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Midway Manifestations
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Fiametta Belmar
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PostPosted: Fri May 24, 2013 6:56 pm    Post subject: Midway Manifestations Reply with quote

The first opening night in a new town on the Midway was always the most exciting. Rides that went up like mysterious, sleepy relics from some forgotten time overnight; only to roar to life once the sun went down brought its own kind of buzz to the city.

There was something about a Carnival. A unique sensory wonderland that kindled the inner child in everyone. The lights that beckoned and dazzled, the games that were played; risk measured and taken with a deep breath and a proper taunt of the ego only a true Carny could master. The smell of cotton candy, popcorn, the adrenaline thick in the air amidst the squeals of sheer delight and terror.

Or maybe it was the allure of the expanded view of one's own city from the top of a Ferris Wheel or Roller Coaster that gave one a different perspective. Lingering for a few seconds just a little closer to the stars before plummeting back down to earth; a dizzying contrast of of highs and lows.

Whatever it was, Fia loved it. She thrived on the freedom and heightened energy a Carnival brought to a sleepy town that was aching to shake some dust from its wings. This was her kingdom and this collection of oddballs, seekers, drifters, grifters and misfits were her family.

The Carousel Queen walked amidst the sleeping rides of the Midway in knee length studded black boots, frayed denim shorts, a ribbed white cotton tank layered beneath a well-worn, black motorcycle jacket that looked like it had seen better days.Though a late Spring chill had set in overnight, Fia didn't seem to notice. She radiated her own inner heat that remained unaffected by the temperature around her.

Thick waves of mahogany and chestnut were brushed back as she produced a hand rolled cigarette from behind her ear. Her own blend that flared to life the moment it touched her lips, without the appearance of a lighter. A trail of tobacco, cardamom, and clove passing in her wake like a lingering dream, warming the air with its spice and its tell-tale stories if one were to watch the smoke closely before the Spring air swept it away.

Her mismatched gaze panned over the lot. Born with a condition known as Heterochromia, one eye was a vivid peridot green and the other a burnt amber. Her Mother had always told her that she was born with a foot in both worlds and her eyes struck the balance between the two.

Thick lashes swept low to provide shade from the afternoon sun. Her hand lifted for another slow drag as she watched a group of boys riding their bikes beyond the fence that surrounded the fairgrounds. Squawking and gawking away like a swarm of seagulls to watch the rides go up; pointing out which ones they were going to ride once the sun went down.


The carnival lay out was in the shape of a horseshoe designed to not only entice revelers with a gradual progression of unique experiences, but also to maximize spending. The crowd would enter the open end and by natural instinct, would usually proceed up the right side. The Games would be the first attraction along the right side of the horseshoe. Rides were located down the center, with the Carousel always being the first attraction as a sort of visual centerpiece for its universal, ageless appeal. Followed by the Ferris Wheel, Tilt-a Whirl, Zipper, Dragon Coaster and so on. After the games and rides, the crowd would find more kid friendly rides coming down the left side of the horseshoe and of course, concessions .

The men were busy at work setting up the rides. Fia gave an upnod to Boz who ran the Tilt a Whirl, or what the Carny folk called the "Iron Bitch." Both for its sheer size and strength and the fact that it was a bitch to set up.

"Hey Boz," Fia shot a hand up to the heavily tatooed man. "The Bitch bite ya today?"

Boz shook his shaved head from atop the ride, looking every bit the warrior who had slain a beast. The wicked scar running up the left side of his face from his mouth to temple a monument to another time--another war. He never talked about it and no one ever asked. That was the nice thing about a Carnival family. No one ever asked about your scars or judged you for them, so you never had to explain unless you elected to tell the tale.

"Nah. I'll give you half my cut tonight if you do, Fia." Shouted back without missing a beat, a waggle of a well chewed cigar between his teeth. "Just you know...without the third degree burns."

Fia gave a snort of amusement and a snap of her teeth at Boz. Still bleary-eyed from the long night of travel and not exactly awake without the benefit of some good,strong coffee.

"Yeah? Thought you blew most of your take on that townie." Mouse shouted up to Boz from the coffee cart. Mouse was less than half of Boz's size, a slim man with a jester's grin and sharp eyes that could spot a mark a mile away.

"What's that you said?" Boz half-growled around his cigar. He'd give Mouse half a chance to shut his mouth.

Mouse was particularly verbal. Whip-smart with a book always tucked under his arm and one of the best "talkers" of The Midway. He sat in the Dunk Tank, often referred to as the "Dunk Bozo" and prided himself on taunting the local townies to fork over their dough to spend and throw. Any townie within his radius was fair game for humiliation since the insults were announced over a loudspeaker.

"You know, that redhead with the bad dye job that cleaned you out and left you passed out with your pants around your ankles underneath my trailer?" Mouse wandered over with a cup for himself and for Fia. "Hey Queenie. Drink up. Y'slept the day away. Boss Man's gonna be pissed."

Fia issued a grateful murmur-kiss to Mouse's cheek for the coffee, cupping it between her hands and savoring its warmth as she sipped before cutting him a sideways look for his comment. "He's been pissed for a week. Not my problem." She took another drag.

Mouse gave Fia a long, considering look. "You gettin' those headaches again? They any worse than before?"

Fia shrugged, cheating her chin towards her shoulder before exhaling slowly, suddenly very interested in the story the smoke was telling as it curled around her shoulders.

"Took a lot of heat in that last city, Fia. He covered for you with that Mayor."

"I know." She tensed, shoulders stiffening before she whipped her head around and hissed low. "Mouse, you know better than anyone. I can't always control what it shows them. It's not my..."

Mouse chuckled. "Oh I know you don't control it darlin', and it's not your fault. But you open the door....and Consideration," He tapped the book under his arm, "Like an angel, came and whipped the offending Adam out of him. Leaving his body as a paradise" He dropped the book in her lap, a beat up bandana stuffed between the pages serving as a makeshift bookmark. "Henry V. Some good ***...and you never answered me."

Fia stared at the book in her lap as if she'd find the answers to his question in its pages. "You on a Shakespeare kick now?" She countered his question with a question, a bit sullen and defensive. A hand came up to shield her gaze from the sun that was peeking through the haze of cloud cover to shine down over the Midway. "I'm just tired."

Mouse tugged the bandana from the spot he had saved in the book and placed it over Fia's mismatched eyes to shield them from the sun.

"Fortune is depicted as blind, with a scarf over her eyes, to signify that she is blind. And she is depicted with a wheel to signify—this is the point—that she is turning and inconstant, and all about change and variation. And her foot, see, is planted on a spherical stone that rolls and rolls and rolls."

Fia was silent for a long moment. For a Dunk Bozo, though he played the part, Mouse was no fool. She tugged the bandana down from her eyes. "I hate it when you quote that *** and it starts making sense."

"Man's gotta pass his time on the road somehow, Queenie. Besides, it infuriates the townies that are too stupid to get the insults." He paused. "Don't worry about it. Boss man'll get over it. He's just pissed about not making the nut this week. Speakin' a not makin' yer nut," Mouse whirled around and yelled upwards." Boz I didn't forget you sweetheart. I know you're heartbroken up there over your tragically short-lived towie romance. Yo Jingles! Throw a tune out here for Boz! Like the walking dead out here for chrissakes."

As if on cue, "Gold Digger" started blaring from the speakers. Jingles was the Carnival's resident "Juice man." He was not only responsible for keeping the music piping, but ran all the generators and collected fees from each ride operator for "cut in" to the power supply. Had his tongue cut out while he was serving a nickel in prison and ever since, mostly spoke his mind through his music.

A bunch of the crew started laughing as the song piped out over The Midway. This was a common ritual as the men took their afternoon break. The labor was hard and they'd be working well on into the night once the sun went down. Good coffee, music, a few smokes and a decent meal got them through the late-afternoon slump. Boss had strict rules about no booze during set-up. Kept the injury count down.

Andre's voice boomed down from atop The Zipper, the ride jockey wiping the sweat from his face with a rag he dragged from his pocket. "She take my Money! When I'm in need..Yeaaaah she's a triflin' friend indeed......."

" F*&^ off man...yeah...funny. Let's all have a good laugh." Boz jumped down. "Y'aint in the cage yet, Mouse. Give it a rest." He growled and chewed the hell out of his cigar, giving Mouse a murderous look before flipping off Jingles up in the booth for good measure. "You've all had your fun. I gotta piss...."

"Aw Boz...c'mon. Now I ain't sayin' she a gold digger..."Mouse started joggin' back in time to the music to match Boz's lumbering steps. "Fia, I'll catch you later, girl. Get down girl, go head get down."

Fia gave a soft chuckle as she watched the two move off, tossing the last of her cigarette she headed back towards her Carousel. She always made sure all of the figures made it through the travel day and off the trailer okay without any damage. If there was, she did the touch-ups and repairs herself.

Jumping up on the platform, Fia curled a hand around one of the brass poles before she stroked her palm lovingly along the flank of one of the horses. A soft hum in her throat, pitched low as a familiar warmth pulsed against her hand. There was a distinct energy to each of these beautiful creatures.

Unlike other carousels, this one was mixture of various animals both standard and mythical in nature. Not only horses of every color, but a myriad of other creatures such as wolves, ravens, foxes, swans (black and white), unicorns, lions, tigers, pegasus, dragons, serpents, mermaids, and even a phoenix. Each figure was unique, not one of the figures was carved alike or duplicated. Each meticulously crafted from a different kind of wood from all over the world with its own unique properties. The Dragon was carved from the Alder Tree, the Wolf of African Blackwood, the Lion from Lignum Vitae, The Unicorn from American Holly and so on.

For those who chose to sit during the ride, they would find themselves seated not on mere makeshift benches, but on golden chariots carved with angels.

