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Introduction:

Curtains close...
From the Desk of Minus Three:

Ah crap; I’m about to get all emotional.

I don’t know how I feel today. It could be a sense of triumph but it could also be a sense of loss. I’m finishing this in one long stroke of the pen today and it feels…odd. This has been long in the conceptual stage, a few months in the writing, and it feels like forever. Forever is a tricky word. I’m excited to do a couple editing passes through these first draft chapters now that it’s a complete four part set so I can send it off to publishers. There are some already interested in it based on the strength of {muse}, and to some extent I have all of you to thank for that. I never thought I’d get the kind of response from it I have, I never thought it would have such an emotional impact on people, and to be quite honest I never thought it was as good as everyone else seems to think it is. It means something important to me; but it now means something different to each of you.

You all humble me.

{muse}, {welt}, {vice}, and {pyre} have become a part of my daily life. It’s terrifying and exciting all at once to have that chapter of my life come to a close as I finish Tides of Fall. With that said, I’m turning my headphones up until they vibrate on my ears and diving in to end this so I can turn a fresh page and see what appears on it. I’m honored to have the respect of all of you. Sincerely. Click on my profile and come join me on my Facebook page and shout out how you feel.

Mad love,
-3


Pyre (13)

”i am death, arms held outstretched
i am hell, burn this mortal shell
i am wrath, take this bloodbath
god sent me to kill you…”
-Machine Head, I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)


Sangre Sani…

Paul looked haggard and unkempt but the determined light in his eyes that he credited me for from the first day we met was still there. Two cameras in the room, three guards outside watching through the glass. No handcuff binding me to the table though. I guess they figured it wouldn’t do any good if I really wanted to leave. I guess my reputation had preceded me.

In more ways than one it had; cops, guards, those types seemed to like me though they didn’t admit it out loud. I would have liked to hear what they were thinking when they looked at me and made grim shapes with their mouths and gave me small nods, but I couldn’t. The rest of them though, the prison population; they didn’t like me at all. That reputation that preceded me? It only kept me safe for about two days before the first one tried to step to me and prove something while I was being moved from one part of the prison to the other. They’d kept me separate from general population for more than one reason but when these guys want to step to someone they find a way. I guess they call the scars on my cheek ‘tram lines’ because the two small razor blades melted into a toothbrush handle are close enough together that a doctor can’t stitch them and so they heal all jagged and messy. I was just glad I’d been able to force it up away from my throat. I was as good as dead, but that’s not how I wanted to go out.

He hadn’t been the last either. It had been a bad week. As soon as word got out that I wasn’t special anymore, that I bled and hurt and could die, it was open season. Every one of these fucks wanted to be the one to stick Michael Fox and have that echo alongside their name until they finally died spoiled and wasted like so many others behind these walls. With the Spark gone, used to immolate Ephra down to his component atoms, I was just like them; but the memory of what I’d been was strong enough to guarantee any of them a place in the history of it all alongside the rest of us.

“Paul, dude, quit being a lawyer for a few minutes,” I said. “Why are we even preparing a defence?”

“I don’t know what else to do, Michael,” Paul explained, rubbing his eyes. “It’s a reflex I guess.”

“Did they make it clear?” I asked him, leaning forward.

“Yeah,” he said. “They did. We shouldn’t be talking about this here.”

“And Magda?” I asked. “Come on Paul, we have privacy right? Isn’t that the law?”

“She was ‘mysteriously stolen’ from police custody when they tried to move her from the hospital,” Paul said, shaking his head. “Of course there’s a bunch of investigating going on about that, but it’s going nowhere.”

“Good,” I said, leaning back. “They’re good at what they do. Can she…?”

“Walk?” Paul filled in the blank I left hanging. “Not yet. That bullet went right through her spine but you got her to the hospital soon enough. Last word was that she would eventually, though. It’s going to come down to exercise and therapy and all that. That’s not going to be easy if she’s hiding out somewhere, Michael.”

“She’ll be just fine,” I said, thinking about Lisa yelling at Magda to try harder.

“As long as they have [i]you
it seems the authorities are content to let it stonewall and fade. They just need someone to pin it to so it looks like they’re doing something. You have just as many supporters as detractors.”

“I’m still pleading guilty,” I told Paul.

“Don’t you even want to try to build a case?”

“You can’t beat this rap, dude. You know it, I know it,” I pointed at one of the cameras, “they know it too.”

Dozens of counts of premeditated murder. First degree every single one. How do you argue with that? I wasn’t crazy so I wasn’t going to plead insanity. I didn’t feel bad so I wasn’t going to plead not guilty and try to talk my way out of it. They were going to push hard for the death penalty and I guess somewhere inside I’d known that all along. Locked up somewhere for the rest of my life I was still a symbol for all the people that felt I’d been doing good all along.

