Ten Months Later
Half an hour to midnight. Chances were, it was going to feel like fifteen seconds at the speed of light. And if I wasn’t careful, the whiplash was going to kill me. Ten thousand thoughts tried to penetrate my mind, but this was all far too important for me to grow distracted. Close your eyes. Deep breath. Void.
Scott had been unable to reach me for what was about to be three days; as planned. We had received the go-ahead from Wendy at ten o’clock that morning. The rest of the day had been spent putting the final pieces into place. At eight, I was satisfied. At nine, we rolled out. At eleven thirty, here we were. Next to me sat French, humming Shostakovich to himself while fiddling with fiddling with a zipper on his sleeve. He had done well today, and I was sure that he would do exceptionally well tonight. I had the same confidence in the other six with us in the truck. More so, in fact, than in myself. It was hard for me to determine whether this was a good or bad thing. My logos said good, my pathos said bad. My ethos stayed silent. It had a habit of doing so until the moment of action arrived. After a few minutes, the bumpy road turned to asphalt. Nodding to myself and the others, I watched as French pulled out his radio. He spoke.
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There was a knock at the door; Mae. She let herself in, sauntering in coolly and tossing me the clothes I had woken up without. The Priestess winced at this, for some reason, calming down only after I had caught my pants. Somehow, Mae had gotten the stains out. This was oddly impressive to me.
“Thanks. Sure took awhile for you to get back. What, is there no washing machine nearby?” She threw her hands up in a shrug, accidentally knocking over a cup across the room with her altered touch. This didn’t seem to faze her, though, and she replied.
“Nearest Laundromat is five blocks east. Glad there aren’t any MP checkpoints in Detroit like there were in Milwaukee. What’s up with that? I mean, not that I’m complaining.” I had no goddamn clue, and indicated as such to the Priestess, who restrained laughter at my perplexed expression. Both turned away as I stood up to dress myself (though I noticed that Mae took a few seconds before doing so) and the Priestess took a moment to answer.
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The Priestess’s meditation chamber had been serving as a sort of conference room for the past few weeks as the six of us; Jan, Wendy, Mae, Priestess, French and myself; had been planning ahead. We all sat on the floor in a tight circle. As I had sort of grown into the ‘leader’ position, it was usually my turn to speak first. Though Jan never observed that rule too closely.
“Tell me we aren’t screwed. I didn’t see you dragging Zane back here in chains. Bad sign if I’ve ever seen one.” After giving her an annoyed look, I spoke.
“Before you jump to conclusions,” I said, smiling at my wit, “I feel we should make a note of everything we’ve accomplished this afternoon.” French grinned a toothy grin and crossed his arms. Continue reading →
“We deserve better than this,” I said between coughs. The lights were dim, but I could make out the faces of my companions perfectly. Mae certainly looked like she agreed, but she was too modest to say anything about it. Poor girl. Recent events seemed to have knocked the extroversion right out of her. Jan, though, she was in the mood to object. So, business as usual.
“We, or you?” Inhale. Exhale. Ignore the smell. It was hard to even follow my own directions. I had never been made to endure such a stench. To my left, Wendy was acting ever modest, but I could tell he agreed with me.
“No one should have to live like this. Not me, not you. Hell, I wouldn’t even wish all this tepid sewer water on Zane.” A moment passed. “No, that’s completely untrue.” Mae, attempting tact, changed the subject. Continue reading →
It was the worst seat in the church. The view was fine, and he was far back enough that he escaped any uncomfortable scrutiny by the pastor. But the summer sun bent through the stained glass window of the east wall, shining intensely on his family’s bench. Neil was in the center of the searing spotlight, and had to constantly look to the left or front to avoid being blinded.
“Let us rise.”
As the congregation rose in a wave, Neil took a deep breath. The lyrics always escaped him. Whenever he put in the effort to find a song in the hymnal, the chorus always switched to another before he found it in the labyrinthine index. So he’d taken to lip-syncing. He was starting to get good at it. Mimicking the exaggerated gestures of a Baptist was an entertaining challenge.
Once, his mother had caught his lips moving emptily in the air. She’d given him a piercing glance during last year’s Easter mass, and the air between them filled with ice. In that second, Neil knew that something about his teenage diversion revealed every thought he’d kept hidden to keep the peace. He couldn’t turn away. he expected yelling, or bawling, or a grounding that never ended. Instead, he got that lone, disappointed look.
