Okies, here we go again…it’s Fiction Relay time once more! If it seems as if it’s coming to me more often (is anyone complaining?) you’re right, but hopefully only temporarily. We’ve had a few sad departures, due to increased pressure from that horrible beast known as “Real Life”…and a few are just taking a quick break, but will be back with us shortly. But never fear, we are keeping the torch passing, keeping the light in the window, and all that sort of thing…so with no further babble, here is part (I think) 42!
Trotting after the three strange ones through the halls of the Club, Jose kept his fingers curled protectively around the tiny leather pouch in his jacket pocket. Feeling the butter-softness of the ancient medicine bag against his rough palm seemed to keep him grounded, keep him walking in beauty amongst the witches.
He knew it was necessary, for him to be here…had known it ever since the touch of the woman’s quick fingers on his wallet had burned through to his skin, cold as the breath of the Mountain itself. He had known that it was time, finally, and he had known pride that his generation would fulfill the promise…but it had taken all his strength not to turn and run, to leave this place and hightail it home, back among the People.
Until yesterday he had believed the stories, of course. As you believed all the stories. Of course they were true. Why would they not be? But true now…in this world…to suddenly be told that you are a messenger, and that your time is -now-…he took a deep breath, fingers once more caressing the tiny bag as they hurried out into the deepening dusk.
Alone again, the man known as Sanderson hopped back up into his favorite position, cross-legged on the marble-slab conference table, looking out into the coming night. As always, when unobserved, he faced the Mountain.
Beneath the layers, shorn of (most) pretence, he was much closer to the young man of Ephraims vision…the craggy cheekbones and deep-set eyes of ice-water blue under that waterfall of white hair gave him a startling resemblance to the Mountain that he tried to keep hidden.
Of course, he liked to believe that the Mountain had come to resemble him in some ways, as well. In order to keep him out, it had needed to let a bit of him in. To become more…flexible, less rigid. And in doing so, although it had taken him an eternity to prepare, to sacrifice…it had become its own undoing.
And now the tools were at hand. And now the first sally had been sent. And soon it would be seen if the arrows he had labored so long to create would make their mark…or break against its stony hide.
Melissa dreamed. And Raj was ready. He had been mustering his “strength” for this little exercise for a while now, and he was finally ready. Carefully, warily, he widened his area of focus, pushing his awareness out into the room around him a bit at a time, until finally “he” stood away from his motionless body. Gritting his teeth, he pushed through the disgusting layer of sweaty-grimy-dirty-slime that was the psychic residue of thousands of weary travelers over the years, and made his way gingerly across the space that separated him from his sleeping target.
Halfway there, he received a rather nasty shock that set him back a bit…the coyote “statue” suddenly turned its glowing eyes in his direction, pinning him in place in a most literal fashion as he felt it heedlessly rummage through “him”. Whatever it was looking for, he must have passed, however, because the eyes dimmed again and the tension was released.
The incident shook him, but nothing would stay Raj from his goal, at this point. He’d been waiting far too long to let some little…totem, guardian, low rank ancestral spirit, whatever…get in his way. Ignoring the sound of quiet snickering, he pushed on until “he” stood staring down at Melissa’s sleeping form.
For a moment he simply stood, telling himself that it was necessary to gather energy before the final push…but knowing that he wanted to savor the moment, his final triumph against the murderous bitch who had tried to stop him. Staring down at her, he reached out an ephemeral “hand”, and traced the lines of her face…from this side, it was easy to see what the waking world could not. To see behind the semi-permanent illusion she wore, to the biggest secret she held.
Although their faces weren’t -exactly- identical…Meagan’s chin had a bit more point, while Melissa’s cheekbones were a touch stronger, for instance…the resemblance was crystal clear, and the relationship undeniable, to those who could see. How had it felt, he wondered, to give that up? To know that your closest relation…the closest relationship it was possible to have…wouldn’t recognize you? Wouldn’t even remember you? Was it worth it, in the end? Was the extra power worth the loss? Was that why she had never changed her name, trying to hold on to even that weak link to her twin? He shrugged, impatiently. Whatever. Time to play.