There was no shortage of them either. Paul showed me news reports of others; people were springing up all over the country and it was spreading to other parts of the world. One paper called it ‘The Epidemic of Justified Homicide’ and labeled me a sick leader of the angry and victimized. Still another called me ‘The Priest of Penance’, which I thought was fucking ridiculous. The ‘Free Michael’ website got tens of thousands of hits a day. What did they really think a petition was going to do to sway a judge?

“Well, you had to expect something was going to happen,” Paul was saying to me. “You can’t kill all the bad guys, right? What did you actually think was going to end up happening?”

“I don’t know. You want the truth Paul? I didn’t think about that part. I just did what seemed right. It’s not up to me to tell other people what to do.”

“They want to really expedite this trial while media interest is still high,” he told me. “They want to show that there’s consequences for taking the law into your own hands to try and cut off all this copy cat stuff as quick as they can.”

“Yeah. Fine. Whatever.”

“You might want to think about what this all means, Michael. I’m worried you still aren’t really considering the way this is all going to play out.”

“It’s on me now though, right dude?”

“Well, in more ways than one. I had to pull quite a few strings to get in to see you this time. I’m suspended from practice right now. I’ll be disbarred for sure.”

“Really?” I asked him. There’d always been the chance but now…it was real. “How’d that come about?”

“I still have the notebooks, but Judith…she made copies of everything without me knowing. She gave it all to the FBI.”

“Fuck, sorry man. Are you going to be an accessory to all this?”

“No, nothing like that. Some charges maybe, but nothing that severe. She sold me out good though.”

“So what’s next for Paul?” I asked. I was done talking about me. The future was the future and I couldn’t change it anymore.

“I did what you said. I took the book deal,” he said with a shrug.

“Nice,” I smiled. “Do the signing tour. Hit the talk shows. Do what you gotta do man; get yours.”

“That’s part of it,” he said. “But there’s more. I want to do what you asked. I want to make sure people get it. I want them to get it right. Things change over time if there’s no one there to make sure the truth gets heard.”

“You’re one of the good ones,” I told Paul. “Keep it real I guess.”

We talked about this and that until he left. There was a calm and relaxed feel to the rest of our visit. I found myself wishing I’d met Paul under different circumstances. The whole conversation would have been much better over a pint or six at The Cove. Instead of last call breaking it apart it was an armed prison guard. Instead of staggering into a cab I was shackled and led to a cell.

The next day my mother came to visit me. She looked small through the glass and the phone she held so we could talk to each other looked big in her little hand. She looked sad, for sure, but I’d expected her to be breaking down and losing her composure. Instead she had a determination not that unlike Paul’s the day before.

“Who did that to your face?” she asked me with a frown after me greeted each other quietly.

“It doesn’t matter, Mom,” I said with a chuckle. “What are you gonna do? Go beat up an inmate for me? You’re like…90 lbs.”

She smiled a tight lipped smile. “I‘ve been very angry with you, Michael. I didn’t like hearing about what you were doing.”

“You know I’m not sorry, right?” I asked her. She nodded. “How’s Mark and Lisa?”

“Lisa’s still pissed off at you. Mark’s…Mark. You know how he is.”

She smiled proudly when she talked about them. It was nice. It’s hard to understand how parents feel about each other until you fall in love with someone yourself.

“Can I ask you why? Now that it’s over, do you still feel the same? Did it work out for you?” my mother asked me with concern crossing her face.

“Why? They were pissing on your dream, Mom. All of them. Do I feel the same? I guess I do. Did it work out? I think it did, yeah.”

She shrugged her little shoulders and smirked. “I know the feeling. Trust me. I do. You wouldn’t do anything different but there are still things you wish you could change.”

“That’s about it, yeah.” I frowned as I thought about Magda and the last time I’d seen her; wrapped in a bloody sheet with a bullet hole where one of her vertebrae should be.

“War has casualties,” she said to me, her face turning suddenly serious. “She’s going to be okay Michael. I promise.”

I nodded. “You’re taking this really well. What’s up with that?”

“I’m proud of you,” she said quietly, wiping a tear from under one of her big green eyes. “I’m not worried about you anymore. I know what’s going to happen, but I’m okay.”

“Okay with me being tried and executed?” Maybe my tone was harsh. I didn’t mean for it to be.

“That’s not what I meant, Michael,” she said scoldingly, wiping away another tear. “We haven’t ever really gotten to talk about it, and now there’s no time. But I understand what it means to be a warrior. You did the right thing. You’re still doing the right thing. Even when it seems there’s only one choice, there’s actually two. You can do the right thing, or you can do nothing. You’ve made me very proud.”

I couldn’t shake the weirdness. Even in Wrath my mother was driven by love; and yet here she was holding herself together instead of sobbing and crying. I skinned my knee once when I was 4 or 5 and she’d cried just as hard as me. I suppose when someone is as old as my mother you just couldn’t ever fully understand what made them tick.

We were told it was time to wrap it up. My mother put her hand on the glass and I reached out and did the same. Her eyes got suddenly intense and a hint of their old light smoldered inside them.

