As I opened my mouth to respond the usual way, with a smart-mouthed comment, I noticed something strange out of the corner of my eye.
The room, at least what I could see from my prone position, looked like a movie set for the interior of the Titanic. Heavy on the gilt and chandeliers, and pictures of people on the wall that all looked as though they’d swallowed a live fish and it wasn’t agreeing with them. All that wasn’t the strange part, though. The fact that the wall seemed to be melting…was.
I glanced at the wall and back at the Woman, just as she clued in, and a string of that strange trickle-purr language spewed from her mouth…but this time it was more like ice cold white-water over jagged rocks as crows cawed above. She jumped to her feet, holding back another spate of coughing by sheer force of will, and began unbuckling, unlacing, and unlocking the restraints that held me to the table.
Meanwhile, I was watching with no little apprehension as more and more of the “scenery” softened, liquified, and slowly began to drift down the wall. No idea what was happening, but whatever it was, it wasn’t good. As soon as I was able to sit up I quickly finished off the rest of the restraints, swinging my feet off the table…which promptly disappeared, along with all the other furniture in the room.
The Woman in Red was finally unable to hold back another racking cough, although this one was interspersed with what I had to assume was her version of some very unhappy language. I moved to her, just as the floor seemed to tilt under our feet, leaving us at about a five degree slant upwards, toward the double doors. Deciding to act on my lifelong philosophy that cowardice is the better part of saving your life, I attempted to scoop up the Woman to carry her to the door.
I say attempted, as she didn’t move an inch, and I felt as if I had attempted to pick up a smallish pick-up truck. Through the cough, she shook her head, and straightened, holding her hand out to me. “I appreciate the attempt, Mr. “Blake”…but the support of your strong shoulder is all I need at this moment.” I moved so that she could rest her arm across my shoulders…felt like a couple bags of cement…and together we headed uphill toward the door. Where the walls had reached a certain point in their slow slide I saw behind some what appeared to be dirt, complete with very confused worms and plant roots, and behind the others, closer to the door, very old brick work…strange thing is it was placed…sideways?
All this was glimpsed as I struggled to reach the door, with a very beautiful and -very- weighty Woman as a complication. But finally we made it, and stood looking out into the hallway for a good five seconds before I could close my mouth. The hallway…although it’d be more proper to call it a tunnel, as it was round on all “sides” but the floor…was packed completely full with the strangest crowd I’d seen in my life…and believe me, that’s saying something.
Some walked, some scampered, some flew…a few even seemed to swim through the air…and all the traffic went one way. Up. The floor had tilted yet more, until everyone was climbing at about a 25 degree angle…which was fine for the flyers and swimmers, but not so much for the others. Then I saw one of the flyers pick up one of the smaller…things…and carry it to the end of the hall, where it promply dissappeared and the flyer came back for another. A pair of swimmers scooped another straggler, a lumbering fellow who looked to’ve been built of driftwood, up into a modified chair-carry and swam “upstream”…although slowed somewhat by their burden.
Around this point I realized that in the seconds that I’d been staring, the “floor” had tilted yet again, to an even steeper angle, and hurriedly waded out into the flow with the Lady. Startled by my own thought, I rewound and re-examined it, then turned to look at the object in question. Yeah, what my brain had instinctively recognized was a fact. This was not a Woman, or even the Woman…this was The Lady. Not that her appearance had changed any, or any other part of her…but every fibre of my body knew that this wasn’t someone to be fantasized about, or even casually admired…she was suddenly projecting an aura of majesty that I can’t say I’d ever felt before…or since, to be honest.
I carried/supported her out onto the sloped floor…and a movement out of the corner of my eye signaled the full collapse of the room we’d just left, leaving the door behind us looking down into a seemingly endless fall of black, rimmed with bricks and dirt until the light cut off the view. Gulping, I moved a bit further up the slope, as the crowd around us grew thinner and thinner, slowing to a trickle of the slower swimmers and flyers…and us. At this point the floor was tilting a few degrees every thirty seconds or so, leaving me struggling to carry Her cough-racked form a few feet at a time, pushed from behind by a small crowd of the…things who’d stayed behind for just this reason.
