Titus stood off to the side of the Macy’s department store entrance in New York City, waiting patiently. The foot traffic was heavy going in and out of the famous store, being December with less than two weeks until Christmas. His short, messy beard swayed in the chilly Christmas air as he turned his head to and fro looking for the others. Had he been visible to those around him he could have easily been mistaken for Santa Claus, especially in his red long-sleeved shirt. All he needed was some spectacles.
He gazed anxiously down at his watch. It was five-past twelve in the afternoon when he heard a familiar voice.
“Did you really think I wouldn’t show? Though to be honest, I’m not sure why I’m here. It’s been sixteen years since the Chosen have arrived. I think it’s time we gave up going through the motions.”
Titus smiled warmly at his long-time friend and opened his arms out to him just as a grandfather would to his grandchild. The two men embraced affectionately.
“Asher, it’s been a few weeks. I understand your frustrations, but you know as well as I do that we need to follow the way precisely. Our blood chose us for this job. I know it was easy back in the day when they appeared every year, but real character persists even when things look glum.” Titus frowned with concern. “I do hope she hasn’t given up. It’s almost time, and all three of us need to be present for it to work.” He rubbed his arm around his watch.
Just as Asher was about to reply, a pedestrian walked straight through his body, knocking the wind out of him.
“Argh!” Flashing a peeved look at the offender, Asher barked, “Unbelievable!”
Titus let out a chuckle despite his friend’s grumpy disposition. “It’s hardly their fault, don’t you think? You know they’re unable to see anyone from the Inner Realm.” Asher brushed his shirt off as though he could brush off the unwelcome collision.
“They could choose to see me if they wanted to. What a waste of potential.”
Titus laughed again. “That’s highly unlikely. I don’t know of a single account where an Outer has chosen to see of their own will.”
Asher moved closer to the wall to ensure he was well and truly out of the way. “What I was going to say, before that moron ran into me, is that I’m certain Liora will be here. My sister has a knack for cutting it close, but I know she’s eager for today. I spoke to her yesterday. She told me she had a dream they appeared. Didn’t say what it was exactly, only that she had a feeling today would be special. I personally don’t know what to make of that. We both know Liora’s no seer, but I want to believe she’s right. Us Watchers laying low year after year isn’t exactly my idea of a thrilling existence.”
Right when Titus was about to give up, he heard a bang from behind Asher. Asher was an extremely tall man with an athletic build, so it was hard for Titus to see what was going on behind him. All Titus could get a glimpse of was trash flying in all directions. A ketchup-covered hamburger wrapper ended up landing and sticking to the top of Asher’s short light brown hair.
Seething, he hollered out again, “Outers!”
From behind he heard another loud clang, the sound of the trashcan tipping over as Liora popped out from behind it. “No, you can’t blame this one on them unfortunately. You could have moved the trash can for me.”
He pulled the wrapper off his head. “You’re cutting it a bit close for someone who’s so certain this year’s finally 'the one'.”
She shook off the trash from her skirt and kicked it aside. “Nonsense. I have impeccable timing–with two minutes to spare I might add.”
“You nearly gave Titus here a heart attack. Try and be more respectful next time.” Asher took out a handkerchief from his jean pocket and wiped the ketchup out of his hair.
Titus leaned in closer towards them, attempting to gain their full attention. “I’m just glad you’re here now. We should get into our positions or we’ll miss the year’s only opportunity. It’s nearly 12:12.”
About a foot from where they were standing—on the sidewalk by the wall of the Macy’s building—was a sewage lid. It was an unlikely but significant meeting point. The foul-smelling steam that emanated from the lid usually ensured the location was free of passersby. Unfortunately, an aloof teenager listening to music was standing precisely where the trio needed to be, with only ninety seconds to spare.
Without wasting precious time Titus, Asher, and Liora knelt and placed their right hands on the side of the sewer lid opposite to the oblivious, young teenager humming away. A small surge of power sprang from the lid and the teen stumbled back, his face twisted in shock. His feet tangled and he tumbled to the ground, landing flat on his back. The Watchers felt pity for him. They could see how traumatized he looked, but they didn’t have the luxury of time to feel empathy for long.
It was not the custom of the Watchers from the Inner Realm to interfere with the Outers and it was definitely out of character for them to intervene in a manner that caused pain. But time was running out and they needed access to the lid; it was crucial if they were going to meet their deadline. With forty seconds to spare, the three gathered around the sewer lid and one by one took out a small piece of metal from under their coats. As they did, the metal objects increased in size. Each looked like an odd-shaped puzzle piece the color of rust.
Titus bent down first, laying his piece carefully on top of the sewer lid. Next, Asher knelt, still wary of his surroundings, lest someone else should walk through them and disrupt the ritual. His piece fit snugly next to Titus’s, leaving one last gap. Liora quickly laid down her piece. In an instant the pieces became whole and enlarged to encompass the entire lid. Where moments before the sewer lid had been, now a new lid lay inscribed with ancient script. They stood to their feet, intently looking at their watches.
At precisely 12:12, in unison the three Watchers looked down at the lid and in a loud, assertive tone said in unison, “We command the porthole between the realms to open!”
Immediately the sewer lid gave way and a circular gaping hole now stood in the middle of the walkway. No light or color could be seen through the hole, only a black abyss that seemed to lead endlessly to nowhere.
Deflated, Asher looked away. “Lifeless as ever. I was really hoping there was something to Liora’s dream, but it looks like we have another year of mindless activities ahead of us.”
Unlike Asher, Liora and Titus did not dare move their gaze from the hole. Something deep inside compelled them to stay fixed in position, unwavering in their faith that this year would be different. Without shifting his gaze, Titus responded to Asher’s defeated stance.
“With all respect my friend, now is not the time for you to give way to disappointment. You of all people know to be on guard against the schemes of the dark realm to distract your mind. Focus on the light. Envision it and it just might come.”
“I’m with Titus on this,” Liora added in agreement. “The light is trying to come. Something’s about to happen, I can feel it. You need to focus your mind on what's about to happen instead of what hasn’t happened over the last sixteen years.”
Despite himself Asher willed his eyes to look deep into the blackness. Whilst his mind intended to spout out the low odds that this year would be any different to the prior sixteen, something grabbed hold of him deep in his gut. Small flickers of light began to appear. With each tiny spark, hope welled up and his negative thoughts slowly started to dissipate. Purpose and vision began to override the pessimism that had crept in during sixteen years of waiting and disappointment.
What Asher did next surprised everyone—including himself. A laugh he couldn’t contain welled up deep within and bubbled out. It wasn’t just any laugh, it was the kind of laugh that takes over the soul. He found that once he started he was unable to stop, nor did he want to. It felt good. He knew this laugh had meaning and it wasn’t long before Liora and Titus couldn’t help but join in.
“There’s the Asher I know and love. It’s been a long time my friend.” Asher beamed with anticipation. He knew the power that came with this laugh and now when he looked he did so expectantly.
With all three gazing intently on the black hole, something began to shift. The hole was no longer black; it had turned a dark shade of purple.
“Do you see that? I knew it, I just knew it!” squealed Liora. Then a wind picked up, sending her long, blonde hair in a tangled mess around her.
Asher stopped laughing and pointed. “Look! It’s changing colors again. Now it’s blue. This is really happening.”
The hole didn’t stay blue for long. It was shifting colors at such a rapid pace now that it was hard to make out which color was actually presenting itself. Within thirty-seconds the hole became iridescent and each of the Watchers knew what that meant. They all backed away expectantly. The wind morphed from heavy to violent and just when they thought their bodies wouldn’t be able to sustain its force any longer it completely stopped and all was still.