“Stand tall my son. The end will come soon.”

Her voice was sharp and steady. I didn’t know if it was some ancient warrior thing I’d never known about because I’d never asked so I didn’t know if there was some response I was supposed to give. Instead I just nodded, tried not to shed a tear, and said “Good bye.”

“No,” she said, her hair coming from behind her ear and onto her face as she shook her head fiercely. “Every parting is temporary…there are no goodbyes, Michael. ”

Then she gave me a quick wink and left. I could see her shoulders shaking with sadness she had probably been holding back as she went.


Never Long Is This Goodbye…

Michael refused representation and when he was on the stand he just did a lot of shrugging and admitting to the things the prosecutor accused him of. It wasn’t much as far as trials go. The prosecution tried to make a spectacle of it and I couldn’t really blame them for it. This was the sort of thing that becomes the highlight of your career and I smiled and did my best to stifle my laughter as I watched Michael completely steal the thunder from their attempts at grandstanding for the cameras that were all over the courtroom.

Every now and then Michael would look up at the judge with that ‘what the fuck are we doing this for?’ look he had perfected through long nights of silence and drunken apathy. It was the first time he’d been in front of cameras since he was a teenager and though I’m sure he’d argue with me if I pointed it out he was a natural. Camera men and reporters laughed and chuckled at some of the things he said. The judge had a hard time maintaining order. It was hard to keep in mind the gravity of the situation. What should have been serious and weighty was turning into a joke and I could see the glimmer in Michael’s eyes as he watched it slip between everyone’s fingers.

The judge had to clear the courtroom because it was rammed with supporters, cheering and chanting and making a scene. Michael would recount the details of something they had done to someone and the crowd would go wild and he’d gesture to them with a ‘see? I’m right…’ look on his face. Even the reporters were warned to compose themselves or be ejected.

He was having the last laugh, even as the judge read the sentence. Even the judge tried to put on a show and look officious and stern as he pronounced Michael’s death sentence and looked into the cameras and gave some lengthy speech that was no doubt intended to try and stifle those out there that had taken up ‘Michael’s Good Work’ as it had become known.

I was so glad that I wasn’t sitting up there with them. Instead I sat at the back behind the zoo of media and just watched. I hadn’t even appealed to be able to represent him. He’d have said no anyway. There was no point. I was done with law. I was glad of that. I’d always wanted to be some rich and famous defense attorney, taking the big cases and getting on TV. Here was the biggest case anyone ever could have had their name on and I just sat in the back and smirked and shook my head and tried not to mock out loud the uselessness of the entire proceeding.

No one else came. Michael’s entire family was absent. This was curious to me. Samael and Becca couldn’t be of course, they were in hiding somewhere. But I thought at least his mother would have been there. I’d read all about them of course; who hadn’t? I didn’t know any of them though so I decided not to judge them based on assumptions.

A date was set on the spot for the execution. Gas chamber. One week. It was beyond precedent but there were those that wanted to strike while the ember was hot and make an example. It had the opposite effect though; during the following week the so called ‘Epidemic of Justified Homicide’ doubled. It was getting dangerous out there to be one of the wicked.

The night before Michael’s execution I got a phone call from Michael’s mother, Aliona. I’d spoken with her once or twice while trying to keep them separate from what he was out there doing and she’d always sounded worried and stressed and concerned, on the verge of tears. This time she sounded almost…mirthful? I don’t even know if that’s a word but it’s how she sounded. She wanted me to meet them for dinner so we could talk about the book she knew I was going to write.

I arrived on time and rang the bell. Her sister Avrielle opened the door and beckoned me in. It was a huge house, the kind of place that you only see on TV. I expected tension, sadness, heartache. Instead there was laughter coming from the kitchen and the sound of voices talking all at once. I hadn’t come expecting a party and felt foolish in my dark suit. I followed Avrielle in and found there more than I expected to see.

Samael and Becca should have been hiding out somewhere; known felons don’t go to dinner parties. There they were though, Becca leaning her back against Sam’s chest as he sat on a stool at the marble topped island drinking wine. He smiled and waved at me but didn’t interrupt Becca as she told a story about something they had done in the jungle somewhere years ago. A square jawed, crew cut, wide shouldered guy was laughing just as hard and filling in details as the rest listened. A story about a gunfight shouldn’t be funny, but these weren’t normal people at all. I accepted the wine Avrielle offered me as she jumped into the story to correct a detail.

Aliona was tiny and perfect, as usual. It was awkwardly uncomfortable for me to see her barely clothed and bumping her hip against Mark’s as she leaned on her elbows on the island next to him with the other woman, Lisa, standing close on the other side of her stroking her hair where it fell down her back. I’d been raised in a rather strict and ‘morally upright’ family and the thoughts that came into my mind of the sorts of things the three of them might do together made me blush.