When one of the new owners suggested they replace some of the figures with the newer fiberglass versions for maintenance and practicality reasons, Fia's initial instinct was to to burn his house down with him inside. However, restraint prevailed and she suggested the owner taken a ride on the carousel first before making the final decision. No one really knew what changed the man's mind that day, but after taking a ride on Fia's Carousel, the suggestion was never brought up again.

Fia eased herself into one of the chariots to enjoy the rest of her coffee. She enjoyed this time to herself when things were still quiet. It allowed her to get a feel for the fairgrounds and the town. In between sips she listened. Not just to the music that Jingles had piping over the Midway, but something else entirely. Her head tipped as if the little Cherubs were whispering to her from their carved perches upon the chariot. There was work to be done and in a few mere hours, The Midway would come alive and shake the dust off this town's dreams.
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Fiametta Belmar
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PostPosted: Fri May 24, 2013 6:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"But I wanna go on the Dragon Riiiiiiiiide!" A child's tantrum has the uncanny ability to not only to pierce through the dull roar of a Carnival in full swing, but also through the shield of even the most sainted parent's sanity.

One such world-weary soul was presently having his arm torn from its socket by the sheer will of his precocious six year old tugging his Father towards The Dragon, a roller coaster that was one of the Midway's favored attractions.

"Jimmy, I'm sorry. I told you, the man said you were too small for that ride. When you get a little bit older, we'll ride it together okay, big guy? Hey Look! How about the Carousel? How great is this is, huh?"

Fia lounged against a rather lopsided ticket box, enjoying a cigarette and a brief lull between rides. She sized the Father of the boy up in a few seconds; as was her custom for every person who drew near to her sphere. The man had kind enough eyes, dulled by too little sleep. Over worked and under valued from the look of the defeated slump of his shoulders. Usually indicative of the slavery of a 9-5. No wedding ring either. Divorced perhaps and this is his weekend with the kid. Hell, poor bastard was doing his best. But there was something else she caught there. A deep sadness darkening the periphery of the glow of that forced cheerfulness.

"NO!" Jimmy roared and kicked the air at the injustice of it all. "Carousels are dumb. They are for girls. I want to..."

A shrill whistle pierced the air. The only thing high and sharp enough to cut through a tantrum. Fia withdrew her thumb and index finger from her mouth. "Hey kid...c'mere a sec." Up tic of her chin to the boy.

Jimmy stopped in his tracks, suddenly frozen from the attention from not only a stranger, but a girl no less. He promptly ducked his head behind his Father's leg.

Fia snorted with vague amusement and shook her head. "Oh no, don't play shy with me now. You were roarin' like a lion with a thorn in his paw a second ago, and now you wanna play lamb?"

Jimmy's Father ushered him forward with a few reassuring murmurs and a boost of confidence patted into his boy's shoulder that it was ok to respond. "Come on Jimmy, answer the nice lady. He's a little upset you see because he loves Dragons and..."

Fia held up a hand to halt the man's explanation before tossing the last of her cigarette away, exhaling a trail of smoke. "All due respect Daddio, but the little man can answer for himself. Kid's got lungs on 'im and a voice of his own. Do 'im well not to forget it cause he's scared."

"I'm not scared!!" Jimmy shot defiantly up at Fia.

"Well, now you're back. That's more like it." She bent a knee to get down on the level with the kid and look him eye to eye. That peridot-gold gaze finding and holding suspicious blues. "So...you think my Carousel is dumb, huh? Just for girls?"

Jimmy hesitated, wanting to squirm away from being put on the spot but oddly transfixed by the woman's two different colored eyes. It was weird. "I....I wanted to ride The Dragon. They won't let me and...."

"Lemme tell you something, darlin'. Don't ever let anyone tell you what you can and can't do, understand? Now you can choose to whine and cry victim, or you can realize that the only place your limitations really exist is up here." She tapped his forehead with her finger. "So you like Dragons, huh?"

Jimmy nodded and Fia eyed they boy for a long moment, she gave a furtive glance towards the carousel, a choice was weighed momentarily, the scales eventually tipping before she finally spoke. "You wanna ride one?"

"Duh."

Ha. She liked this kid. Fia leaned her forearm on her knee before pitching her voice low in a conspiratorial whisper. "So what if I told you that on my Carousel, you could not only ride a Dragon, but ride one that flies without a track. Whad'ya say? You wanna give it a whirl? See if you got it in you?"

"Yeah...like I use my imagination, right? And pretend I'm on a Dragon?" An eye-roll as if this was the same dumb thing all grown-ups say.

"No." A glimmer, just the briefest of flashes in her mismatched gaze like summer lightning. "Not quite like that." Fia did not elaborate any further.

Instead, her focus shifted to the line cuing up behind the ticket box before rising to her feet. "I'm done with my pitch, boyo, your choice. Choice is everything you know. Ride or walk." A gesture of two fingers away from the Carousel.

Jimmy eyeballed the Carousel and then Fia with a wary look as if this were some kind of trick. As if trusting the advice of a girl would be breaking some sort of six year old boy code. In the end, curiosity won out.

"Yeah, Ok."

Fia nodded. "Alright then. Let's have your ticket little man. You ridin' too Daddio?" A brow arched. She gestured towards her Carousel with a tip of her head.

"No...I..my wife....." The man paused. The barest hint of a cringe there and gone before he shook his head in a mental reboot. "She was the one that always loved carousels. The spinning never quite agreed with me. His Grandma asked me to take some pictures of him on the rides so...." He lifted up the camera in a half-hearted gesture, his voice trailing off.

"You sure?" Fia gestured for the other people to come on through, taking tickets as they passed. "Come on through folks and ride The Carousel. Tickets please and make sure you read the sign before riding. I ain't a Flight Attendant."

A side-glance back to the boy's Father under the night shade of lashes. "You know, a ride on the Phoenix over there would do you wonders." A stolen secret there and gone in the corner of mouth that lifted ever so slightly. "Besides, I bet your boy would love it. You'll hardly notice the spinning after awhile. Trust me." A wink before she gestured for his camera. "I''ll take some shots of the two of you."

"Yeah...C'mon Dad. Before someone else takes the Dragon!" Jimmy pulled his Father towards the Carousel.

The man relented. "Okay..Okay, go get on your Dragon. I'll be along in a minute." He let Jimmy go on ahead before he handed Fia the camera. " Hey thanks for doin' this. It's pretty straight forward. Just point and shoot and all that. Zoom is over here." The man paused as he noted the sign next to the ticket box that Fia mentioned earlier.

The sign read: Owner and operator of The Carousel not responsible for loss of Limb, Valuables, or Sanity. Buckle up and Ride at your Own Risk.

"That's pretty funny." He chuckled.

"It's not a joke." Fia replied evenly.

The man hesitated, trying to gauge if she was going to finally break into a smile and admit to messing with him. When the smile never came, he cleared his throat. "Uh...is this thing dangerous?" Suddenly looking at the Carousel with a little trepidation.

That mismatched gaze of green and amber swept the man up and down in an assessment, looking more around him than at him directly before flashing him a reassuring smile. "For you and your boy?" A slow shake of her head. "Should be a great ride. C'mon Daddio...live a little. You just have yourselves a good time and I'll be capturin' the moment for posterity."

She ushered the man on through with the barest of touches to his shoulder. " Like I said... try the Phoenix."

She watched the man join his boy and wove her way around the carousel to make sure the riders were secured and the Carousel was completely filled. There was only one figure empty. A rider was missing on the Serpent. A frown darkened Fia's features. In a light crowd she didn't mind, but when the Carnival was in full swing, she never liked to start the Carousel without a rider for all of the animals. It upset the balance of things--in many ways. "We're waiting on someone?" The words spoken soft and low, almost a question.

She felt him before she heard him. The energy was palpable and hit her in the back like a shove seconds before his voice reached her ears.

"You waitin' on me?" The man's voice from behind did not startle Fia. On the contrary, she smiled when she turned around as if he were a guest she had been expecting.

There you are.

Bearded, broad shouldered and just enough liquor in him to allow easy access to the worst of his demons. The man's dark eyes traveled up and down Fia's body and she didn't have to use her gifts to know his mind.

In every town, there were always more than a few men that were looking to see if they could score with any number of the girls at the Carnival. After all, they saw them as easy carny trash that were there and gone in a matter of days. Strange, exotic creatures they wanted to pet in their natural habitat and staple their hides to walls like trophies.

"As a matter of fact, I was. Wouldn't want to start without you. You wanna take a ride, darlin?" Her hand stroked along the Serpent, running a hand over the carved scales and cocked her head to the side as if she were considering the suggestion in its hiss.

“Ride at your own risk, eh?" The man glanced at the sign before his eyes were magnetically drawn back to her. "I can see that. Looks a little dangerous.” Speaking as much about Fia as her Carousel. Black boots on endless legs, a lick of leather and that dual toned stare. Hell yes he wanted a ride.

He crept closer to her, climbing up the platform and infringing on her personal space and pitched his voice low so only she could hear. “This the only ride you offering baby doll, or do you have something a little more, I dunno…private?” He asked, brows darting upwards at his implication. “Cause if you do, I wanna be first in that line.”

Fia's mismatched gaze narrowed fractionally. The man was close enough that she could smell his breath, laced with whiskey and see the wraith-like shadows that crept in the corners of his eyes. A stab of pain to her temple threw her off balance momentarily, she curled her hand around the brass pole behind her for support. Her hands burned against the metal.

Get out of the way. He will learn.

Fia took a moment to center herself, the pain in her temple finally ebbing before she opened her eyes. A dangerous flash in that green and gold gaze. "Oh darlin', this is gonna be the ride of your life. You just trust me and hop on. Don't even need a ticket. This one is on me hm? I'll come find you afterwards."

Fia waited till the man was on before she eased her way back off of the platform with a call over her shoulder, "Here we go folks. Enjoy the ride."

