Category Archives: Klista

Brent Thomas: World Scout

Read the first part of this story, See the World Through a Cardboard Tube! or read the other stories about Klista here.


A gust of wind blew down the street, knocking a battered circle of cardboard out from behind Brent’s glasses. He dove for it and managed to grab it before it blew into the gutter.

“What is that, like a monocle?” a voice said. Brent turned around to a young woman standing behind him. She was holding a stack of books, evidently on her way to class.

“It’s nothing,” Brent said, closing his fingers gently over the cardboard circle.

“I’ve seen you around before, with that thing propped up behind your glasses. You always seem to be walking around in your own little world. You look happy.”

Brent nodded awkwardly, just hoping she would leave. Instead, she stuck out her hand. “I’m Desiree, by the way.”

“Brent Thomas,” he said, shaking her hand. “You probably think I’m weird. Is it really obvious? The cardboard?” He indicated the circle in his hand.

“Not unless someone looks at you closely,” she said with a smile. “Are you busy? Can I buy you some coffee?”

“Um, sure,” Brent said. “That’d be great.”

They started walking down the leaf-scattered path towards the university coffee shop. “So,” Desiree said, “why do you wear that circle under your glasses? Is it just to be weird?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Brent said.

“Try me.” He just smiled and shook his head.

Desiree dropped the subject and they chatted over their coffee about their majors and school life. Brent liked her and he asked her out the next weekend. They started seeing each other regularly. A month after the windy day when they had met, the two of them were curled up on the couch in Brent’s townhouse, watching TV.

“Do you trust me?” Desiree asked suddenly.

“Of course,” Brent said. “What’s up?”

“Tell me, why do you wear that cardboard circle under your glasses? You don’t do it when you’re with me, but when I’ve run into you, I’ve seen it. You always take it out as soon as you can. What is it?”

“I’ll tell you, but you still won’t believe me,” Brent said. “It lets me see into other worlds.” He saw her expression and preempted her next question. “Look, I can’t explain it—it’s like magic or something. When I was in middle school, this van came to my school and a man and woman said they had a cardboard tube that let you see into other worlds. A few other people tried it and swore they saw strange and amazing things through the tube. Later, I found out that the woman had paid them to say that. The thing is, when I looked inside, I really saw into another world. The woman let me keep the tube. I used to spend hours looking through it—you could not imagine the things I’ve seen. Anyway, I tried cutting a thin slice off the end of the tube and that still worked. That’s what it is.”

Desiree was frowning slightly, as if thinking. “You’re kind of scaring me,” she said at last. Then, “Can I see?”

“Yeah, I guess, as long as you promise not to tell anyone else. Be careful with it.” Brent pulled out a small metal case and gingerly handed the cardboard circle to Desiree. She put it up to her eye and then hit him on the arm.

“You are so full of it.”

“Why? What do you see?” he asked.
“I see you and the rest of the room, of course.” She flipped it around. “Still just you.”

“Give it to me.” Brent put it up to his eye. Desiree and the living room disappeared. In front of him was a dark sky with stark mountains looming up as far as he could see. Fountains of glittering white shot up thousands of feet in the air. In the sky above him wheeled a disc of fiery color unlike anything he had seen before.

He took the circle down from his eye and gave a small laugh. “Well, I guess it’s broken.” She laughed too, gently mocking his weirdness, and turned back towards the TV.

That night, Brent was awakened by his cell phone ringing. When he answered a female voice said, without preamble, “Open your door. Your bell’s broken.”

“Who is this?”

“Just open the door.”

Brent went downstairs and opened the front door. A tall woman with long black hair and a red cloak stood in front of him. She stepped inside before he could react.

“Well, Brent, you’re looking well. How are you?”

Brent stared at her. “Who are you?”

The woman made a noise of irritation. “Didn’t I tell you to remember my name?”

He thought back, trying to remember that name. “Klista? You gave me the cardboard tube, back in middle school. That was five years ago. How did you find me?”

“How could I have lost you? You’re important to my plans, Brent. I see you have been using the tube quite a bit. That’s good. You need the experience.”

“What do you want from me?” Brent said. “You didn’t say back then that there was any catch.” He was about to offer her the tube back, but he stopped himself.