“Hey!” a guy with long grey hair holding a beer yelled when the story was over. “Who’s the suit?”

Mark looked over his shoulder at me and nodded to me in greeting. “This is Michael’s lawyer, Paul.”

“You’re a shitty fuckin’ lawyer, homey,” he said to me, raising his beer in greeting or salute I wasn’t sure.

I felt a stab of guilt and opened my mouth to say something lame and defensive, but he burst out laughing when he saw the look on my face and they all joined in with him. I tried a chuckle of my own but it didn’t work, which just made them all laugh harder.

“You need to calm down,” Aliona said to me with a devilish grin. “You’re part of the family now, Paul. Keith’s going to jab at you. It means he likes you.”

“Oh,” I said. Smiling and nodding, trying to fit in. “Okay.”

They laughed at me again and the long haired fellow, Keith, came over and roughly jerked at my tie to loosen it. “That’s better. You look like a punk ass in that suit. Come do a shot…”

I was at the island. Keith poured shots of whiskey and everyone took one.

“I don’t…I don’t really drink. Not whiskey, especially.”

“Michael did though,” Mark said seriously. “Drink it.”

The room got quiet and serious and everyone stared at me. I took a deep breath and shrugged and tipped the glass back, prompting cheers and whoops from everyone as they downed their own. Keith patted me hard on the back, making me cough, and started pouring another round.

“May I ask why everyone seems so….happy?” I said dumbly.

“Wakes celebrate life, not death,” Aliona said, others nodding sagely at her words. “Michael wouldn’t want us moping around and crying.”

“Cheers to that, fuckers!” Keith called out and there were whoops and cheers and laughs as another set of shots were tipped back.

It went on like this for hours, before and after the meal. My ex-wife had been Irish and I’d attended one of her family’s wakes when her grandfather had died. This put that to shame. Neighbors and other people had joined the party and there were quite a few people there. Large crowds made me nervous so I decided to follow when I saw Mark whisper something into Aliona’s ear and she followed him downstairs.

I don’t know anything about music. The pulsing beats coming from the speakers around the house upstairs had only made it hard to have a conversation. Downstairs it was quiet. Keith was down there already, headphones on his head as he sat in front of a huge control desk of some kind. On the other side of a sheet of thick glass was a dimly lit room full of speakers with microphones pointing at them at various angles. The glass was vibrating, I could see that, but I couldn’t hear anything. Mark put his hand on Keith’s shoulder and Keith slid the headphones off around his neck.

“Got those levels locked?” Mark asked him.

“I think so, but this is weird shit homey. Weirdest shit you’ve made yet.”

Mark gestured with his fingers for the headphones and put them on. He hit some buttons, moved some sliding volume things on the panel, turned some knobs on another rack of gear. He went to the computer set up near the desk, cables and cords and wires springing from it like a tangle of vines. He cocked his eyebrow, nodded to Keith and gave him a thumbs up. Aliona was clapping her hands eagerly like a little kid and fidgeting and bouncing on her toes.

“Come on!” she squealed. “I want to hear it already!”

Mark hit a button on the computer and the glass stopped vibrating and pulsing. He took the headphones off and handed them to her, but she shook her head and pointed through the glass at the room of speakers and microphones. “No! I want to hear it in there.”

Keith laughed loudly, sipping on his beer. Mark smiled and said, “That’ll blow your ears out, Ali. You can’t go in there…”

“Shut up,” she said playfully, going for the door that led out of the booth. “I want to feel it. How else will I know if you got it right?”

Keith laughed another bark of laughter and Mark shrugged. He handed her a set of earplugs from a drawer and she smirked and waved him off, going through the door and closing it behind her. She stood in the center of the room with the walls of speakers surrounding her. Mark pushed a button on the console and spoke into the thin microphone that arched above the controls.

“Are you sure about this, kitty?” he asked, concern obvious in his voice.

“Fucking hit me with it!” she shouted impatiently, her voice coming from speakers attached to the ceiling of the booth.

Mark shrugged and let go of the button. He took a deep breath and tapped one key on the computer. The air pressure in the room changed, the glass heaved and vibrated, and I could feel something rumbling in my chest even thought the room was silent. Aliona’s eyes snapped open as wide as they would go and her jaw dropped as she clutched at her chest and stomach. Her body started writhing and undulating and she squeezed her eyes closed tightly as her hands started sliding around her body.

“Holy fuck your girl is hot, homey,” Keith breathed.

Mark punched him in the shoulder but laughed. I could see the dim lights in the room glistening off tears on Aliona’s face as she wound her hips around sensually. Her mouth was wide open and her neck was straining like she was screaming at the top of her lungs. Her body shook and I wasn’t sure if she was laughing or sobbing. Mark slid the headphones onto his ears again and was nodding his head slowly as he watched through the glass.

“What…what is it?” I asked hesitantly.

“She had us recreate something called the Choir,” Keith said without looking away from Aliona. I was transfixed as well.