As she moved back off of the platform to start up the Carousel there was a familiar pull she felt at her navel as it started to turn, as if an energy line had been hooked by the slow turn of the wheel. She closed her eyes momentarily to center herself after the familiar swirling sensation took hold. A whirl of lights and flashes of colors behind her eyelids. Snippets of conversations touched her ears, snap shots of moments that chiseled the character of a man choice by choice. Shades of light and dark in a blurred array of watercolor visions.

"Steady now." She murmured to herself as she slowly opened her eyes and fixed her gaze on the Carousel to find the Father and Son. She raised the camera she had strung around her neck into position and began to snap the photographs as promised.
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Fiametta Belmar
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PostPosted: Fri May 24, 2013 6:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Hey! Hey! Did you see me?" As the Carousel had reached its final turn and the rider's began to exit the platform, Jimmy burst through a between a couple that had just about to link hands. He whirled around to nearly slam into his Father. "It was real, Dad. The Dragon! I could feel him, Dad! We were really flying! Really! And the fire was real. I could feel it. And he talked Dad! He talked! "

The boy's Father looked dazed, tugged along by his son, he tried to register what he was saying while still processing what he had seen himself. "That's...that's great, Jimmy."

"But Dad....did you see?"

Fia eyed the Father closely from her usual lean against ticket box as she lifted the camera in a little wave.

"I....sure saw... something," the man answered. Still trying to get his own bearings and was at a loss in the moment of what to say to his son.

"And what's that, Daddio?" Fia tipped her head as she drew closer to the two and handed the father back his camera. A quirk of her mouth that skirted on the edge of a smile. "Got a few in there I think'll be fit to frame."

"You didn't lie." Jimmy looked up at her in awe. "It was real. Like you said."

"I do many things, kiddo. Lying ain't one of 'em." She leaned down to speak to the boy. "Y'remember what he told you now,hm? And no more whining. No one likes a whiner, kid." Her gaze lifted to his Father.

"And you..." She pitched her voice low so only he could hear. "Would do well to remember that it wasn't your fault. What happened...it was her choice." She touched his arm briefly, feather-light..

Jimmy's Father looked at her and ran his hands over his face to mask the shock there, his voice barely above a murmur as a shaky laugh ended in a constriction of his vocal chords to strangle the emotion bubbling up there. "I feel like I'm losing my mind right now." He whispered to Fia. I don't know how any of this...is possible."

Fia nodded but said nothing. She knew his mind was working overtime to find purchase on something to get a handle on. Something it could process and control based on the input it was used to.

"Jimmy, you tell Dixie over at Candyland that Queenie said you and your Dad can have whatever you like. It's on me."

"Cool! Thanks! C'mon, Dad." He was pulling his Father along as if what he had just experienced was the most natural thing in the world. "Hey Dad, can I bring those pictures to show and tell?"

Fia chuckled as she watched his Father's shocked expression. "Kids are better with acceptance than we are." A faint shrug. "Take yer cue from him, Daddio. That boy's stronger than you think. And so are you."

She gave a wave to the two as they said their goodbyes and moved off, her attention shifting to he sound of w retching nearby.

The drunken man staggered to the railing and grabbed it with both hands as if it were a life line. He tried to steady his legs but couldn’t and vomited over the railing and into the matted grass of well-worn path.

“Must not do well with the spinning,” one passer by said to his wife.

“Ugh…that’s why you don’t drink and ride, man.” Another said with a laugh as they took a wide berth of Albert’s second salvo of gorge.

Albert looked up to give a retort but the world was a spinning kaleidoscope of blurred colors that seemed to move of their own accord, pulsing and pounding in tune with the sounds of the carnival, wrapping and merging to assault his senses.

He went to close his eyes but his mind screamed no. The beating waves of spinning sound and blinding colors were one thing, but other things crept behind his eyes. He’d seen them while he rode that accursed carousel. Shadowy things with beating wings swirling high above him; their wings buffeting him relentlessly while undulating shapes moved in and out of the darkness. Sinister serpent like beasts with guttural growls which issued forth from beyond the gloom of his consciousness. Predatory things that seemed content to wait. As if they knew their time to feast would come soon enough.

“Don’t close your eyes,” The man said to himself. The dark things were waiting. “God what's happening to me?” He asked and shuffled down the railing, refusing to let go with either white knuckled hand as if the rail was a tether which kept him from what he’d seen.

He swallowed hard, a sour taste in his mouth which Albert felt was not from the vomit. A strong smell of sulfur hung low in his nostrils.

The colors and sounds continued to swirl and warp around him like water tumbling down a drain. He tried to look away and looked over his shoulder to see the woman standing against her podium and staring intently back at him, head cocked just so as if she knew.

As if she had seen.

She knows, the man thought as he stared back, unable to move. His feet stayed rooted to the ground for some time as he just stared back at her before he doubled over as if he had been punched. One hand slamming into the ground before he went to his knees.

Fia watched the man for a long time, allowing him to get his bearings before finally strolled over and lit up another cigarette, looking down at the mess of a man at her feet before crouching down to get right on his level like she was approaching a wounded animal.

He shrank back from her, crab walking back on his hands till he hit the edge of the fence. "G-get away from me. W-what did you d-do to me?" The tremors shot up through his spine and shook through his large frame, and he looked at his hands as if he didn't recognize them.

Fia examined the end of her cigarette. "I didn't do anything darlin'. It's all within you, y'know," Her tone was casual, conversation-like.

"Y-yer a damn witch or somethin." He pointed an accusing finger at her. "Y-y'ou did some voodoo *&^* on me."

"Hard to face your demons isn't it? Easier to shift the blame on someone else." She held up her hands innocently. "I'm not, judge, jury or executioner darlin'. Nothing was shown to you that your consciousness was not ready to accept. In fact," she tipped her head. "Your soul insisted. But cheer up. We're only shown what we need. Could be a turning point for you." Tongue in cheek.

She paid no attention to the man doubling over and vomiting again, the shaking of his body suddenly violent as he pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. "M-make it stop. P-please."

"Only you can do that I'm afraid. Not my department." She said softly, not entirely void of compassion. "How long the release happens is up to you. The more you resist, the worse it will be."

The man groaned and fell into the fetal position.

"You know where the meaning of the word Carousel comes from?" She continued on. Matter of fact, as if they were two friends discussing trivia together over a beer.

The man kept shaking his head from side to side. Trying to stave off the visions that lingered in the periphery of his consciousness.

"I'll take that as a no? It's from the Italian word carosello, meaning 'little war'" Fia eyed the man a long moment, before she leaned in close to whisper. "I'll let you in on a little secret. The war is inside you. And it looks to me like you've lost quite a few battles. So why don't you go on home tonight darlin' and think long and hard about whether or not you wanna lose the war."

Flicking her cigarette over the fence she rose to her feet and moved back towards the line cuing up again at the ticket box. A glance over her shoulder at the man, her eyes tracking him as he stumbled towards the exit and Mouse's words from earlier came drifting back to her again.

And Consideration, like an angel, came and whipped the offending Adam out of him. Leaving his body as a paradise.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 02, 2013 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heat waves radiated off the dirt lot as the Carnival slowly grew up from the ground like a mechanized automaton grafted to the greenbelt outside of town. This was the kind of heat that could make time itself stand still…like a snake sunning itself on the road. Isaac Wheeler lounged in what little shade could be found in the lee of the freshly erected Show tent. Sunlight glinted off the highly polished knife blade as it sliced through an apple and then served as a makeshift plate when Isaac lifted the slice to his mouth. A black dog, clearly a mutt, lay on its side next to Isaac with its long tongue hanging out to fight the heat. Every now and then Isaac would lazily cut and drop an apple wedge to the dirt which the dog, his dog, gladly ate.

Though the hustle and bustle of set up day erupted all about him with rides slowly going up, tents popping tall, gamers setting up their booths and plush and the concessions people haggling over their placements with the Lot Man, Isaac merely reclined in the shade. All that was missing was a cane pole and he’d be right at home on the Savannah River. But that was many years and even more miles in the past.

Despite the lazy pose, Isaac kept his eyes roaming around the Midway. The gunmetal grays kept a hard, distant look as they observed Boz working a wrench on the Bitch, Andre coming down off the Zipper for a cold drink and a break and Boss Man Bennie waddling back to his trailer; clearly pissed about something. Very little escaped his keen look though the only movement was the occasional knife slice and apple wedge lifting to his mouth.

“Aint that a sight.” Mouse said as he leaned against a white washed fence where concession tables were being set up.

“What’s dat?” Andre asked, with just a hint of Jamaican sunset coloring his words. He paused to adjust the red bandanna wrapped round his head and collection of dreadlocks. The Zipper was nearly set and ready to rip. The imposing Andre was taking a break with the smaller Mouse; the two shooting the breeze over a cold coke in the rising heat.

“Just Isaac, man. Guy doesn’t do jack *** and jack blew town awhile ago.” Mouse said with a nod across the Midway to where the tall, yet slender man reclined in the shade of a tent. Mouse placed his arms between the pickets and rested his waifish frame against the slat. “I mean look at him We’re all busting tails to get set up and he’s just sittin there.”

“Shiiiiiiiiit,” Andre responded with a baritone chuckle. “Don’t go messin' with da knife mon. Trust me on dis.” Andre was shaking his head while crooked teeth flashed in a grin.

"He's not pullin' his weight." Mouse glared Isaac's way.

“Boss mon likes what he brings in. He puts on a good show." Andre focused his gaze in Isaac's direction. " Why you tink he always gets da Back End for his shows? He trows da knives and dey trow cash.” Andre said after a long sip of his soda. “Don’t make no sense ta have all da townies stay up in front. Why you tink da Zipper and Boz’ bitch are back here wit him? Pulls dem all around da arch and spreads da money around.” Andre continued, unconsciously reiterating what Mouse already knew.

“Still don’t make it right.” Mouse answered stubbornly. “We’re all a family here. We chip in and help everyone out. Cept him.” Mouse pushed off the fence and tossed his Coke in a nearby trashcan. “It ain't right. I’m gonna say something to him.”