“I see you showed it to someone else recently,” Klista said. “A girl. It didn’t work for her, did it?” She waited for him to nod. “It doesn’t work for anyone, except you. That’s why I need you, Brent. You’re special. Almost no one can see between worlds like you can. It took me a very, very long time to find you back then. You were too young, though, so I thought I’d give you a few years to get used to the extra sight.”

“It shifts from time to time,” Brent said. “The view inside, I mean. It doesn’t always show the same place.”

“The one I gave you was just a passive Gazer,” Klista said. “Dimensions shift in relation to one another over time. The tube just shows what’s closes to you at that moment. But with training, you can see what you want to see, across multiple dimensions. That’s why I want you to come work for me. I need you, Brent, to be my scout. To look across the worlds and see what no one else can see.”

Thoughts rose and fell in Brent’s sleep drugged mind, but all he could say was, “I don’t understand.”

Klista reached over and tapped him on the cheek with her gloved hand. “Wake up, Brent. I’m offering you a job. You will never get an opportunity like this again. You can come back before long, but for right now, come with me and I’ll show you.”

“If is far?” Brent asked. He was wondering what Desiree would think if he suddenly disappeared. Then there were missed classes, angry professors, worried friends…

“Brent,” Klista said, reproach in her voice. “What is distance? Look through the tube. Another world right there in front of you. At least come and see what I have to show you. Then, you if want, come back and keep studying creative writing, making up stories about all the places you weren’t up to visiting yourself.”

“Okay, fine,” Brent said. A thrill of fear and excitement went through him at the idea of actually going to the worlds that he had seen. “Let me go get dressed, at least.”

“I’ll wait here,” she said. “Also, if you have clothes for cold weather, I’d bring those too.”

“Sure.” Brent ran upstairs, his heart pounding.

The Key of Spreading Branches

Read the previous stories about Klista here.



Bruce Riansson hung suspended in an abyss of blackness, a slender rope the only thing keeping him alive. He hated the dark and the oppressive, dead silence that he was forbidden to break. As he valued his life, he could not break it.

He was wearing bulky spectacles over his eyes. They were made to see in the dark but they could do nothing in absolute darkness and he was as blind as if he were not even wearing them. The spectacles were magic, of course. At least that’s what Klista said. Ever since he had joined her and she had whisked him away from Indrake and everything he had known, everything seemed to be magic.

Watch out for the moths, she had said, just before he had descended into the pit. They sense sound. Do not make a sound, or I will have to find another man with your abilities to help me. It was not very comforting.

The shaft had narrowed above and he had been forced to climb through, sweating and praying he would not trip or kick a rock into the chasm. He could hear the rope rubbing on the rock above him now. Scrap, scrap, scrap… It was a tiny sound, but it was magnified in the stillness of the cavern.

What am I doing here? he thought, not for the first time. I used to be an innkeeper. How did I ever get to this point? He remembered every step clearly, but it seemed so unreal—only a few weeks ago he had been a simple innkeeper in Indrake, and now he was breaking into an ultra-secure prison on another world to free a murderous, violent man.

There was a flutter of pale white in the darkness near his head. It was a moth, as big as his hand and faintly luminescent. It was beating its wings slowly, as if time had slowed down. Flap…flap…flap. More appeared around him, coming up from below, until he was surrounded in a cloud of white.

Bruce remained as still as a stone, trying not even to breathe. One of the moths landed on his sleeve and he saw its feet burn tiny holes in the fabric. A small tongue of flame came from its mouth and singed the cloth before it took off.

The moths swirled around him, but most did not seem to notice him. Bruce wondered if they were blind. They continued upwards in a shifting column of white wings until they were lost from sight. What if they were going for the rope?

At that moment, Bruce saw two small lights appear in the darkness in front of him—eyes, glowing brightly green through his spectacles. In their small light, he saw that he was hanging directly in front of a large cage. Inside stood a giant, looking out at him.

The rope shivered slightly. Bruce could imagine those tiny, burning feet walking along his lifeline as the fibers melted and popped. He held out his hand and the giant in the cage reached out towards him. Their outstretched hands were only a few feet apart. Desperately, Bruce swung his body, moving closer and closer until he felt contact and his hand disappeared inside the huge fist of the giant.

As he was being pulled towards the cage, he felt the rope give way above him. There was a jerk on his arm and a second later, he was being forced through the narrow bars of the cage. The giant man put him down and sat back, saying nothing.