Suddenly, the weight on my shoulders disappeared, and I turned, startled, to see the Lady turn toward the tunnel wall and punch her right hand straight through, panting with effort. Turning back towards us…myself and the few flyers/swimmers left…she spoke, softly, in her strangely intriguing language. There was a distressed sounding reply from the group behind me, and her next statement was sharp, again very much a command.
With another distressed babble, and a few of them taking turns to duck out from basically holding me upright to touch her face, or clothes, or just press some unnameable part of themselves against her, we began to move upward again. I didn’t resist, as it was obviously her wish, so her voice from behind caused me to jerk in surprise and look back. “Thank you…Jake. I appreciate what you tried to do more than I can say. We -will- see each other again…I promise. After all, we still have to have that little chat!”
She laughed, lightly, once more the Woman in Red…until the floor began to tilt once again, and she called out urgently to the little ones who began to push harder. As I watched, she turned and punched her other fist into the brick wall, until she appeared to be embracing it…and then she was lost from sight as without her weight the flyers almost threw me up the tunnel.
Under Neath: A Kava continuation (rather long, so be warned. man this story is addictive. thanks again, trg!)
I woke up to a flash of red and the faintest whiff of that…literally, apparently…intoxicating scent. The red proved to be a little red hairbow in the gloss-black hair of what looked to be a child of 6 or 7. Her skin was dark, like a wet cardboard box, and her eyes were tilted just the tiniest bit and colored a gray so dark it might as well be black, if not for the tiny motes of gold that seemed to float there.
She was dressed all in grey except for the bow, with a soft tunic-like top over what looked like pajama pants. She was standing next to me, or rather next to the table I found myself strapped to, rocking back and forth on her heels and humming softly. Not considering her a threat, I looked away from her at the room around me…or at least that’s what I -tried- to do. As soon as I started to turn my eyes away, the humming got slightly louder, and I found myself staring into her eyes again.
Those eyes…the near-black iris surrounding the hypnotic ebony of the pupil seemed to fill the room, or at least my vision. The gold motes became tiny, perfectly formed koi, swimming happily in the black, black sea of those eyes. It became suddenly extremely important to me that I catch every detail of those beautiful fish, that I bring my focus deeper, and deeper…a harsh cough broke whatever was happening, and I was…released, as the girl turned to glare at the noisemaker.
I found myself panting, out of breath, with the slight headache of oxygen deprivation…and very confused. Lacking anything else to do, I also turned to look at the woman in the doorway. And the doorway. And every other detail of the room that I could take in, in that sweep. I locked it all away for later, aware that I had narrowly survived something dangerous, and needed to pay attention.
When the little one saw just who had coughed, her glare turned into a grimace, then a pout, as her head dropped so that she looked up through a waterfall of black. The woman in the doorway, leaning on the door frame as if too weak to stand, was the owner of the gorgeous ankles and lipstick red stilts I’d seen back at the bar.
All things considered, the rest of her fulfilled the promise made by her legs…all things being that she looked completely exhausted and the black circles under her eyes weren’t carry-on bags but full suitcases. She coughed again, and shook her head at the little one. Her voice was that of one accustomed to command, but tired and roughened by whatever was wrong with her.
She looked at the little one and let loose with a flow of sound, almost like water or birdsong or both or all, all combined into a beautiful whole that I wished I could record and keep, just to hear again and again…I shook my head again, and the sound was back to what it had started as, the work-roughened voice of command. Whatever she’d said to the little one had her wringing her little hands in distress, and whispering through her hair in that same trickle-whisper-purr, but it didn’t affect me the way it had from Her.
Finally, with a jerk of the head from the Woman in red, the little one scuttled from the room, her sparkling red hair bow falling from her hair to the floor by the Womans feet. With a tired sigh, she bent to pick it up, long beautiful fingers fidgeting with it as she slowly walked across the room toward me. A smile quirked the corners of her lips for a moment, until another cough racked her body, and she crumpled into a chair that I hadn’t noticed sitting there, like a string-cut puppet. After a series of coughs, she slowly straightened, fingers clenched so tightly around the little bow that her knuckles were white…which was some trick, considering her skin was somewhere between new-snow and ice—blue already.