“Your funeral, mon.” Andre said with another laugh and gave Mouse a rough pat on the back. “I’ll be on da Zipper if’n you need me.” He said in parting. Andre had always given Isaac a wide berth and didn’t see a reason to change what had clearly been working for him.

Mouse jogged over towards Isaac and, trying to be friendly, offered him a wave before coming to a stop in front of him. “Hey man. Me and Andre could use some help up on the Zipper. We’re almost done and a couple of extra hands could really help.”

Isaac glanced up from that Tom Sawyer recline of his and squinted that hawkeyed stare up at Mouse. He didn’t say anything to Mouse, just offered an “Easy boy,” to the dog when it lifted its head and gave a low growl. The dog continued its stare for a moment before dropping its head back to the dirt and resumed its panting. Isaac lifted another apple wedge to his mouth and he just continued his stare.

“Cmon man.” Mouse said, glancing at the mutt a little unease. “Like my Dad always said, ’Many hands make light work.’ We’d be done in no time.” Mouse tried again, the smallish man too talkative to be rebuffed by simple silence.

Isaac pulled the knife from the apple, its finely forged blade reflecting the sun’s hot rays back up into Mouse’s face as Isaac gestured with the blade for Mouse to step to the side. “Blocking my view.” He said while chewing, just a ghost of a Savannah drawl on his voice as he spoke.

“Oh…” Mouse said almost apologetically. He turned left and then right, unsure of which way to move before finally stepping to his left. “Sorry. So…you gonna come help?”

“No.” Isaac said after a swallow and dropped another bite to the dog at his side.

“Seriously? Cmon…” Mouse gave an encouraging clap. “I’ll pull the stick outta your ass and then you can move around up on the Zipper a little easier.” He said with a laugh to show Isaac that he was only joking; like he always did.

Isaac gave a negative shake of his head as he focused his eyes to the distance to watch the slow assembly of the Carousel. Mouse’s teasing insult didn’t even appear to register until he finally glanced back up at Mouse. “Your father sounds like a fool.” spoken as an observation as he dropped another bite of apple down to the mutt.

“Least I know my dad.“ Mouse joked back, though his annoyance was mounting. A jerk of his chin towards the mutt. “Seems you got no problem helpin' stray dogs. We’re all kind of strays here, y'know. Ain't no difference.” Mouse said, trying a different tact.

“That’s because dogs don't have any guile.” Isaac said while glancing down to the mutt. “People…” a wave of his knife to indicate everyone around, eyes squinting against the sun. “They’re full of it.” Another rough spit of several apple seeds to the side to punctuate his words.

“Yo Wheeler!” One of the Roughies responsible for unloading the gear and supplies from the trucks called out to Isaac, who turned away from Mouse to look in his direction. “Gonna be awhile fore we can get your stuff off the truck. Gotta unload some other stuff first.”

Isaac’s face registered a brief frown of annoyance. Finally, he returned his attention to Mouse saying, “Excuse me.” That lazy plantation prose still hanging in the air as he uncoiled from his recline and gave a stretch to idle muscles. “Cmon boy.” Spoken for the dog who promptly got up and followed after Isaac; the pair leaving Mouse behind without a second thought.

“Asshole. We’ll see what the Boss has to say.” Mouse muttered as he walked away towards the Big Boss’ trailer.

Maybe it was just the heat, or growing up in the Deep South, but Isaac always moved with a certain measured slowness. The easy glide of feet propelled him without hurry or impatience to stand in front of the Roughie.

“What was that about my things?” He asked with a drawl that was even slower than his footsteps.

“Just gotta unload some other stuff first. Make it easy on everyone with the way its packed.” The Roughie answered, a little uneasy at the proximity of the knife thrower while backing up a step or two.

“Nah.” Issac took a final bite out of the apple and tossed the core to the dog. He chewed thoughtfully for a moment, wiping a bit of juice to keep it from dribbling out onto his five o'clock shadow. “Think I’ll take care of it myself. No one’s supposed to touch my things anyway.” He said before walking away and sheathing his knife along the small of his back. He made his way into the back yard where all the trucks were and hauled himself up into the smoldering trailer which contained his things. He ran a hand gently across the top of the well crafted crate which contained his knives.

“This is a bunch of crap, Boss.” Mouse said as he walked into the Big Boss’ trailer.

“Mouse…I aint got time for your ***. It’s hotter then the hinges of hell out there and my advance man, Lark, hasn’t made good with the local fixer just yet. Whatever your going to complain about just be cool about it until I get this sorted out.” Boss Man Benny growled around a well chewed cigar. It had come as a surprise to Benny that Lark hadn’t palmed the right people into letting them set up shop without all the proper paperwork. Never a truly big deal, but just one more problem to get around.

“Isaac is just out sitting in the shade while the rest of us are busting humps to get ready for tonight.” Mouse continued, ignoring Benny’s problems in favor of voicing his own. Mouse proved to be the definition of loquacious and rarely stopped talking long enough for another to get a word in. “We all help one another, its part of the gig…your gig, Boss and he ain’t pulling his weight.”

“Jesus Christ, Mouse.” Benny sighed while the AC rumbled overtime to keep the trailer cool. “Isaac pulls his weight on the back end. We aren’t off the nut yet and until we are, Isaac can do what he wants. Once we’re making profit then we’ll see. Hell, nobody ever even talks to him and the only one he talks to is that damn dog. Leave it alone, Mouse. Less you got beef…then by all means…take it up with Isaac himself.” A good chew to the cigar as it shifted from one side of Benny’s mouth to the other and then back again. “You got anything else?” Asked as he picked up the latest issue of Amusement Business and blindly thumbed through it just so his hands could be occupied.

Mouse sat in the chair a moment longer before hopping up. He stalked out of Benny’s office, leaving the door open to let all the cold air escape in a rush. Let Isaac sit in the shade and Benny twist in the AC. He’d busy himself with happier people. Hell…he might even go talk to Isaac again just to annoy him.

Isaac had arranged the crates in a way which would allow him to open and unpack in the desired order while the tent and stage were erected. The first crate he opened contained his collection of throwing knives. Worth more to him than any of the carnys he worked with, Isaac paused to admire the cold construction of highly polished steel. Isaac loved knives. They took skill to use and their metals were emotionless and unsympathetic. He had built them himself, honing raw metal into the razor perfection he now held. All of them unique and perfect.

He ran his thumb across the edge of one and frowned. Not nearly sharp enough. He leaned back against a stack of crates and produced a whet stone. A healthy amount of spit provided just enough lubrication to keep the blade moving smoothly over the stone as he honed its edge.

“There you are!” A feminine voice broke the silence around Isaac while he sharpened his throwing knife. Isabella Caroway, a cool leggy blonde and the knife thrower's current assistant shouted as she stalked towards Isaac.

“Here I am.” Isaac answered without looking up, steel gaze staring intently at the swirling knife edge.

“You’re not even going to look at me?” The tall blonde asked as she set her suitcase and purse down on the dusty ground amidst the semi-circle of crates.

Isaac made no reply; the only sound that of steel against stone.

“Well? I’m quitting. I already talked to Benny and he gave me my cut. He’s pissed by the way. Thinks your show knife throwing show isn’t going to be *** *** without someone to throw knives at.” Isabella had a mouth on her when she was upset. “He also wants to know why you go through assistants like townies do funnel cakes.”

“Finished?” Isaac finally asked, while absently glancing at his tattoo of a knife splitting a mask in half from top to be bottom.

“Completely.” Isabella snapped as she put her hands on her hips, blue eyes roaming around his things in frustration, as if looking for a way to get back at him for what he had done. “Though I think I'll take this as a little souvenir.” She announced and moved to pull one of the banners advertising the knife throwing act off a crate. She knew full well that Isaac had personally sketched and drawn the banner and thought it a perfect way to take something from him the way he had taken from her.

Isaac’s granite colored gaze snapped up at what she said. He set the whet stone on the crate. Gone was that slow, southern ease and in an explosion of movement and speed, flung his knife end over end to plant its tip in the banner and the crate below. Such speed seemingly impossible coming from a man who ordinarily moved and spoke in such a leisurely, languid fashion.

By the time Isabella looked up from the still vibrating knife Isaac had regained that lazy lean against the crates. He wagged a finger to and fro at her, indicating that wasn’t a good idea. “Don’t think you’ll be doing that.” He said while fishing in a shirt pocket for the soft pack of Lucky Strikes he always kept there. “Boss already paid you out. You‘re not getting anything else.” He said around the cigarette as he struck a match and brought it up to light the smoke.

Isabella jumped as the knife sailed in under her arm and pinned the banner to the crate. She turned wide blue eyes of surprise on Isaac. “You could have *** killed me, Isaac. Jesus! Between this and what you did last night, I’m out of here!” Though she left the banner alone.

“What I did?” Isaac asked amidst a pale gray halo of cigarette smoke. “Perhaps you should think on what I didn’t do.”

Isabella simply stared long at hard at Isaac. How dare he say such a thing to her after what he did! Isaac, meanwhile, took another lazy drag and blew the smoke out through his nose as he watched the mutt sniff around Isabella’s bag.

Isabella looked from the dog to Isaac. “You‘re *** crazy, you know that?” Said while moving forward to shoo the dog away. “Shoo…go…” She said, waving her hands to get the dog to move without having to get very close to it. “You two deserve each other.” She said in a parting shot as she picked her bags up and stiffly walked passed Mouse and out into the Midway.

The minute she left, she was forgotten.

“Yo Bells!” Mouse called after her but to no avail. He rounded the corner, a confused look on his face to find Isaac leaning against a crate and slowly sharpening a knife, cigarette dangling from between his lips. “What? You scare another one off? What is that? Seven this month?” Mouse asked as he came up to Isaac.

“Persistence is not always a virtue, Mouse.” Isaac said as he pulled the cigarette from his mouth and exposed gritted teeth in a wolfish way while checking the sharpness of his blade.