With a sound half laugh, half snarl, he moved to kneel over her on the bed, phantom hands on either side of her face. At the contact, she moaned, thrashing a bit on the bed, but didn’t wake. Gathering himself…literally…Raj brought his face down until his ephemeral lips touched hers. Her thrashing worsened, but her head was held still…and Raj grinned against her mouth, swallowing her increasingly desperate moans like fine wine. “Time to wake up, little one…wake up, and kiss me goodbye!”
An impatient snarl fell from his lips as her eyelids flickered, but didn’t open. Attempting to strengthen his hold on her, drag her up from her nightmares by brute force if necessary, he was distracted for just long enough. “Bitch! Wake your ass up, little whore! Wake uhhh…”
Gasping desperately for air, Melissa sat straight up in the nasty hotel bed, the remains of the dream still echoing in her mind. Shuddering, she curled into a ball on the cheap sheets, tears pouring down her cheeks, unheeded. Raj had been her first and greatest love…and her worst enemy, so far…but even he hadn’t deserved the fate served to him in her nightmare. The sound of his screams as the pack of wild…dogs? wolves? somethings had torn him apart would likely echo in her mind forever.
After a quick glance to make sure that the not-quite-a-corpse still sat in the lounge chair next to the bed, that its position of slumped, sheet-covered gloom hadn’t shifted…that it wasn’t, in point of fact, torn and shredded, bloody scraps all over the room…she curled into herself, all dignity gone, all restraint lost, and sobbed herself into an uneasy sleep once more.
And on the dresser, the eyes of the statue flickered. The shadows played around its muzzle, giving the impression, almost, of movement…if one were fanciful, one could even imagine it…laughed.
Whoops. Missed an important part of the game…passing the stick. Here y’go, Dawn!
(Once again I get to play in the awesome writers playground that is the shared story, “Suzi’s Saga” or “A symphony in Blue”. ;p Hopefully you’ve read some of the other chapters, but if not and you want to catch up, follow this link to find links to the other 37 chapters, and even the names of the perpetrators of this deed. Here’s to my fellow FR’ers…hope you like it!)
With a squeal born of pure rage and hysteria, Melissa stared wide-eyed at the apparition, the sudden appearance of the hated one temporarily destroying her fragile hold on sanity. Fingers like claws, she grabbed for Blue, trying to grab her collar, eyes still locked on Suzi’s. As Suzi’s mocking grin grew wider, Melissa’s fingers groped impotently, and she turned her head…and saw an empty seat.
“Wha…what??” She scrambled across to the door, tried the latch, and shook her head again, confused. “It’s still…still locked? But…” With a snarl, she turned on Suzi, eyes glowing as she gathered her power to her…only to find the window closed as well. Scrabbling at the latch, desperate for some explanation, some…sense, she heard the sound of car horns fade in, outside, and the rush of traffic.
The window slid open, and the voice of the driver drifted back, sounding bored and impatient. “You ok, lady? Need some help getting out? We’re here…” Baffled, she looked to the car windows, and saw the street in front of her hotel, as noisy and real as if it’d never gone away. “I…”
~Come on, Mel…pull yourself together, girl. Something freaky is happening…what’s new about that? But above all we can’t let anyone know we’re upset…or inconvenienced…in any way. Just breathe…~
With a deep breath and a brush at her ruffled hair, she spoke, pitching her voice low to sound in control. “No, this’ll be fine…thank you for making such good time. How much do I owe you?” The man shrugged. “Well, with the extra stop to pick up your friend, I guess…$40?” Bemused, she pulled the money out of her bag and paid, stepping carefully and slowly out onto the well lit pavement of the hotel entrance.
As she turned to go, the man called out. “Hey! Don’t forget your “luggage”!” and she heard the trunk latch click. Moving slowly still, she moved to the open trunk, and blinked at the blanked-wrapped bundle inside. For some reason she felt as if she should recognize it…didn’t it belong to her? But the memory fell from her confused mind like water, evaporating as it went.
Blinking again, she motioned to a bellman, and asked for help carrying the bundle to her room. Following the cart, locked in her own head, she made her way to the room. Placing the bundle on the floor at the foot of the bed, she slumped down beside it, one hand resting on it…and fell asleep.
As Blue opened her eyes, the familiar walls of Spence’s room at the compound fading into view, she burst into delighted laughter, picturing the look on Melissa’s face. “Oh, lord. I wish I was there to see it. Wonder how soon it faded? Hope she made it “home”…we still need her. Need all of them, unfortunately. For now. Until mom and I are together again…”
She sobered for a moment, turning the image she’d plucked from Melissa’s mind over and over in her mind.