“What’s that?” I asked him breathlessly.

“Fuck if I know,” Keith said, shaking his head. “Weird shit, man. Weird shit.”

He elbowed mark in the side and gestured to me. Mark took the headphones off and held them out to me. I took them and put them on my head. I didn’t know what I was listening to. Every tone possible seemed represented in impossible intricacy. I couldn’t discern any rhythm or tempo. It was almost painful to listen to. I took the headphones off and handed them back.

“I don’t get it,” I said.

“Yeah, me neither,” Keith said, taking another beer from a little fridge. He opened a second with his teeth and offered it to me one and I shook my head, so he shrugged and held both for himself.

“None of us do. I don’t think we ever could,” Mark said quietly.

The three of us watched little Aliona gyrating and swaying for what seemed like hours but was probably only minutes. Eventually Mark slid a fader down and the glass stopped heaving and shaking. Aliona stood perfectly still, her hair a mess, and Mark pushed hi red button again and spoke into the microphone.

“So?” he asked, his voice making Aliona jump.

“It’s fucking perfect,” her little voice said breathily from the speakers above us. She turned around to face the glass, her face covered in the wetness of tears and her clothes stuck to her with sweat. “It’s perfect.”

She came back into the booth, unsteady on her thin little legs, and collapsed with her legs shamelessly wide into a chair.

“It’ll work then?” Mark asked her.

“Yeah,” she panted. “Put it on something so we can give it to her.”

Mark fiddled with the computer as he attached an mp3 player to it, and then put it in Aliona’s shaky hand.

“I don’t get it,” I said again as Keith got up and went up the stairs.

“You wouldn’t,” Aliona said as she caught her breath, her eyes closed tightly as more tears pushed past her eyelids. “So don’t try.”

I left soon after that. I’d driven to their home but had to leave in a taxi. I was quite unwell the next day but forced myself to get up early anyways. Michael’s execution was a closed one; no press, no family, no one. I still felt as though I should be up while it happened though. I was fidgety and nervous all day, looking frequently at my watch. When the hands moved around to 3pm I took in a deep breath and shuddered. Tears came to my eyes and I swear I could actually feel a tangible sense of loss somewhere inside of me, like something huge and powerful had removed itself from my soul. I put my face in my hands and cried. I knew there would be news coverage from outside the prison but I couldn’t bear to turn the TV on. What would they say that I didn’t know already?

3pm. Michael Fox was dead.

3:15pm. Michael Fox was still dead. 4:56pm. Still dead. I hadn’t moved from my kitchen table. 7:19pm. Still dead, I was till just sitting there. I found myself thinking, ‘what would Michael do?’. I imagined guns and bullets and whiskey and Wrath and it made me laugh as I pictured myself for a second picking up where he left off. Joining the ‘Epidemic’. I saw myself dressed in black, stalking my prey, and I laughed even harder. I didn’t know what to do.

So I opened my laptop and starting writing. Night turned to day and turned to night again. Three days passed and I sat at the table typing in some kind of inhuman frenzy from my crumpled and wrinkled notebooks, adding my own interpretations from my conversations with Michael. Doing my best to get his ‘whys’ across. The pain in my back was immense but I hadn’t noticed it until my hands cramped and screamed in pain and I stood to stretch at last.

I felt covered in a film of my own making so I had a shower. I was hungry so I ate. I was thirsty so I drank. I was tired but the fervor was still upon me. I tried to sit down and type more but my hands wouldn’t obey me. I went and lay down on my bed, my head swimming with sleep deprivation and pain. I’d gone long enough without closing my eyes that I feared I’d never sleep again. I turned on the TV. It was on a news channel and I left it there, hoping the incessant drone of this reporter or that anchor person would lull me to sleep.

“This is Cassidy Swanson and I’m coming to you live and exclusively from outside the Los Angeles County Department of the Coroner where we’ve been informed that masked vigilantes have stolen the body of recently executed mass murderer Michael Fox.”

What? I groaned in pain as I sat up, my back protesting. There she was, demure and refined in her years, one of the world’s most powerful and recognized reporters and anchorwomen; her fall from grace long since passed.

“That’s correct Ms. Swanson,” some old guy in a police uniform was saying. “At 6am this morning armed individuals entered the morgue and absconded with the body of Michael Fox. We don’t know yet who is responsible, but several vigilante groups have claimed responsibility. We are unable to comment further at this time except to say that no officers or staff were harmed during this theft.”

“Do the police have any leads in identifying the culprits of this daring early morning crime?” Cassidy asked him.

“Only that a small mp3 player was found at the scene. Forensics is examining it for any information it provides. We don’t at this time know if it is a recorded message from the vigilantes or if it is unrelated to the case.”