“I just don’t get what makes you tick, Isaac. We’re all a family here, man. We’re all entertainers. Boz on the Bitch, Andre on the Zipper, Fia and her crazy ass Carousel, Jingles, me in the tank, Lucille with her reptiles... everybody. What gives?”

Isaac smoothed his lips into a thin line before pulling a second dagger from the crate. He began to sharpen it, though he pinned Mouse down beneath the heavy slate of that gunmetal gaze as he did so. “Entertainers? Is that what I am?” He asked and gave a small chuckle of amusement. "No…Mouse, you merely think you entertain. People can be entertained anywhere," he continued lazily. "A football game, a cinema, a television, even a book can entertain. All that is just a mind-numbing escape; opiates for the masses. I cut through that haze and snatch them right to the present. People don't come to a Carnival to numb themselves. They want to take a chance on the night, to brave a ride, to see something strange and different. To risk their boring and pathetic lives, if only for a night, so they can actually feel alive. That’s what I do. I show people their fear.”

He held the knife up and twirled it along his fingers as if it was tumbling. “I take their fear and I hold it. I transfer it to my assistants and then, when they are primed, I bring a few brave souls to the stage and let them experience it firsthand. Because when I throw this,” he held the knife up for Mouse to see, “In that split second they don’t truly know if they’re going to live or die. And in that moment they feel more alive than they ever will be." He rose finally as if to indicate he was done with the conversation, setting his knife down and turning to look at Mouse.

"They pay me to feel alive. They pay you for a chance to shut you up.” Cigarette was between his lips as he dug a quarter from his pocket and flipped it to Mouse. “Why don’t you get a head start on that now?”
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Fiametta Belmar
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"I mean, what does he want from me?" Lucille, the 5'10" snake charmer and reptile handler leaned against Fia's Carousel. Somehow managing to gesture wildly with the hand that held her cigarette, and not spill her coffee in the other. The redhead was a throwback to the pin-up girls of the 40's in both her classic beauty and style.

"He was so bitchy after the travel day, I thought he wanted to eat, right? No, he didn't want that. Then he was so restless last night, I didn't even want him in bed with me, but of course he insisted as he always does. He doesn't know how good he has it. Does he even realize where he'd be if it weren't for me? I swear, I need a new male in my life. If he doesn't shape up, I'm going to kick his ass to the curb or dump him in a river somewhere. "

"You know you don't mean that," Fia mused. Mismatched gaze of green and amber glanced up from her paint job to her friend. She was currently touching up the paint on one of the Pegasus wings that had chipped during travel.

Her hair was tied back in a ponytail to keep it off her face while she worked, denim shorts were covered in paint splotches here and there as well as her legs. She paused to take a sip of her own coffee. "You know you'll kiss and make up before the end of the night. You two always do." Fia eyed the end of Lucille's cigarette warily as the redhead gesticulated wildly, adding as an afterthought,"Don't ash on my handiwork, Cilles."

To the casual observer listening in on the girl talk, one might think that Lucille was referring to a boyfriend or a lover. But in fact, Lucille was referring to a 700 pound Alligator named Rufus who was part of her act. Lucille was in charge of all manner reptiles including various snakes and lizards that intrigued the public, but Rufus was the star. The two had a rather love/hate relationship at times.

Lucille huffed out an exasperated sigh as she exhaled the cigarette smoke from her lungs. "Travel days are stressful enough without him being a diva. Like I need that sh*&t." She waved a hand as if dismissing the subject all together. "By the end of this day I'm going to need Andre to hook me up with some of that good s*&t he has in his trailer."

There was an easy, comfortable silence that fell between the two women as they enjoyed their coffee that could only be born from two friends that knew each other well enough to negate the need to fill the silence between them. Fia and Lucille had been on the road together for two years now and in that short time, they had developed a certain bond between them.

After a few moments of watching Fia paint, Lucille inevitably turned the conversation to gossip which she knew Fia disliked as a general rule, but the redhead just couldn't help herself.

"You hear about Bells quitting?" A brow quirked to Fia.

Fia nodded in affirmation to Lucille's question. "Saw her stomp out of here earlier. Mad as hell." A brief shrug of her shoulders, but her eyes remained fixed on her work. The gossip not interesting enough for her to pull her attention.

"Mouse was crushed of course. Pissed as hell at Isaac." Lucille continued on. The topic too juicy to let go of just yet. At least not until her coffee was finished. "Think he was kinda sweet on her. So now he's on a rampage. Went in to bitch to Benny about him not helping with set up."

Fia set down her brush for a moment to enjoy her coffee. "Being on the road constantly was tough for her. Days were real long. I think she had a different image in her mind of what it as going to be like. Pretty thing like Bells feels more at home on a velvet cushion somewhere." Another shrug. It was just how Fia saw it.

Lucille's voice suddenly fell to a whisper. "Word is Isaac nearly turned her into a pin cushion last night."

"Cilles...."Fia rolled her eyes at the redhead. "Spare me the drama, please. You gotta stop talkin' to Dixie. She stirs that stuff up more than the cotton candy.

Lucille held up her hands, as if in a state of innocent surrender. All wide blues and thick, curled, pin up lashes even at 8am. "What? I'm just sayin' there is a reason he can never hold an assistant. And then I always end up covering for the latest Show Ho because you absolutely refuse every time Isaac asks you. Stubborn bitch that you are." Added with a quirk of her mouth that held lingering affection there for the Carousel Queen.

Fia laughed and shook her head slowly. "I made Isaac a deal. He knows what it is. He rides my Carousel, I'll be his assistant. So far he has yet to agree." It was an ongoing battle of wills between the two.

"Can you blame him? I've seen people come off this thing white as a sheet, Fia." Lucille ashed her cigarette off of the side of the platform, careful not to get it on the Carousel to avoid Fia going apesh*#t.

"What's so scary?" As if she didn't know. "You had a positive experience last time you rode," Fia reminded her as she finished the last of her coffee and took up her brush again.

"Yes." Lucille sighed almost dreamily, touching her hand just above her breast as if she were getting choked up by the memory. "That's how I was guided to my poor Rufus. It was Isaac who helped me bust him out of that horrible Circus, y'know. You should've seen the conditions they had him in, Fia." The memory of it had her nearly as red as her hair. "I wanted to tell Isaac to skewer them."

"He probably would have. You know how he is with animals." Fia looked up at Lucille from her seated position a hand coming up to block her eyes from the sun on her face. "Move to the left a little, will ya darlin'? Sun's gettin' in my eyes and I gotta finish this so it has time to dry."

"C'mon Fia," Lucille pleaded, stepping to the left to block the sun. "Help a girl out. I don't know what went on with Bells or the others, but I've done it before and he's been nothin' but a gentleman with me, Gods honest." She crossed her heart. "It's that whole Southern manners thing and whatnot. You can get someone to cover the Carousel for a night. I got my hands full with Rufus."

"Nope. Besides, he kinda creeps me out. He's always watching me with this look like I'm some kinda ticking time bomb or something." Fia said and shot Lucille an easy grin and shrugged. "Guess Rufus is just gonna have to deal with his jealousy. Besides, you and Isaac get along alright. He's always hangin' around by your tent after all."

"We share a love for the reptiles and music from the forties." Lucille shrugged. "For that reason alone I think he tolerates me. Rufus absolutely loves him and he has this mighty fine collection of Benny Goodman records that he plays while he practices that I am seriously thinking stealing if I wasn't afraid he'd cut me." Added before tossing the last of her cigarette off to the side. She eyed Fia for a long moment.

"You know Fia...might be a good lead in to get you back into doing shows again. We still have all your costumes in storage. You should get back into doing the fire show...or the pyromancy thing. It's been a year...since...everything." She hedged. "You were good. Real good. What happened...it was an accident you know? You can't let that shut you down, girl. I think it would be good for you to get back into it. You have a gift."

Fia stiffened, slowly lowering the paint brush as her hand was beginning to shake. "Benny put you up to this? I don't want to talk about it Cilles. I'm not over it. I can't risk that happening again. Ever."

She still had nightmares about it. The burns, the man's face, the people screaming and running from the tent."

"It wasn't your fault. The townie was the one who got violent first cause he didn't like what you saw in the flames." Lucille defended, fiercely loyal to her Carnival sister. "Throwing stuff and cussin', causing a huge fuss. You were defending yourself. Besides, Benny’s Advance Man worked out a deal with the Fixer and took care of everything. Free and clear with no heat to worry about.”

Fia shook her head. "Free and clear? I still have to live with it. I lost control. I don't know how to control it." Fia said quietly, smoothing her shaking hand along denim as if she were smoothing out her nerves before looking back at Lucille.

“It’d help put a little more jingle in your pocket too.” Lucille added. “You know how Benny is always going on about the nut and how we’re not off it yet.” Lucille gently reminded Fia, who had a…less than congenial relationship with the Big Boss. “More attractions, more shows, more money less having to talk to him.” Lucille presented it as a win-win for everybody involved. “It’d be fun to see you do it again. Just think about it, ok?"

"I can control the Carousel a lot better, and it's better for me. Because they don't know I'm...you know..doing anything. Mostly they pass it off as a bad trip from too much beer, or a bad corn dog or something. The Pyromancy is different. It's more personal." There was a finality in her tone that suggested this conversation was over.

Lucille knew better than to press her friend further. The wall had gone up and if she knew her well enough to know she'd get burned if she pushed her any further. Perhaps literally.

"Well I suppose I'll have to cover for Bells tonight myself....again. Just hope he doesn't turn me into a pin cushion or something. If he does, I'll come back and haunt your ass and this Carousel, Fia, I swear. He's a strange duck, Isaac. I can't tell if I want to f^*& him or run from him half the time. It's the quiet ones you have to watch out for. That's what they say about all the serial killers. But he was so quiet. Kept to himself that one did."