~Hmm…I do kinda look like her. Good. More her than him, thank god. That’ll help her recognize me, I hope…if she can’t just feel me, like I feel her.~
Still a bit dizzy from the effects of the unexpected alcohol, and the brand new feeling of “Jumping”, she sat down on Spence’s bed, briefly considering how nice a quick nap would feel. Sighing, she shook her head, and stood. “Time to go get my baby back…and show that guy what happens when he drugs the wrong person.” Grinning happily, she strode out of the room, her steps confident and sure.
In the Clubs private dining room, its panoramic glass windows looking out over the beautiful view, dominated by the sacred mountain that loomed in the distance, three pairs of eyes stared at the man calling himself Sanderson. Jose, a confused look on his face, looked at them. “You did not know this? You did not know that this…this witch, this destroyer-of-beauty, was their leader? And yet you came seeking him…” His eyes thoughtful, he settled back in his chair, watching them all now, warily.
“Sanderson” laughed, the hearty laugh of a strong man, and nodded his head to one of the brick walls. “Bring me Spencer…I need to have a word with him, and I want these folks to hear.” With a nod, the man left. He moved surprisingly lightly and silently, although he had to turn sideways to fit through the door.
“So…” “Sanderson” turned back to face the others, winking at Ephraim as he did. “You must be “Ephraim”. The Seer. It is a pleasure to meet you again. I am pleased to see that you have learned discipline and discretion as you matured.”
Chuckling at Ephraims baffled expression, he turned to Sam. “And you would be “Sam”…the See-er.” He laughed at his own joke, even though the rest just looked puzzled. “Be careful how deeply you See…some things do not -wish- to be seen, and have the power to make you regret crossing them. On the other hand, you are the father of my favorite pupil, so I can forgive you much.”
“And last, but most important…my little Suzi. I’m glad you managed to find us again, despite your sisters efforts to the contrary. She never quite trusted me for some reason..”
Startled, Suzi opened her mouth…but shut it again as the brick wall returned, ushering in a young man of about 18. As he approached the table, she gasped, fingers tightening on the table, and glanced at Sam to see if he felt it as well. Finding him looking down the table at her, she mouthed “He feels like Sammy!” and watched him nod, once, before turning to watch as “Sanderson” began to speak.
The young man stood impassively in front of the big man, almost seeming to stand at attention, military style. “You asked to see me, sir?”
When “Sanderson” spoke, they all stifled a gasp…his voice had completely changed! This voice was that of a much younger man, although still older by far than the young man…a peevish and fretful voice, used to being in control but holding on to that control with both grasping hands.
Stealthily and warily, Ephraim risked a peek at him, controlling his reaction at what he saw. A man sat in the chair, balding and middle-aged, in an approximation of a military uniform. From the markings and the younger mans attitude, Ephraim deduced that he was of a high “rank” in whatever organization he belonged to.
“Yes, soldier, I “asked to see you”. I shouldn’t have had to! What were you thinking?” The young man, presumably “Spencer”, stared resolutely at a point just over “Sandersons” shoulder as he spoke, his voice crisp. “Sir…I was tending to an asset, sir. Per your previous instructions, sir.”
Ephraim watched as the shadow-man pinched the bridge of his nose, obviously a habitual gesture, and shook his head. “Spencer…son…she’s dangerous, you know that. I don’t want you risking yourself in case…no, -when-…she goes rogue.”
The young man seemed to pull himself even straighter. “Sir…understood, sir. With all due respect, I believe I can handle her, sir. She listens to me. And, sir…grandfather believes I can handle her. That is enough for me. Sir.”
The man bristled, fists clenched in his lap under the table. “Your grandfather is no longer in charge of this organization, soldier. He is unwell, and has turned all policy making and organizational matters over to me. And I -order- you to stand down re Private Blue. Just this once…do as I say?”
Startled, Meagan clapped her hands over her mouth, senses reaching out almost automatically to “read” the boy who stood before her. Recoiling as she felt the strength of his connection to…Blue…to Sammy…she glared at him behind her hands. Sammy is 14, for gods sake!
