Liminal, the place between, between the seen and the unseen, the corner view, the edge of sight, the distance between wrong and right, the gap that lies between the worlds, where all the dragons sleep, tight-curled, from page to page, from left to right, in and out and day and night, all the spaces in between, where the tricksters dance unseen, in whirling steps of green and blue, and dancing, make the world anew, in colors of the brightest sheen, to decorate the place between.
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.
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.
This one is for/about a friend of mine in Sacramento. He inspired it, anyway, but it’s mostly just the picture in my head of that time.
Shot glasses and swastikas, buzz-cut and bowlered,
Trickster sits on my couch in the summer heat.
His facile tongue dances around words as casually
and as beautifully as a moth around a flame,
soaring and diving, in and out of trouble,
in and out of drama, melodrama, and foolish humor.
Taking side trips into blackest despair
before climbing back out again
to dance around the fire, laughing,
like a sacred clown.
echo in my mind,
Here I sit,
for something to mean.
A dead end shoot
of a thorny tree,
this clown, this dog,
this hole, this me.