Fia laughed, appreciating Lucille's humor and the moment of levity. Even if she was comparing Isaac to a serial killer. She felt the tension slowly ease from her body, her fingers relaxing from their clenched state as she pulled a hand rolled cigarette from behind her ear; suddenly needing the fix. It flared to life in moments. No lighter necessary as she touched it to her lips. "You're terrible," murmuring around the cigarette before exhaling lazily. Her mismatched gaze admiring the cloudless, wide open blue of the sky that fed her gypsy heart.
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Isaac Wheeler
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The upbeat swing tunes of Benny Goodman’s rendition of Honeysuckle Rose danced their way from Isaac’s record player. As the black vinyl spun its sounds one could almost imagine 1938 New York City and the buzz within Carnegie Hall, which was where this LP had first been recorded. Hard to imagine that such music could come from the middle of the Great Depression.

Isaac sat on a bench alongside his Indian 841 motorcycle. He had never been a man of many possessions, but the motorcycle and his record collection numbered high on that short list of importance. Sitting shirtless with suspenders hanging down over trim hips, Isaac hunched over to tighten a bolt with a socket wrench; the quick succession of clicks competing with the static and popping between songs on the King of Swing’s album.

Head canted to the left to observe his work. The motorcycle was showing her age with various areas of metal pitted through years of use, the olive drab paint scheme developing a slight patina here and there and the fawn colored leather of seat and saddle bags long since showing signs of wear.

The ole timer Isaac had met during his full scale retreat from the prearranged future his family name ensured him had sold the motorcycle to him for a song. He’d been on foot at the time and traveling the backyards and backwoods of South Carolina along the I-95 corridor to nowhere in particular. A handful of cash along with a promise to give the motorcycle a good home had turned Isaac’s retreat into a full scale assault on a self-forged future. That handshake sealed promise and the freedom the motorcycle represented was why Isaac had held onto the Indian despite several switch backs and pitfalls along the way.

A few more adjustments and tightening of several nuts and he’d be done. The gearboxes on the 841s were notoriously twitchy, but like most machines, if you took care of them and didn’t ask them to do to much they’d rarely let you down. Unlike people.

Isaac wiped the grease away from a hand before reaching back behind him for his mason jar full of iced tea. Cubes clinked as he took a long pull of the cold refreshment before setting it back down on the rough and ring stained wood of the table. Flicking the sweat from the jar off his hand before wiping his own from his brow Isaac glanced down to the mutt stretched out across his threadbare and near worn out bed.

“What do you think Boomer?” Isaac asked the mutt who popped his head up at the mention of his name. “Good enough for government work?” He asked, patting his thigh as he stood up to pull the needle from Benny Goodman. Though he needed to make a run into town before the cake eaters starting queuing up outside the arch, he had a few things to attend to within the carnival boundaries. Boomer gave a lazy pursuit; never in any more of a hurry than Isaac.

He buttoned up a simple grey shirt and slowly rolled the sleeves up to elbows, a black hat added last as he strolled along the Midway with a bag of peanuts to keep idle hands busy. Steel sharp grays noted the slow pace of the morning along the different stalls, games, rides and attractions. The first few nights in a new town always guaranteed late mornings for many as the newness of the town enticed the carnys in the same way the carnival did the townies.

Isaac cracked and tossed another peanut into his mouth as he wandered through the reptile tent looking for Lucille. Despite the somewhat pressing matter facing the knife thrower who had no one to throw knives at, Isaac took a moment to cautiously admire the naked power of Lucille’s various snakes and other assorted reptiles. The knife thrower eventually meandered his way to the back of the tent and the large tank which had been set up there. He leaned up over the edge and gave a look before tapping the water with the palm of his hand. A few moments later Rufus surfaced a few feet away from Isaac.

“Trouble on the home front?” He asked with a ghost of a smile and that lazy Savannah drawl after taking one look at Rufus. “Mmhm.” He concluded as Rufus eyeballed him. The knife thrower offered the alligator a freshly cut piece of chicken from a nearby bucket. Isaac watched as Rufus slowly came forward to nip the chicken from Isaac’s hand. A moment later Rufus had tossed it to the back of his mouth and bit down. Isaac found something oddly comforting in the sound of massive jaws and teeth cracking through bone. He merely watched as the apex predator swam a slow circle about its tank; Isaac surmising Lucille’s present location given her absence from the reptile den.

“Hey! You’re not supposed to be back here!” Came a shout from behind Isaac as Tommy came rushing forward.

Isaac turned a half circle, far more willing to put his exposed and defenseless back to the 700 pound predator behind him than he was the roughie coming at him. Duplicity was a trait far more expected in humans rather than beasts. He gave another lazy toss of peanuts into his mouth and waited for the kid to get close enough to recognize him.

“Just what do you think you’re…oh…” Tommy stopped dead in his tracks when he recognized Isaac and dragged a hand through hair, suddenly sheepish. “I’m sorry…I…I didn‘t know it was you, Isaac.

Isaac, for his part, just brought a finger slowly up to his lips.

Tommy halted his stammer of apologies as he undoubtedly realized he was alone in a tent full of snakes, an 800 pound alligator and the knife thrower no one really wanted to talk to. Not knowing which he should be more afraid of, undoubtedly only made matters worse for Tommy.

“Y'er Alright. Calm down. They sense your anxiety.” Isaac instructed. Though his tone was lazy, his eyes were sharp as the daggers he threw.

Tommy got a handle on his discomfort and finally managed to apologize for the misunderstanding. "Just making sure…umm…ya know...how the Townies get curious.” Tommy was still a bit green and trying to earn his stripes.

"S'alright. Go on now. Flag'll be up soon." Isaac made a jerking motion with his chin, dismissing Tommy and turned back to Rufus. The Alligator, restless and annoyed (possibly because it knew Isaac’s presence would pull Lucille away from the tank) slowed to a stop in the middle.

“Mamma out gossipin'?” A wry smile with the question now that Tommy was out of earshot.

Rufus merely gave a blow of air through his nose and slowly settled back beneath the surface of the dark water. Isaac gave the water a few more pats in lieu of a goodbye as he looked down at Boomer. “Guess that’s a yes, eh?” Boomer merely licked his lips and gave a woof at the chicken bucket, far more interested in a treat than where Lucille was at the moment. “Don't be greedy. Or I'll toss you in the tank.” Isaac playfully chided the mutt before heading towards the Carousel.

“Speak of the devil and he doth appear,” Came the leisurely dogwood drawl as Isaac strolled up behind Fia and Lucille and heard them mention his name. Boomer gave a low woof and loped ahead to wiggle through the railing and throw himself down at Fia’s feet…his way of demanding a rub. Isaac merely stared for a long moment before blowing a sigh of resignation.

“Rufus is still sulkin'.“ Isaac offered as he tipped his hat to Lucille, the closest thing he had to a friend at the Carnival. Southern upbringing often held his tongue and hands in check; that sullen silence around most replaced with a rural charm for the few who deserved it. But even then, it was always reserved, something always held back.

“Fia.” He included the Carousel Queen in his greeting as he lazily settled forearms down on the railing in a lean. Blade sharp grays settling on her and her paint job while pointedly ignoring the shameless bid for attention at her feet. “Isabella quit.” Never one to use extraneous words, he confirmed the gossip flying around like tumbleweeds. A glance at Fia for a long moment, seemingly unconcerned with the length of time of its duration before speaking. “You mind, Lucille?” He asked though that disquieting stare hung where it began.

Lucille rolled her eyes and threw up her hands. "Do I have a choice?" A glare at Fia.

“How bout it Fia? Wanna give Luce a break?” Isaac shifted his request for an assistant to Fia. His eyes were unmoving as he tossed a few peanuts up to his mouth. “Promise I'll only miss by a little.” He offered as a sweetener while holding up a hand. "Scout's honor." Something like a dare in his smile tucked into the corner of his mouth. He knew the deal as well as she did, though it certainly didn’t deter him from pursuing what he wanted.

The look lingered for a moment or two more before Isaac shifted his gaze down the center of the Midway.

“Flag’s up.” He commented, noting the red triangular flag hanging impotently in the heavy summer air. It was the indication that the Carnival kitchen was open and serving a hot meal to members of the Carnival. “Wonder if Buford made something edible today?” Absently to the two women as he pushed off the railing and chewed on the last few peanuts. “Think about it, alright?” Vowels stretched with that antebellum drawl as his final words were tossed like a few peanuts to both women before he ambled towards the flag, seemingly unconcerned with whatever answer either might give.
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Fiametta Belmar
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fia was nervously fidgeting with the peridot necklace she wore around her neck. "Pele's tears," her mother had called the stone. The necklace had been given to her by her mother on the day of her birth, for she had seen the fire at once in her child's eyes. A striking combination of peridot green and burnt amber. And so she had named her Fiametta, or her "Little Flame" for her fiercely independent spirit. In her infancy, she did not even have a crib for her mother claimed that she had melted it and that, "No bars will ever cage her."

She gazed at the moon, vibrant and bright outside the small window of her trailer. It always seemed to heighten everything in her sphere. This full Harvest Moon was already pulling at the raging tides within her. She vaguely remembered an old gypsy telling her once that the veils between between worlds were at their thinnest on nights like these. Her temples throbbed. Her resistance was making the pain worse, she knew, but she was not going to risk losing control again.

Rusalka's "Song to the Moon" played on the vintage record player next to her bed; somehow, it soothed her. Her Mother had been an Italian opera singer of limited fame or notoriety, but possessed a purity of heart and voice that were unparalleled.

Fia had not taken well to any type of schooling and to this day, had enormous difficulties reading that went beyond any vague, limiting label of a "learning disability." Letters seemed to rearrange themselves on the page before her, forming their own messages that had nothing to do with the story within. Yet she yearned for stories from a young age and so her Mother had read them to her since she could not read them herself. "You read the flames my darling..and you read people. That is your gift."