She kept talking to him and he kept responding with the same sort of canned responses you expect from authority figures that want to make it sound like they understand far more than they actually do. I pulled myself to my feet and staggered to my kitchen, reaching for the phone and calling Aliona’s house. There was no answer. I flipped manically through my notes, trying the mobile number Michael had given me. It was off, straight to voicemail. I tried Sam. I tried Becca. I tried every emergency number Michael had ever given me. None of them were on. No one answered. I was looking at one last number, scribbled in a margin and underlined. A small note written by it said ‘only as a last resort’. I dialed it.

“Hello?” a soft female voice said, sounding confused.

“This is Paul,” I said in a rush. “Who am I speaking with?”

“Hi Paul. It’s Magda,” the quiet voice said.

“What? Really?”

“This is kind of a bad time, Paul.”

“Did you know…someone…Michael’s body was stolen…” I stammered.

“Huh,” she said simply. “That’s a hell of a thing, isn’t it? Look, I really have to get off the phone right now. I’m kind of in the middle of something.”

“Uh…okay?” I said.

“You probably shouldn’t call this number again,” she said. “Thanks for everything, though. And good luck with your book. Good bye Paul.”

“Wait…!” I was saying, but she’d already hung up.


Every Time You Shall Come Back Less Than Before…

I was tired. Really tired. There was a distinct irony to how much I hated travelling by plane. I loved the window seat though. The view was the only thing that got me through. The tops of the clouds were like mountains in the sky. It was always sunny above the clouds. I smiled and bit my bottom lip, thinking about the wind tearing through my hair, the air freezing moisture to frost on my skin. The searing cold, the howl of the air rushing past, the exhilaration of naked flight. It was divine.

Whatever the attendant put in front of me on the tray was far from divine. I wrinkled my nose and peeled the plastic back, the steam coming out smelling of socks and microwaves. I poked at it noncommittally with the tiny plastic fork, moving the shriveled peas to one side, then to the other, then mixing them in with the sludge that was trying its best to be mashed potatoes. I stuck the fork into the meat…turkey or chicken I don’t know…and pushed the little plate as far away as the tray would let me. I heard the mumble of a voice over the big headphones on my ears so I lowered them to my neck over my hair.

“Not hungry?” the man in the seat next to me said. “Even this first class food isn’t very good, is it?”

“It sucks ass,” I said, my nose still wrinkled.

He laughed a warm laugh, looking me up and down. I smiled and shook my head at him. His suit was expensive but didn’t fit that well. His hair was combed but he had the look of someone who had been getting himself ready for the day in airport bathrooms for several days. He had a book open across his lap and his eyes wouldn’t stop wandering over me.

“So why is a sweet thing like you travelling to a place like Argentina?” he asked me, watching me kick my feet to the music I could still hear from the oversized headphones around my neck.

“Up here,” I said coyly.

“What?” he asked, looking into my eyes and then gasping a little.

“A gentleman looks in a lady’s eyes when’s talking to her,” I said, still smiling.

“Wow,” he said quietly. “And what beautiful eyes they are…”

“Thanks,” I said, winking. “It’s a personal thing.”

“What is?” he asked dumbly.

“You asked why I was going to Argentina. It’s personal, not business.”

How personal?” he asked, raising one of his eyebrows at me.

I laughed softly and shook my head. Over thousands and thousands of years they just never changed at all. They probably never would. “Quite.”

“I’m not trying to pry,” he said. I suppose he was trying to be suave with his tone. It just sounded silly. “Sometimes it’s not a safe place for a beautiful young lady to be alone.”

“Oh, and I suppose you’ll offer to look out for me while I’m there?” I asked him, turning my head at a slight angle and biting my lip playfully. I knew the effect it had, I just didn’t know how else to behave. You try breaking thousands of years worth of habits.

“We could arrange that,” he said, his voice growing more eager. “I’ll have plenty of free time.”

“You wouldn’t know what to do with me,” I laughed like bells.

“We’ll see I suppose,” he drawled, smiling back at me. “I think I have a few years on you, I might surprise you.”

“I’m older than I look,” I said dismissively, moving to put my headphones back on.

“Oh?” he asked, shifting in his seat. “What are you? 23? 24 maybe?”

“You’re a couple years short, man,” I narrowed my eyes. “Looks can be deceiving.”

“Tell me then,” he said. “It’s a long flight and I’m bored of sitting here by myself.”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” I said, crossing my legs and sitting sideways, leaning my left side against the seat back. “What are you reading?”

“Oh this? Picked it up at the airport.” He held it up so I could see the cover; The Book of Michael, Paul Presswood. “It’s a bit dry in some parts. Kind of preachy. Fascinating stuff though. I can’t believe there are people who base their life around this stuff.”

“We all got our runnings,” I said, shrugging and smirking. “I liked it.”

“You actually read the whole thing? I’ve just been skipping to the exciting parts.”

I shook my head. “No, I already knew how it was going to end.”

He cocked his head curiously but said no more about it. “So how does a girl like you afford to fly first class?”

“Old money,” I told him.

“Ah,” to his credit it didn’t make him perk up any more than he was. “Trust fun heiress?”