Bruce saw now that the man was about eight feet tall, dressed in a dark-grey smock, with long, wild hair. For a moment, the two stood looking at each other until Bruce reached down into his bag and pulled out two circles of metal. He clasped one around his arm and gave the other to the prisoner, motioning for him to do the same. The man took it slowly and then opened it as far as it would go and slipped it onto his wrist.

“Can you hear me?” Bruce said, inside his mind.

“Yes,” came the deep reply, resonating inside Bruce’s mind. “How can I hear you if you not making any sound?”

Magic,” Bruce said with a smile. “Your name is Chirik? I am here to get you out.”

“And who are you?” Chirik asked. “Have the Feyluns sent you here?”

“I do not know who they are,” Bruce said. “I was sent here by a woman named Klista. She wants you to work for her. She said that if you agree, you would be free and would lead an army for her.”

Chirik looked steadily at Bruce and his eyes glowed a little brighter, then dimmed. “I do not know anyone named Klista, and I am a mercenary, not a general. Anyway, there is no way out of here. The bars are unbreakable and the only key to the cell door was destroyed. They pulverized it and blew the dust through the keyhole at me.”

“There is a way,” Bruce said, gingerly pulling out a large, metal key in the shape of a tree with spreading branches. “This key will open any door, Klista said. Put it up to the keyhole and it will do the rest.”

Chirik took the key. It fit inside his palm easily. He put it up to the keyhole and as the key touched the metal of the door, the spreading branches contracted and slipped through the small hole. There was a soft whine and then a loud clunk. Chirik pulled the door open.

“Magic, indeed,” he said through his thoughts. “I have sat here for time uncounted, hungering for a freedom I knew would never come. I would have killed myself if I had had the means, but instead I was left to be tortured in darkness and silence. Is this Klista a sorceress that she could find me here and find a way for me to escape?

“Possibly, but you will have to ask her that,” Bruce said. “She rarely tells me what she is thinking or how she does things, besides saying magic. She also told me to give you this.”

Bruce took out a bundle wrapped in cloth and gave it to Chirik, who unwrapped it. It was a hammer, about a foot long. Chirik held it up and as he did, it grew until it became a huge warhammer, taller than Bruce.

Chirik’s eyes glowed like white fire and Bruce could see the look of intense joy on his face. Suddenly, Chirik roared a battle-cry that echoed and re-echoed off the walls of the cavern.

“Get behind me and out of the way of the hammer,” he cried out loud—the words he spoke were foreign to Bruce, but the meaning came through to his mind. Chirik flung the door open and charged through, Bruce following as close behind as he dared.

They ran through narrow tunnels that got broader as they ascended. Bruce could only faintly see the path ahead of them by the light of Chirik’s eyes. A statue loomed up in the middle of the corridor but Chirik pulverized it with one swing of the warhammer. Another and another appeared in front of them, but all of them turned to dust a moment later. Chirik came to a huge door and started to pound on it with the hammer. After five hits, the door cracked, after twelve, it splintered, and after the sixteenth, Bruce was able to crawl out into the cool night air. A moment later, Chirik joined him.

The sky was dark blue and large red stars burned overhead, just as Bruce had left it less than an hour before. Behind them, a huge tower loomed up in silhouette against the night sky. The land about them was dead—no lights could be seen and only a faint wind sighed through the bare rocks.

“Why are there no guards in the tower?” Bruce asked.

“What guards there are, are usually sufficient,” Chirik said. He said this out loud, but it was still through his mind that Bruce understood the words. “Without your magic key and the warhammer of Clemin, escape would have been impossible.”

“I am glad to see again, Bruce,” another voice said in his head. Bruce turned to see Klista coming towards them, holding a glowing orb in front of her. She was dressed in her customary red cloak and smiling. “Chirik, my name is Klista. Remember it well, since I am your rescuer. Will you work with me?”

“You saved me from that hell,” Chirik said. “Whatever I can do for you, my lady, I will.”

“Good,” Klista said. “We have one more important person to get and then the great campaign begins.”

She touched both of them on the arm. A flash of light enveloped them and they were gone.

See the World Through a Cardboard Tube!

A blue van with lightning bolts painted on it pulled up in front of Brent’s school at lunchtime. The students, being trusting teenagers, crowded around to see what it was. A man and a woman stepped out, dressed in outfits that could only be described as castoffs from a magician’s garage sale.