That is my curse. Fia had thought, but she never spoke the words aloud to her Mother. She could never explain the ache she had within her to be able to one day read herself. She had a love for beauty, knowledge and truth in a way that she could not fully articulate in the limited language of her learned tongue. It sang like a Phoenix song in her bones, a battle-cry for destruction to burn away all that was false in a world that had felt too far too limiting for the wanderlust in her soul.

And so, for most of Fia's youth and until her Mother's death, the world would be her schoolroom. The two had traveled together to various small venues in the manner of two gypsies wanting to savor all the sensual pleasures the world had to offer. The same said pleasures eventually took their toll on her Mother's life.

Pacing in her trailer, she knew something felt off before she even set foot on The Midway. Perhaps it was the moon. Mismatched gaze of peridot and amber avoided the flickering flame from the candle on the table, beckoning her with its own gypsy's dance. Eventually, her gaze was pulled magnetically to the blue heart of the flame. The message came right away.

Why are you afraid to lift the veil? Why do you run from what you are?

Fia strode over to the table and blew out the flame, then turned to yank the needle off the record. Her fingers twitched and burned as she did so, nearly melting the vinyl.

"My Little Runaway..." A voice whispered in the darkness of the trailer.

Later that evening...


The night at the carnival felt like any other night. The rides clanked and caroused around hair pin turns, the shouts of excited townies drifted from one part of the Carnival to another; mixing and competing with the strident calls of the barkers as they sought to round up impressive crowds for tented attractions. Everything seemed normal…

But everything wasn’t normal.

Fia eyed the Harvest Moon off on the horizon; the orange tinged disk hung low in the sky and served as a cosmic marker for the seasonal transition upon the land. Summer was giving way to autumn and the moon served as the vanguard to the coming change and reordering of things; a primordial cycle as old as the Earth and Moon itself.

Fia noted a few townies commenting on the moon here and there as they queued up before the carousel, but its significance went largely unnoticed save for its color and fullness.

But something felt off. The usual ease and banter that Fia had as a ride operator was missing. Even the guiding hand of the Carousel felt distant, a song on the radio just as you drove out of range of the station. The vibration and frequency muddled somehow.

Fia suddenly became aware of a high frequency buzzing sound. The kind of sound that cut through conscious thought to drill right through skin and bone to pierce deep within the mind. Heterochromatic eyes tried to blink away the sensation, to look and see if others heard it as well. But all appeared normal; to everyone save the Little Flame.

Trying to ignore it, Fia suggested this animal and that for the chosen riders and moved back to the control dais. A moment’s hesitation stayed her finger as it hovered over the start button. A little warning, a shadowy thought fluttering like birds’ wings and then it was gone and the button was pushed. She took a lean against the podium, elbow against the worn wood with chin resting on the palm to watch…

And that was when Fia knew something was definitely off. The Carousel seemed to accelerate out of control as it spun faster and faster, ethereal lines of lights and colors trailed behind their source like a photograph of high speed traffic. Sounds multiplied and echoed weirdly as they blended with the phantastic sights assaulted her eyes. Everything moved, danced, and chased itself in that never ending cycle…except the faces of the riders. They merely stared at Fia with each revolution, a distant interest on their expression as if they were watching and waiting for something climatic to happen.

Fia felt herself pitch forward, falling towards the enveloping darkness of unconsciousness. The last thing she remembered seeing was the burning disk of the Harvest Moon, an all seeing eye of the being she was about to meet.

It was a golden light that flooded through her completely first, warm as the Sun, and the voice that follow had a similar effect. Its vibration more beautiful than any symphony ever composed by mortal or angel.

"It is time now, dear one. For your name to be cleared. For the truth to be brought to light. You are a Catalyst."

"Why did you bring me here? You're cheating and you know it." She ground out. "This is entrapment."

"No. This is what we call necessary intervention. A rift has occurred, the veil is thin this evening and you have been resisting.You refused to look into the flames for the messages. You cannot hide forever."

"Semantics. And I prefer to look at it as selective participation."

"Why are you so hesitant, my Nasreen?"

"Because they demonized me." Literally. "Not that you would know what that is like. You were always the golden boy" Fia spoke with thinly veiled venom.

"Their ignorance and perversion of the truth is not your concern. The truth may be repressed, perhaps for thousands of years, but all will be brought to light. Stop running.They have vilified you for long enough. It is time now. No more hiding. All will be brought to light. All that must be revealed, shall be...in its proper time. The shadows can no longer hide or repress the truth. It is part of the expansion that is taking place. We all must do our part."

"Who the f*#k wants to look at their shadows? Yeah. That's going to go over well. " She still wasn't buying it. It was in her very DNA to question everything...even him.

"Their soul will choose. If not, their journey will just take longer. I am nothing else if not patient. You know this. Your job is to open the door. Whether they choose to face it and walk through the fire, is their choice."

"Do you know how isolating this is?" She snapped."People either think you're a freak, insane, a damn witch, or trying to con them. Hell, I'm my own walking sideshow. Who needs the Carnival?"

"It is the rare person that wants to face his shadows. Nevertheless, the only way out is through. One can not recognize their light without first acknowledging their shadow-self. It is the order of things....And when have you ever cared what others thought? Dear one, you are my original rebel after all. He had no idea what he had in store with free will when it came to you."

There was amusement in his voice now, a warmth and fondness that melted some of her meticulously constructed wall. It was his capacity for humility that had always brought it down and humbled her to her core.

"I miss you." She admitted, the words catching in her throat. The vulnerability of the statement like a ribbon that had her slowly unraveling. "You saw me. You never judged me or tried to control me. It's awful on this God forsaken rock without you."

"There has never been separation between us. Only the one you have created with your mind and your resistance. I need you here now. I need your abilities for this purpose. Will you do this for me?"

"Do I have a choice?" Her voice wavered as she spoke.

"You know you do. I would never force you.I have always loved you. You were with me to the end."

"I know. I hated him for that too. What they did to you."

"It was my journey. I chose it. As you have yours."

"What do I do now?"

"You Wake up."


"Fia! Fia can you hear me? Fia...."

Fia slowly opened her eyes to the sound of Isaac's slow drawl and his face leaning over her.

**********************

I am Lilith, Grandmother of Mary Magdalene

I am Lilith, whose sexual fire was too hot for God.

I am Lilith, the First Woman, who chose the rage of exile over the cancer

Of servitude.

I am Lilith, Mother to the Mother-less.

I am Lilith, whose blood covers the moon.

I am Lilith, standing on owl’s claws at a woman’s crossroads.

I am Lilith, the Whore in the gateway of the Temple.

I am Lilith, whose serpentine tongue caused Eve to laugh, and pick the

apple!

I am Lilith, Revolving Sword of Flame – scorching hypocrisy from truth’s

white bones.


I am Lilith, free-moving in the Wilderness.

I am Lilith, spirit of night and air.

I am Lilith, in whose dark caves transgressors find sanctuary.

I am Salome.

I am Morgan le Faye.

I am the Queen of Sheba –

My hair is black, and I am ‘dark but comely’,

(Solomon sang my song!).

I am Eve’s big sister.

I am Lilith, Mother to the motherless.

I am Lilith, whose sexual fire was too hot for God.

I am Lilith, living in the Shadow.

Waiting. For you.

-Cosi Fabian
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Isaac Wheeler
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Let’s give her some space people.” Isaac called out while gesturing for the crowd to step back and open up the area around Fia. He was growing frustrated with the crowd, especially those that had their cell phones out to video and/or take pictures of the woman passing out. Were Isaac ever to reconsidering his opinions on humanity he need only see a scene such as this: a crowd of people and none offering to help, only play voyeur. Vultures.

“Look at me.” It was not a request as he turned his attention back down to Fia. He dragged his forefinger across her cone of vision to get her pupils to focus and then follow.

"Outta di way. Let mi tru." There was a commotion at the back of the crowd; the sound of people getting pushed out of the way for a moment before Andre’s giant frame pressed through the ring of people. The Jamaican came down to a knee next Isaac. “Saw da whole ting.” Looking down at Fia while he spoke, that thick Jamaican patois lending a certain musical quality to the situation. “Was turnin out da Zipper when mi eyes saw Fia fall. Da moon be doin' sometin strange. Yah doin' okay, sistren?” Andre asked Fia tenderly.

Fia blinked, mismatched gaze of peridot and amber finally focusing on Isaac’s face. She felt burdened with the full weight of her body again. Somehow, it pained her; the air in her lungs, the feel of her clothes against her skin. The golden, weightless warmth that that she had felt moments earlier had gone. She felt as if she had been unfairly torn from the safety of a beautiful, lingering dream. The voice was gone and with it, her solace. Annoyed and resentful, she batted Isaac’s finger away from her face. "I'm fine. Get y'damn finger out of my face, Isaac." Fia growled and tried to sit up.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” He said dryly after she swatted away his hand like a cornered tiger.

“Sistren, Go slow.” Andre placed a large hand on her shoulder. He knew it wasn’t in Fia’s nature to do anything slow any more than it was to accept help.

“C’mon…let’s get you up.” Isaac's slow drawl mirroring the deliberate gripping of her hand within his and the gentle pull to get her into a sitting position. He glanced down at her hand wondering why she was so warm to the touch all of a sudden.

“Yeah…I think she’s going to be alright.” Isaac said as he stood and eased Fia to her feet though kept a supporting hand around her waist. “I think the best thing is just to get her to her trailer so she can lie down for a bit. Lucille should be done with her act, she can watch over her.” Isaac making the snap decision after looking into Fia’s eyes. She was awake and conscious though she looked a million miles away. Whatever had happened had seemed to seriously affect her. "Who's gonna run the Carousel?" A jerk of his chin towards the people peering at the scene and walking around.

"Dem pretty 'orses goin 'ave to cool dem 'eels fer a spell. Dat wheel don' turn for nobody but Sistren here."

"I'm fine." She shrugged off the hand. Not wanting to be touched at the moment. A part of her etheric body still pulsing and sensitive. Like she had been divided from her own shadow for a time. Any contact felt too much of a burden in the moment. "I just need to lay down for a bit. Tell Benny. I'll cover the loss outta my own pocket."