“Yeah, right,” my smile stretched further. “Something like that.”

“You look familiar,” he said. “Where do I know you from?”

“Is that a line?” I asked him playfully.

“No, seriously,” he went on. “I’ve seen you before somewhere.”

“I get that a lot,” I said to him.

“I don’t usually do this, but…” His voice was nervous and he motioned in the direction of the bathrooms with his head. “You wouldn’t want to…”

“Ha!” I laughed, sitting straight in my seat and sliding the headphones up to my ears, shaking my head and smiling. “Don’t push your luck, buddy.”

“Sorry…I just…” he stammered.

“Don’t be,” I said. “You’re just being human.”

The headphones were back on my ears, the volume turned up. If he said anything else I didn’t hear it. He left me alone for the rest of the flight. It was hot when we landed many hours later and I was glad I was only wearing a red bikini top under a tiny see through white blouse and a tiny white cotton skirt over my red thong. My favorite red flips flops clipped and clapped on the floor of the airport as I wheeled my one white suitcase along. The big red bubble I blew popped as I waved at a cab and I took off my oversized red glasses as I got in the back. I gave the driver the address and promised him a nice tip if he didn’t jerk me around. He kept looking into the backseat, trying to see up inside my skirt as he drove. I parted my knees a bit so he could get the look he was after and go back to paying attention to the road. It was more than the heat making him sweat as I got out at the hotel and paid him.

I called the number Samael had given me and made arrangements to be picked up in half an hour so I had no time for a swim in the hotel pool. I changed into tight and tiny tan shorts, tying the front tails of my little white shirt up under my breasts and lacing up a pair of little hiking shoes. I knew I wasn’t in Africa but I’d bought a pith helmet anyways because I thought it was wicked cute. I tucked the small bundle of letters into a messenger-like haversack that matched the shorts and helmet and winked at myself in the mirror.

I was waiting outside the hotel bobbing my hip and tapping my toe when I saw the guy from the plane watching me. I cocked my head to the side and mouthed the word “Really?” at him. I guess whre he’s from that counts as encouragement because he walked over towards me.

“Hi!” he said.

“I’m supposed to think this is a coincidence?” I asked him, a little annoyed.

“Want some company?” he asked. “Where are you off to?”

“You just don’t know when to quit, do you?” I said, putting one hand on my hip.

“I’m in sales. I don’t like to take no for an answer,” he said, trying again for suave and achieving creepy.

“Get used to it,” I said, turning to look at a little truck that had pulled up and honked.

The driver of the truck rolled the passenger side window down and shouted, “You miss Ali?”

“Mhm,” I said, skipping over to the door he was opening from inside.

“At least now I know your name,” the guy from the plane said. “Ali…”

He rolled my name off his tongue like it was candy. I turned back and sneered at him. “Seriously man, you’re starting to bug me.”

“You have a problem with this guy?” the driver asked forcefully, staring hard at the creep and reaching under the seat for something.

“Not for long,” I told him, putting a hand on his arm to stop him from doing something stupid and irreversible in front of the hotel. Christopher’s friends could be rather direct.

I grinned wide as I swayed over to the creepy guy and stood on my tip toes to lean up to his ear. He leered at me as I approached but after I whispered into his ear and stepped back he had a look of shock or maybe fear on his face.

“You’re…that’s why I…you’re her…” he stumbled and sputtered.

I nodded and winked at him. “Now be a sweetheart and fuck off and go read your book and leave me alone, okay?”

He was still standing there as we pulled out of the lane in front of the hotel and into the busy street. We left the city and drove for hours, the roads getting smaller and winding back and forth as we went up into the mountains. Eventually there were no more small villages, just the trees and the rocks and the crisp air high above the rest of the country.

“You gotta walk from here Miss Ali,” the driver told me when he pulled up at the very end of the little rocky road. “It’s straight up this path here. I’ll come back tomorrow, noon.”

“Thanks bunches,” I told him sweetly, hopping out. I waved as he backed away and then I started climbing the trail.

It was more of a hike than I expected but it was beautiful. The air up there was thinner and colder than I’d thought it would be but it reminded me of flying. I hiked up over a ridge, hours later, and looked down at a sight that took my breath away. Nestled in a tiny valley was a small blue lake. There was what looked like a garden and a little barn next to a small stone cottage. There were goats and chickens, wandering around doing their own thing and as I approached a fat and shaggy cat meowed down at me from on top of the roof.

“Hi kitty!” I said. “I love you!”

It meowed hoarsely at me again and went to sleep in the sun. A soft breeze was dragging a white cotton curtain out through an open window and I heard a long sigh inside. I crept over and peeked through the window and a huge grin split my face.