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Coffee for Jan and whisky for Wendy and myself was the order of the day. Mae’s mother, a happy-looking woman in her early fifties, had insisted we make ourselves comfortable. It was an interesting feeling that washed over me as I reclined on a huge leather sofa in the den.
“I think I might be comfortable.” Jan put her hand up to her mouth in mock shock.
“Are you positive? Check again. We want to be sure, here.” Wendy gave her a nudge and she went back to her coffee. Mae and her mother had left the room to go procure a few painkillers and healing accelerants. In the meantime, the three of us took in the quilt-covered den and enjoyed our drinks by the fireplace, which glowed happily. It would have been nice to just sit in silence for a while, but what Wendy had told me was too pressing a concern to ignore.
“Wendy, how can you be sure that she’s…you know…” He put his glass down and shuddered for a moment, licking his lips.
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I realized as a small animal bit me that I had fallen asleep. As I opened my eyes, the circumstances leading up to my spending the previous night in a dumpster came back to me like a hangover. I groaned quite audibly. Sure, I had decided the previous night that the score between Zane and I was even. So why did it feel like I had lost? Something told me that the bastard had slept in a very warm bed last night. Thoroughly pissed off, I roused myself from the garbage that surrounded me and climbed out of the dumpster. A moment passed. I coughed. It was entirely possible that I had caught a cold.
Stretching, I considered where I could go; what I could do. My father was probably disgusted with me now; I couldn’t go home. Tyler was the one who turned me in. I would definitely be paying him a visit in the future; there were no doubts there. But that was lower on my list of priorities. Suddenly, a thought occurred to me: Stacy! There was no way she could have betrayed me. I even saw her leaving before I lost consciousness. She was just surprised. But I look normal now.
The hospital was still visible to me from the alley I stood in. I had been there before, once, a few years ago. I knew where it was in relation to Stacy’s apartment. About a quarter-mile away. There were…two police checkpoints between me and there. But I was no stranger to finding detours. Life in the city teaches one how to work around the little barriers. I voiced the route in my head to make sure I was getting it right.
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Looking back on it now, it almost tickles me. The things I believed, the things I didn’t, the lies I bought and the truths I dismissed. Up until recently, I would have taken any opportunity I could get my hands on to go back to the way things were. Anyone would, I think, though I have been blamed for being myopic. One piece of wisdom I’ve gained since then is having learned how quickly we toss our innocence aside. And how quickly we wish we had it back. The thing that people tend to forget about regrets, though, is how they can be undone. It can take effort, though. I’m still working on a few of mine.
Eighteen. It began, as I remember, the day I turned eighteen. The history books will not mark it as important, but there’s no way anyone could know everything about what happened to me and what I’ve done. I’d rather they didn’t, truth be told. We all have some skeletons in our closet. I had school that day. I was rather disappointed. The year before, my birthday had fallen on a weekend. Continue reading →
Our first mate Sam Lagow is back, with the first installment of a new serial that will be replacing Shademan. Literally. The Shademan pages are gone.
The view from the office was unlike any Jaelyn had ever seen. It made the city seem so finite, and the rest of the world so vast. In her lifetime, she had only been able to look up at towers like the one he now stood at the top of. But now, things were possible. Or, they would be once the surgical scars healed.
She looked idly at the bandages that obscured most of her right arm. The pain was gone, replaced now by a near-constant itching sensation that had been driving her damn near insane. The surgeon had told her not to scratch it, though. Reattachment procedures apparently only took if one made oneself endure the discomfort.
“Load of bull, if you ask me,” Jaelyn said to no one. Still, she had learned long ago to obey the doctor’s orders, and had been enduring discomfort even longer. There was little point, stopping now. With an annoyed sigh, she walked over to an easy chair and threw herself down upon it, landing in an awkward position.
After waiting for a few more minutes, she began to grow bored. Mead said that he would be there at six. It was six forty-five, and the guy hadn’t even called. Thoroughly aggravated, but not the least bit surprised, Jaelyn pulled out her multi-tool and began fooling around with its pliers. It didn’t take her long to discover how fun it was to clamp it around her nose and jerk said appendage around. After a few moments, she realized how silly he must have looked and put the tool away. Continue reading →
The first drink burned. It was vodka, a brand with a name that Devin couldn’t pronounce. It had the rich flavor and texture of gasoline. After promising himself he’d never drink fuel again, he ordered a beer.
“I thought you were made of sterner stuff.” Lola said teasingly.
“Guess not.” Devin said with a frown. The barkeeper was capable of switching from comfortable familiarity to open contempt in an instant. He’d never gotten used to it.
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