With a crisp salute, the boy half-turned to the door. “Sir, yes sir! Understood sir!” He turned and headed out the door, still speaking, but softly now, his voice fading as he stalked down the hall. “…comprehende…gotcha…dohn…comprendre…”
Shaking his head, “Sanderson” settled back, looking back to Meagan. (Ephraim watched the shadow-man fade, and the coyote-man come to the fore once again) “I apologize for that. The boy has his own brand of courage, true…but much like your Sammy, not an ounce of discipline.”
Meagan frowned at him. “I don’t understand…how can he be your son? I mean…I know you’re not…well, not human?”
He chuckled. “Ahh, but he is -not- my son. He is “Sandersons” son. And Sanderson is -my- son…at least as far as the Club is concerned. You understand that I am handing you some of the deepest secrets of the Club? And I know you’re all smart enough to wonder…what does he want, in exchange for these secrets? Well, I will tell you…”
(*giggles* On to you, Dawn! Have fun! *hugs*)
This is part 35 of the Fiction Relay serial story, following the adventures and misadventures of Suzi and those she impacts. To read the rest of the story, or just see a summary so far, go here. To see who is crazy enough to play this game, and see how you might join the insanity, go here.
One quick look back…and then to the road once more. Somewhere behind her, red and blue lights painted their rude graffiti onto the red rock walls of the canyon, but all she saw was a pair of haunting (and a bit haunted) blue eyes. Eyes that could tease and taunt, freeze and burn…eyes that had seared themselves into her almost as long as she could remember.
Since she “joined” the Club, at 8 yrs. old, there had been Spencer. Ten yrs. old, the directors son, and a boy…all things calculated to be sure that their paths never met, at pain of mortal embarrassment and peer humiliation. But like her, Spence had never been a rule follower. Unlike her, however, he didn’t necessarily -break- rules…he just made new ones, that only applied as he saw fit.
For instance, the rule was that Blue (or Sammy, at the time) belonged to him. Her cadet training, her fire-arms qualification, and eventually the discovery and training of her many talents (all that she admitted to, anyway) were all under close supervision and scrutiny, watched over by those eyes. And after-hours, as well. It was Spence who taught her how to drive, practicing with her side-by-side on the back lot from age 12 until she left on the search for her mother. It was Spence who teased her hidden talents from her, one by one, pulling them out and helping her practice those, as well. By that time, he was 16 to her 14, and discretion became the rule.
Especially once the friendship began to deepen. Especially once the Mentor/Student dynamic began to slip, in new and exciting ways. Discretion. Discretion among her peers, discretion among her trainers/teachers…and most of all, discretion among the higher-ups. The new rule was that Blue was Spence’s reluctant assistant, working hard to stretch her “leash” by volunteering for outside missions, and solo missions, almost exclusively. The truth…known solely to the two of them…was that their “connection” had strengthened, over the years. Whatever the…thing…they had between them, it was now so strong that it didn’t matter how far away she was from him, if he chose he could see through her eyes, feel with her hands…or her heart.
The fact that he knew how afraid she was of being “taken over”, of losing control, and chose to respect that, chose to give -her- the power of choice, of reaching out to him or not…for that, if for nothing else, she felt for him. This most recent meeting? It needed pondering. It needed thought, to reach past the emotion, past the pleasure/pain, past the mysterious words…thought that could best be done off the road, and perhaps over a drink.
Besides, the urgency of the chase had begun to calm a bit, the closer she got to “home”…to the Club. It was fairly obvious, now, where her mother would end up…which gave her a chance for a short break. Some breathing room, a chance to sort through this new thing. Spotting a familiar symbol on the next exit sign, she grinned, and slowed to make the turn.
The man known as Sanderson moved to sit at the long table, his stride strong and confident, and his smile quick and sure. As he approached, Sam tried to get a better look at him…for one moment, he thought he might have caught a glimpse…then in the next, he knew better. In that moment, with a sly wink, the “man” let himself be seen. The aura lifted, and Sam shuddered, almost falling to his knees from the force of the personality that stood in front of him. A child staring bare-eyed into the eclipse, he knew his mistake, knew his limits, and quickly slammed his eyes (both sets) closed. Cautiously opening his eyes as the confident steps moved away, toward Meagan and her new friend, Jose, he breathed in, seeing only the man once more, aura and all. A quick mischievous grin flashed where only he could see let him know that his relief had not gone unnoticed…and a quick glance to his friends showed that they were unaware of his distress, or of any pause in “Sanderson”‘s advance. Resolving to tighten his supervision, Sam mentally shook himself, and settled into guard mode.