“Step right up!” the man said, somewhat unnecessarily, since he was in danger of being crushed against the side of his own van. “See the world as you have never seen it before!”

The crowd of middle-schoolers remained silent, seeing where this was going, but the man refused to give details.

“Who will be the first one? Come into the van and we’ll give you the instructions.”

At this point, an adult would have been running in the opposite direction while calling the police, but teenagers are thoughtless and curious: a dangerous combination. After a moment, a girl named Stacy raised her hand.

“Sounds good. What do I have to do?” Stacy was always self-assured and forthright. Some had speculated that she had probably cut her own umbilical cord.

Brent watched with the others as the woman led Stacy into the back of the van. A moment later, she emerged, seemingly unscathed, with a cardboard tube in her hands, like one that comes in a paper towel roll. It had red stars drawn on it in pen.

Stacy held the cardboard tube up to her eye and gasped. “Oh wow.” It sounded like a moan. She slowly moved the tube around and when she turned it on the crowd, she laughed. “This is amazing, guys,” she said.

This reaction caused a ripple of discussion to go through the crowd. Half the students were intrigued; the other half tended towards derision. Brent was in the latter group. It just seemed too absurd, although part of him wanted it to really be something amazing, and not make-believe or a drug trip.

A minute later, Stacy gave the cardboard tube back and grabbed her boyfriend, Tim. “You have got to try this Tim,” she said, cutting off his refusal with an imperious look. She practically pushed him into the back of the van.

The students were captivated now. Tim was one of the most popular boys in school. What would his reaction be? A few minutes later, the van door opened and Tim got out. He held the same tube and put it up to his eye.

He didn’t say anything, but as he looked around, his mouth slowly fell open. The crowd was dead silent. A tear actually rolled down his cheek as he handed the tube back a few minutes later. The students went crazy. Whatever was in that tube, it had made one of the coolest boys in school cry.

There was no shortage of takers now. The man picked a few more and their reactions were even more outrageous. A few laughed or jumped up and down. One just full-on bawled, and kept saying how incredible the sight was.

“We have time for one more,” the man said. “Who will it be?”

Brent found himself raising his hand, although he had not planned to. The man pointed to him and the woman led him into the back of the van.

“Can you keep a secret?” the woman asked. It did not seem a promising beginning to Brent, seeing that he was now alone with her in the back of a van.

“What kind of secret?” Brent asked.

“The biggest kind of secret in the world. The kind you couldn’t tell to your best friend.”

“No, probably not,” Brent said after a while. “I would try, of course, but it if was a big secret, it would probably slip out at some point.” He had a troubling habit of being honest.

“Well, I suspect you could,” the woman said with a smile, “but I appreciate your honesty. Now, go out and look through this tube.” She handed him a cardboard tube decorated in pen with blue stars.

Brent stepped out of the van. Half the crowd had wandered away after hearing that Brent was going to be the last one. The rest of them were staring at him. He put the tube to his eye.

The world disappeared.

The school was gone. In its place was a high castle with strange mountains climbing up behind it. The sky was a dark purple, with coruscating lines of pink running through it. Small, blue creatures like dragons flew around them, landing and taking off nearby. A group of trees was strolling around, having what looked like an animated discussion.

Brent looked back at the van. It was gone. In its place was a woman dressed in a red cloak, sitting on a huge black Pegasus. She smiled at him.

He took the tube down from his eye and the real world flooded back. The students looked unimpressed by his reaction and the crowd started to break up.

“Here you go,” Brent said, handing the tube back to the woman. She held up her hand.

“You keep it. I’ll make another one. My name is Klista, by the way. Remember that.”

The next day, Tim came up to Brent after school. “I saw that they picked you to look into the tube. So, how much did you get?”

“What do you mean?”

“That woman didn’t give you any money?” Tim asked.

“No, did she give you some?”

“Yeah, she brought me into the back and asked if I could keep a secret, so I said yes. She said they were doing an experiment and that she would give me money to go pretend I saw something amazing when I looked through that tube. That’s why I cried. Nice touch, eh? I’m thinking of taking up acting, maybe go in for the school play. Between Stacy and me, we got fifty bucks. You really didn’t get anything?”

“She let me keep the tube,” Brent said.

“The tube?” Tim laughed. “Man, you really got gypped.” He turned and walked away.

Yes, you did, Brent thought.

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