Once she sat up, platinum-white hair falling off her shoulders like water over crystal boulders, she closed her quartz blue eyes for a moment, and then opened them and her fingers, tucking the little bow away in a pocket of the red power suit she wore.
Being ever considerate, I decided to speak first, to save her voice…or something like that, anyway. “Hi! Nice to finally meet you…how much did you say your name was?” Alright, so I’m a smart-ass, no surprise there. Again that tiny smile, the barest quirk of those beautiful lips.
“As it is “nice” to meet you, as well, Mr. Blake. Although one -could- wish for more congenial surroundings, I’m afraid you’ll have to make do, for now. Perhaps later, when you understand a bit more…we can be a bit more…accommodating.”
Buddys indrawn breath whistled in my ears, as the three of us bellied up side by side to look over the edge of the roof. Grinning, Buddy rolled over to look back to Prof, who simply raised a brow. Buddy laughed, his voice a hoarse whisper. “I can’t believe it! It’s really here…I thought you were shitting me.” Prof snorted. “I -do- occasionally know whereof I speak. Not, I’ll be the first to mention, often, but…”
I listened to them banter behind me, but couldn’t tear my eyes from the beautiful sight that lay in the courtyard below…long and sleek, with the angles and curves of some ’60’s idea of a spaceship, the extravagant sports car looked designed for stranger worlds than these. Her amber-red tail lights were slanted, like flirting eyes, and I knew there was nothing more beautiful in the world…I -would- drive that car. At least, I’d drive it when we delivered it…had a well-heeled enthusiast already lined up, waiting.
Gravel bit into my arms as I carefully backed away from the edge, toward my two temporary partners. Once I was sure it was safe, I sat up, shrugging one shoulder. “Uh-huh. It’s a real nice car. You sure we can get it out of there?” Buddy blinked, shaking his head disbelievingly. “You are one cold fish…”nice car”…” He snorted, still shaking his head.
Prof just nodded. “Got the owner-mans’ schedule by heart…he’s a man of routine, hasn’t moved from his safe little path in the three months I’ve been watching him. And this weekend he’ll be safely off to Bermuda with the missus…”
I nodded, turning to Buddy. “And you’re sure you can get the equipment? Tent and all?” He shrugged. “Sure…my cousins rig’s been sittin’ idle for a month now, he ain’t gonna notice if I borrow it a little. How we gonna get’em to believe the note’s from him, anyway?”
I looked to Prof. This part was his baby. He grinned, holding up a folder full of paper. “Owner-mans own stationery, already signed…he makes up a handful of these before he leaves, in case “anything happens”…isn’t that clever of him?” He chuckled, as Buddys grin got even wider. “Nice…”
I nodded, thinking to myself that the better part of this occupation wouldn’t be possible if the world were to get a sudden shot of smarts. “Ok, then. 7 sharp, outside the warehouse, tomorrow. See you both there.” They nodded, then turned back to their bragging conversation before I’d even made my way down from the roof. Once again I reflected how glad I was I’d never bothered with steady partners…enough time with idiots like these, and anyone’d lose a permanent point of intelligence.
Driving my little Accord home, like any law abiding citizen, I stopped for gas and ran her through the car wash…using the slow passage through the dark, wet, soapy tunnel to relax, like always. The soap froth made pictures on the windshield, formed and faded and formed again, and I zoned out to the sound of Tom Petty on the radio, till we emerged into the bright dark of a Seattle night.
Stopping only to grab a fat steak for the grill, I drove home at a “safe” pace, no more visibly conscious of the police presence on the highways than anyone. Steak, salad, and two carefully tended beers later, my head hit the pillow and the world went away.
If I dreamed that night, it was no more than a news report…”This was Your day, and You were There!” I hadn’t had what I would call a “real” dream since I was a kid. Of course, there was a -lot- that I hadn’t done since I was a kid. And a lot I had.
Bonnie Tyler was belting out “I Need A Hero” when the radio cut on that evening. I grinned to myself, swinging my legs over the side of the bed. Heroism was a self-correcting problem, as far as I was concerned. Grabbing the clean t-shirt and jeans off the ladderback chair by the window, I headed for the shower as the announcer began the rush-hour newsbreak.