Ephraims law-trained skills of observation coupled with the habits of a lifetime spent hiding the effects of his “talents” from others were all that kept the shock from his face as the creature calling itself “Sanderson” passed between Sam and the table. The visions were one thing. He’d had them all his life, and by now they were almost familiar. Annoying, sometimes painful, and escalating, recently, for some reason…but known. When he’d been in the orphanage, and realized that the pills were supposed to change him, give him what it gave the others…it had been a huge relief to just pretend that it had worked, that the visions were just starting, and oh-my-gosh what’s all this then?
But this…he took another long look as “Sanderson” moved to sit at the table. On the surface, he saw what everyone saw…an old man, still strong and confident, in charge, with a mysterious aura that seemed to cause different reactions in each of them. But underneath…literally… well, start with the face. The long grey-furred muzzle, shading into grizzled tan as it neared the mischievous grey-blue eyes, then back to grey to the tips of the tall pointed ears that stuck up through “Sandersons” mane of white hair like reeds from a pond. Add a long furry tail, shaded similarly, and what Ephraim could only term a “cowboy outfit”…faded blue workshirt, worn jeans, dusty and very well lived-in boots…and a gun in a holster that seemed almost to shimmer, as if it fit in both worlds. He mentally shook his head, but the view didn’t change…and the look on the humanoid coyotes face as it glanced at him…and winked…he took a deep breath, and tried to look alert as he and Sam were motioned to take a seat at the table as well.
The naughty little donkey that symbolized “Bad Ass Coffee” almost seemed to grin as Blue pulled into the lot, parking next to a long line of other bikes of all sizes and shapes. Sniffing appreciatively at the smell of good coffee, frying bread, and locally brewed…well, brew…she pushed her way through the doors. Not what the average person would picture as the typical biker bar, Bad Ass nonetheless endeared itself to the locals, wherever the franchise went. As far as she was concerned, the coffee and food were enough, but the safety and protection she felt in the company of other bikers was a pretty hefty chunk of frosting on that cake.
She grabbed a table, literally, scooping up one of the tiny two person tables and carrying it to a chosen spot, with a view out the window at the road, and her bike. Swinging a chair around to sit backward on it, arms leaning on the chair back, she grinned up at the waiter as he approached. “Hey! I didn’t know the coffee came with eye candy…” He winked at her, flipping his hair over his shoulder so that she could see the rainbow stud in his ear. “Look all you want…looking doesn’t hurt. So what can I get for you today?”
She grinned, and opened her mouth to speak…but all that came out was a whistling scream, as something hit her hard enough to knock the wind out of her lungs. Desperately trying to draw in a breath, eyes blurring, she looked to the waiter…and stumbled to her feet, kicking the chair in front of her, as he scrambled toward her. His face was set in a terrifying snarl, showcasing almost all of his sharp pointed fangs, and his eyes were pools of flame. Wheezing, she kept stumbling backward, kicking chairs and pulling tables over to slow him down. Snarling and snapping he climbed the obstacles, clearing the distance between them almost obscenely quickly. As her back hit the wall, he howled, triumphantly, and charged her, fangs and claws at the ready…but the moment they touched her skin, she blinked…and slumped, closing her mouth, finding herself still on her original seat, and the waiter and half the bar staring wide-eyed at her.
“Umm…are you ok, Miss? Is there anything I can do? Get you?” She just shook her head, mutely, a shiver starting in the small of her back. “I…I’m fine…just a…a thing. S-sorry..” The shiver grew into a full-body shudder, and her hands clenched on the back of the seat, white-knuckled. “Sorry, I…I have to…” Her teeth chattered with the force of the chills that shook her, and her head spun dizzily as she tried to stand.
The waiter moved to steady her, frowning as she jerked back from him, eyes wide with panic… “Hey, now…maybe you better sit back down, ok? Get you some water?” She shook her head, frantically, and took a step back from him…and crumpled to the floor of the bar, unconscious.