Magda was on her back on a cozy looking little bed with her arms wrapped around him as he slowly moved atop of her. She dug her nails into his scarred back and drew them from his shoulders down to the top of his ass as she moaned loudly and pushed up against his thrusts with her hips. His movements grew faster and she writhed in ecstasy under him. It was beautiful to behold; lovers caught in the embrace of lust, oblivious to the rest of the universe. Magda bent her legs at the knees and spread them wide as he drive into her with increased passion and fervor.

He pushed his torso up on his hands t look down at her, one hand tracing gently across her breast before moving down and holding her gently by the hip as he worked the small of his back to move in and out with short fast strokes. She was screaming now, her arms stretched out to the sides and tearing at the white sheets while her heels bounced on the back of his thighs. He let out a grunt, then a yell, and then collapsed on top of her. Her arms and legs wrapped around him and she softly stroked his back with her fingertips, following the scars. The lay like that for some time and I looked on smiling and proud.

“Hi Michael,” I said at last, chipper and vibrant.

He jumped with a start and rolled off of Magda, pulling the sheet across their naked and sweaty bodies.

“Mom! What the fuck!?” Michael yelled.

“Oh, don’t be shy…it’s nothing I haven’t seen before,” I chided him with a wide grin.

I walked to the door and waited. There were noises from inside; shuffling, opening and closing of drawers, and then the door opened. Michael had pulled on a pair of shorts but that was all. There were scars on his chest as well and I reached out and touched one of them, pursing my lips and wrinkling my nose. He took my hand in his and pulled me close for a hug.

“What are you doing here? How’d you find us?” he asked me.

“How’d I find you?” I asked. “My brother-in-law helped hide you. Did you think he’d keep where you were from me?

“Yeah I guess, right?” he said, letting me go but then hugging me again. “It’s good to see you.”

“You’re looking really good, Michael. Very fit,” I said poking him in the chest and grinning. I tugged at the hair on his face. “The beard looks good too.”

Magda came to the door and hugged me as well. I opened the haversack and brought out the bundle of letters wrapped in a blue elastic band I’d taken from a bunch of broccoli the night before I left. “I brought you some mail.”

“Is it from weirdos?” Michael asked me nervously. “I’m done with all that shit.”

“It’s from your friends and family, silly,” I chided him.

He took the letters and thumbed through them before setting them on a table by the door of their tiny little home. Magda offered me water, which was clean and crisp tasting, nothing like anything you could get in a city.

“It’s from the lake,” she told me, limping with her cane into their little kitchen. “Are you hungry?”

“I am,” I said, “but there’s something way more important I have to do first.”

“What’s that?” Michael asked, looking like he was expecting me to say something dire.

“We’re going for a swim,” I said. I started taking off my shoes and shorts and shirt right in their kitchen. “Right now.”

“You might think this is stupid,” Michael said. “I don’t know if you remember but I never learned how to swim.”

“That’s probably my fault,” I said, handing him a piece of gum and then pulling him out the door by his hand towards the water. Magda followed behind as fast as she could, laughing and pulling off the wrap she’d put around herself when I arrived. “It’s time to learn!”

“I’m too old to start learning to swim, Mom!” he protested as I splashed into the water with him in tow. “I’m 24, I’ll be land bound forever!”

“Everything is transient, Michael,” I told him, stopping waist deep in the cold clear water. “Drifting constantly. There is no forever…”

“That sounds like something Mark would say,” he mumbled.

“Est,” I replied.

“I never learned Latin either,” he said shyly.

“It means ‘it is’,” Magda told him in her soft gentle voice.

“Yeah, whatever,” Michael said.

I frowned at him and put my knee against the back of his and she pushed on his chest, the two of us knocking him backwards and holding him under the water while we giggled. The sun sparkled off the rippling water and his hair drifted lazily beneath the surface and through its liquid embrace I saw my son smile the first true smile I think I’d ever seen him make. I got lost in it as thousands of years suddenly gained meaning and tears of joy sprang from my eyes.

He was my son…my beautiful perfect son…and I was his mother. There need not be anything more.

I loved my job.


-end

final credits music: http://youtu.be/xPBGZOWvMps
36 comments

anonymous readerReport

2013-09-19 21:48:49
Damn that was good, I guess he still had some spark in him after all.

anonymous readerReport

2013-03-31 01:11:12
Great Freakin Novel! Been a fan from the first Muse. Good luck with a book deal :-)

anonymous readerReport

2012-11-24 13:59:20
And man, there's nothing more that I love than a slim girl with brown hair and a fringe.

anonymous readerReport

2012-11-24 13:58:11
You played with my heartstrings and left them out to dry.

Honestly, man, when you get published I will definitely buy it. Definitely one of the better series I've read.

I feel a little disconnected since I read this all almost a year after you finished it, but honestly, I think the wait would've half-killed me.

Thanks for this.

Minus ThreeReport

2012-11-12 08:57:37
Why make it end? Well...because it was over. You can't write new stories if you don't finish old ones. This one was just...done

I'm working on a new book now, it won't be posted here. You can find a teaser or two on my Facebook page. Come check me out over there.

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