A twenty minute walk later, I slipped behind the bar, giving a nod to the harried ‘tender already on shift. May rolled her eyes out of sight of the crowd, and I tossed her a sympathetic grin and slipped back into the familiar routine. My hands poured, opened, built and filled, working almost independently of my mind, till the Friday happy-hour crowd finally thinned, and I could afford to slump back and shake my head at Mays’ offer of a break. “You go ahead. I’m wired, tonight.” She just shrugged, and slipped out the pass-through with a grateful sigh.
I occupied myself wiping down the bar, stacking glasses, all the little crap that needed done before closing. The Queens Head was a nice enough place for the neighborhood, and the fact that it was in walking distance of home made it ideal for me as a base of operations. I checked my watch, glanced at the door, and rolled my eyes. Of course they were late. Probably stopped to take candy from some kid and got arrested. I was really going to have to look harder for good help, next time. And where was May? She should’ve been back in to take over for me…what…20 minutes ago now?
Signaling one of the servers to grab the bar for a minute, I headed toward the break room/storage area…and to the door into the not-quite-an-alley behind the bar. May always went out there to smoke, even though it was allowed inside. Said it didn’t feel right. But I didn’t smell cloves, and the door was open a bit. “May?” I moved cautiously toward the door, predator senses on alert. “May? Y’done yet? C’mon, honey, I want a break -sometime- tonight…” When I reached the door I threw it open, quickly jumping to one side…but nothing happened. More than nothing. It was dead quiet out there. No traffic sounds, no sirens, no usual music-played-too-loudly-through-bad-speakers from the local raver/skater punks…nothing. No. Not quite nothing…
A chill fog drifted silently through the door, sliding across the cement floor to pool around my feet. I caught a whiff of something…like perfume, but thicker. I shook my head. What the -hades- was going on here? I…I was looking for…someone. Someone who…who smelled like…cloves? No…like perfume. Like…this… I shook my head, harder, a low growl starting in the bottom of my throat. No…not right. Not at work…not here. I swallowed the growl, or tried to, but it came out more like a whine, as my knees buckled…and my head hit the floor. As my eyes closed, the last sight I saw was a gorgeous pair of ankles in mile-high red stilts. What? I’m a guy!
I sit up on the hill and watch until the fireworks fade, one hand idly twirling my ID badge on its distinctive red-white-and-blue lanyard.
Once the last sparkles have fallen into the lake, and the fire crews nearly have the blaze under control, I pull my worn and tattered little black book out of my pack. I remove the knotted rubber bands that hold the cover shut against the straining within, and carefully open it to one particular page.
With a grin, I take the worn stub of pencil from behind my ear, and make a checkmark next to “Fireworks Technician”. One more off the list. Then, carefully placing my ID badge (sans lanyard) between the pages, I reclose the little book and replace it in my pack, which I then throw over my shoulder.
Leaving the lanyard behind, tied in a pretty bow around the box of sprinklers I’d used to set the blaze, I turn my nose toward the moon, and set off in Her direction once again. Wonder what’s next…
So anyway, there was this Friday Fictioneers thing, and I wrote this little story for it, and some people liked it, and I liked some peoples, and there was much liking all around. The end. Or really, the beginning, cause I now have two new toys to keep me busy, on -top- of trying to satisfy all of your ravishing appetites for my marvelous poems. Oy, how will I ever manage?
So yeah, the toys. First of all, The Reclining Gentleman has generously allowed me to play in his playground, along with 5 (so far) other lucky people. They are writing what they term a Fiction Relay, which I will just link to the page of because I am much too lazy to explain it except to say that every…ummm…6 weeks or so, I will be posting a piece of story that may not make much sense to most of you (unless you are my smart readers as I know you are, in which case you will have started reading along as we play.) but trust me, it is, in itself, part of a larger whole.
Aaand the other toy. Said Gentleman (herewithin referenced as TRG) wrote an awesome piece for the Friday Fictioneers, with a character I immediately fell in love with (which in under 100 words ain’t easy!) and mentioned that I would love to use him (in a story, you dirty minded peoples) and just like that, he gave me permission! Squee!
So, with that all said, linked, etc…the next post you see will be a teeny little thing, a sort of se/prequel if you will, of Kava’s story…finishing off where TRG left him, and starting him on his way to me.