. A wheel caught in a rut on the path and the contraption jerked so hard that Markus nearly pulled free of his perch. Wilbur turned to check on his passenger while they continued at full speed towards the mechanical engineering buildings. Wilbur shot Markus a thumbs-up.


     "Sweet Lord Anubis, Lord of travelers, please deliver me from this folly and if to the next world go I must, please take the madman who got me into this as well, I beseech thee," prayed Markus. A sense of relief filled him when he noticed the water gauge on the control panel had bottomed out.


     "Damn! Haven't licked the condenser problem yet. Still, we've a good head of steam and worst comes to worst you can magic us up a rain storm to fill the tanks." Wilbur's shout held a joyous disregard for his and anyone else's safety.


     "Mechanical engineers! Crazy, the whole lot of them!" muttered Markus, his knuckles ached from griping the seat back.


     The car began to slow as they approached the mechanical engineering lab buildings. The thick, stone walls towered up three stories, and the repairs to the roof, where it had last been blown off, were progressing nicely.


     "That's it, just have to coast now," yelled Wilbur as the last of the steam vented through the pistons.


     "Thank you, Lord Anubis." Markus waited until the car rolled to a stop in front of the engineering lab's main door. Then, resisting an urge to kiss the ground, he followed Wilbur into the building.


     #


     Alcina sat at a table for two in a triangular courtyard. A low stone wall separated one side from the street while a pub and the Bakewell Tart Shop formed the other two walls. Across the street the auto parts and pet food store was doing a brisk trade.


     "Then the Pastor said 'thanks for the hot tips, the Catholic Church is down the block,'" said the woman who sat across the table, her pretty face smiling.


     Alcina chuckled. "Chris, if I told that one, people would call me a bigot."


     Chris smiled wider revealing white, even teeth that contrasted with her light coffee skin. Her short, kinky hair poked out from beneath the wide-brimmed, woven hat she wore.


     "It's alright to make fun of yourself. What was that one you told me? What does a witch on a motorbike sound like?" Chris smoothed the line of the colourful, summer dress she wore over her slender frame.


     "Broom Broom Broom," finished Alcina and they both laughed.


     Alcina speared some of her salad and started eating.


     "Seriously now, how are things going?" Chris touched Alcina's hand across the table.


     Alcina swallowed. "Seriously, not good. Carl's solicitor has everything tied up with motions and counter motions. He even tried to get me deported, but that fell apart pretty quickly. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to afford this. With his Church backing him, Carl could bankrupt me."


     "Look sweetie, I've got a little put aside if it comes to it..."


     Alcina squeezed her friend's hand. A nondescript man two tables over shifted something under a large, cloth napkin.


     "I can't take your money. I don't know when I could pay it back." Alcina released her grip and took another bite of salad. Silence reigned for nearly a minute.


     Forcing a grin, Alcina asked, "So how's the new pastor?"


     Chris blushed. "Gorgeous and single. Church attendance is up thirty percent, all single women."


     "And?"


     Chris's blush deepened. "And he asked me to co-chaperone the teen dance he's holding at the Church this Friday."


     "That's great."


     "It might be. Me, him and forty adolescents. Oh, it's a dream come true." Chris sounded sarcastic.


     "It's a start." Alcina took a swallow from her pint mug.


     "Yeah. You know, Roger -that's his name- might be able to help you." Chris speared some chips off her plate and chewed thoughtfully.


     "How?" Alcina glanced skyward as the sun emerged from the clouds to beam into the courtyard.


     "I've talked to him about you. I mean, I hope you don't mind, you're out of the broom closet so I didn't see the harm. He's read about Wicca and respects it as just another faith. Maybe if you met him, let him get to know you, he could testify. An Anglican Minister speaking on behalf of a Wiccan Priestess would have to carry some weight."


     "You land him first then I'll think about it." Alcina glanced at her watch. "Goddess, I better hurry, or I'll be late back to the office." She began shovelling her salad into her mouth.


     "You sure you don't want to split a Bakewell tart?" Chris started tucking into her own food.


     "Mumm mumm," Alcina swallowed. "Kimberly isn't my type."


     Chris snorted. "You're awful!"


     The two women laughed then focused on their food. Minutes later they stood on the street outside the courtyard.


     "Bye, and thanks for being a friend," said Alcina.


     "No charge," countered Chris.


     The two women hugged and kissed each other's cheeks. Unnoticed, the nondescript man stood nearby with his coat draped over his arm. Sunlight glinted off something he kept pointed at the two women.



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