“But Fia,” Isaac began to say though was cut off as Fia twisted from the hand upon her hip. She turned away from Isaac and Andre to walk unsteadily towards her trailer. No more willing to be contained than a wildfire.

“Dis be a weird night, Isaac-mon.” Andre said while making the sign of the cross over his face and chest while Fia headed home. “Strange tings be happenin. Mouse been dunked with almost every trow, your knives don’t be doin what you whisper dem to, da carousel…it don’t be makin no sense.”

Isaac gave a hard stare at Andre for several moments at the mentioning of the strange events of the night, most notably his show. There had been... an issue with Isaac’s act tonight; namely the knives not going where Isaac had intended them to go. Strange near misses which appeared to be out of his control.

“I tink she been talkin to da Iyaman.” Andre observed as he watched Fia move into the night.

“The what?” Isaac asked, his impatience with the island accent drawing eyes away from Fia and back to the islander.

“Da iya…” Andre made a gesture with his hand to indicate he was saying higher, “Iya mon”

“The higher man?" Isaac asked with dwindling patience.

Andre nodded and looked back to Isaac. “Sistren got dat innerstanding in her eyes. I seen it before. Back 'ome in Jamaica wit da spirit men." He glanced up at the moon and shook his head before looking back at Isaac. “We 'ave a sayin' in Jamaica: ‘Di ol'a di moon, di brighter ih shine.’ She ol'soul ma Sistreen, ba she be 'avin a tough road goin' back where she be runnin' from. She ain' be at ease wit her shine.”

“S'just an off night. S'way the cards fall sometimes.” His only comment back to Andre as he placed a cigarette between his lips. Isaac never had much use for spirits and religion. Done more harm than good over the years. But still, Isaac didn’t know what to think of the changes seemingly happening around him. He never lost control of his knives. Tonight he did. Mouse hardly ever got dunked. Tonight, he couldn’t stay dry. And Fia…who knows what had just happened to Fia. The hair on Isaac’s neck stood up just a little bit as he stared at the Carousel and couldn’t shake the feeling that the ever revolving wheel was also somehow involved.

Said I hear the words of the Iyaman say:
"Babylon, you throne gone down, gone down;
Babylon, you throne gone down."


~ Bob Marley "Rastaman Chant"
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Isaac Wheeler
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Carnival breakfasts were a tradition dating back nearly a century now. A chance for the various workers and acts to congregate at the cook house around a common meal to share tales of the previous night’s ups and downs, the takes, the scores, the rubes and everything in between. Often an arena of bragging as well as good natured shaming for the previous night’s wins and losses; the long tables under Buford “Cookie” Bullis’ tent provided a communal place to eat and inevitably the arrangement fell along professional lines. The Agents who worked the games all sat relatively close together, the Roughies, the Ride Jocks, the Talkers and so forth all fell into their long established and hierarchal places.

Eschewing such proximity, Isaac and Boomer had claimed a spot towards the end of a row. Close enough that an uninitiated eye would consider him part of the group though in reality Isaac ensured a level of detachment which he privately considered wholly separate. Isaac tore a piece of bacon in half and dropped one half to Boomer while chewing on the other. He noted almost everyone had arrived by now though there were always a few late risers from a long night spent working hard for those last few dollars or turning out just a few more rides and shows.

“Good today eh?” Slow drawl drug out around a full mouth as he watched Boomer all but inhale his half. Isaac chuckled as the scarred stump of a tail was set to wagging; the mutt clearly wanting more. “Gonna make yourself fat.” Isaac chided even as he broke off another strip to Boomer’s delight.

Mason jar of sweet tea was picked up which sent cubes clinking against the glass. Steel grey gaze moved unseen over the assembled group as Isaac’s hawk like attention took flight to circle around the various conversations. Riding the verbal thermals, his attention went unnoticed while he merely ate and listened to the various back and forths before him.

“I tells ya…I nearly blew my pipes trying to get em over to me.” An agent was saying while shoveling scrambled eggs into his mouth. “All night just yellin and yelling, tellin em how I could guess their age, their number of kids, their weight…didn’t matter *** to me what it was. Thought by the end of the night I was gonna end up like Jingles.” This brought a chorus of nervous laughs for the reference. The Carnival’s resident juice man had lost his tongue while doing a stint in Sing Sing, or so the story went, and hadn’t spoken a word of his own since, but any man who had endured as much was a man to be wary of.

Isaac gave a squint down the table and placed the owner of the raspy voice as man named Beans. It took a moment to place what game he ran as Isaac rarely associated or even spoke to the agents. As a showman (and a working act at that) he rightly considered himself on the higher end of that particular carny social division. Isaac did remember that Beans was the carnival’s A&S man and spent the nights guessing peoples age or guessing their weight. Isaac was pretty sure he constantly underestimated women’s age and weight so as to come off as a charming and sensitive agent. Didn’t matter either way, the A&S was a hanky pank…Isaac knew Beans charged more for each play than the overhead of his prizes so a few well-placed losses here and there coupled with some personality probably helped him to come out ahead.

Growing bored with the Agents table, Isaac shifted that slate colored gaze about, looking for something of interest while scratching behind Boomer’s ear. Another conversation finally caught that hawk like attention and so it circled over a group of ride Jocks listening to Boz retell his story from the night before
.
“So there she was…smoking hot blonde. I’m telling you guys she was easily a 7…on a bad day.” Boz spoke with a barbarian growl that easily matched his scarred visage and muscled physique.

“She be more of a tree, if we be tellin' tru, Boz-mon. Maybe she make 'er way up ta four o' five depending on how many Red Stripes we bein drinkin.” Andre’s Caribbean accent bouncing in and interrupting Boz while he waffled his hand from side to side in the classic maybe-maybe not gesture.

“She…was…a…seven.” Boz pointedly reiterated while shoving Andre back over to his seat with a laugh and a good natured elbow. “Smokin Seven. Long blonde air, Daisy Duke shorts and *** tits out to here man.” Boz gesturing with his hands to indicate the endowment of last night’s angel. “So I’m hanging outta the dog house of the Bitch hollerin down at her. I know we’re about to drop the awning for the night so I gotta get it in quick ya know?” He paused to tear into a biscuit.

“Prolly a lot lizard.” Mouse chimed into the silence brought on by Boz’s chewing. “You lose your take to another professional lady of the night?” A quick duck by the Terrible Taunt saved him from Boz’s gravy slathered biscuit turned missile though he came back up undaunted. Show Ho? Shownuff.”

“You gonna ever come up with new stuff?” Boz grumbled, less and less amused with Mouse and the similar style of his jokes.

“When it stops being funny or you stop falling for it every night.” Mouse cracked back unforgivingly like a whip lash. “It’s what I do.” A bit of pride puffing those words as Mouse’s dunk tank was one of the first attractions people saw upon entering the arch and remained consistently popular.

“Won’t be laughing when I drown you in your Bozo tank…”

Back and forth banter was a mainstay of the Carny breakfast ritual and plenty of it abounded along the tables. Isaac could tune in and out of such jokes as if changing grooves on a record and never miss a beat. The drifting arc of lazy attention circled round the assembled carnys in search of a more succulent prey. A few moments of silent studying until it lighted upon a topic of more seriousness. He pulled a biscuit in two and sightlessly offered the first half to Boomer who gobbled it happily while Isaac watched Benny converse with the carnival’s middle management team consisting of Frankie, the twins Don and Dave and Twitch.

“Well it’s going to make a difference, Benny. If we got a different owner that’s going to influence how I deal with the cops. I mean,” Frankie paused to spit tobacco across the dirt and turn his skinny frame away from most of the carnys at breakfast, “it might influence how much patch money I got to make deals. Might not be a big deal to you if we got troopers crawlin round…but it might to them,” a half nod over his shoulder to indicate the assembled group.

“It’s just a rumor.” Benny said while wiping a hand down his face. “Still on the nut and we gotta deal with these rumors. We hear this all the time.” Spoken in a tone of projected confidence meant to put the other men at ease though Benny, himself, heard the words ring hollow.

“They just rumors, Benny?” Twitch asked as he crossed arms over his spindly chest and rocked back and forth on his toes. “You still even gonna be Boss? Cause I aint gonna work for some forty miler who aint never been part o no carnival.” Twitch continued while his left eye constantly moved and bounced thus giving rise to his name while also making it difficult for Benny to concentrate with his answer.

“I’m on the show.” Benny finally answered with a definitive jab of his cigar, indicating he was a serious part of the carnival. That fat cigar was then shoved between plump lips for a chew. “Aint gonna happen. Business as usual. We got a strong show and we aint for sale.” He gave a glance to the Twins. “Dave, stay on top of the concessions. I don’t want to hear about another joint running out of something. Same goes for the checkup, Don. If one more agent comes and bitches to me about his money I’ll start praying for a change of scenery. And don’t let me catch any of you talking about this with the others…else you’ll be the one getting the change of scenery.”

Isaac pulled away from the conversation as he dropped a piece of ice down for Boomer to crunch into. As he glanced back up, intent to quietly observe the continuation of breakfast and contemplate the ramifications of a potential ownership change, he noted Lucille heading down to his end of the table. The red-headed pin up glided past the invisible barrier to invade his overly large though well-crafted personal space to sit alongside him.

Boomer popped his head up, stubbed tail wagging a mile a minute at the advent of new stimulus while Isaac subtly recoiled from the intrusion and leaned back in his chair to recreate some of that disturbed distance.

“Good morning, Isaac.” Saccharine sweet smile as Lucille bit into a wedge of breakfast melon. “Good night the other night?”

Isaac stared back at Lucille. Gun metal gray blinked a few times during that passage of time while he placed that sing song lilt of her voice to a school yard where one child knew something the others did not and reveled in that secret knowledge. “Bout like any other.” He finally offered, that slow drawl deflecting the direct shot of her question.

Lucille gave a victorious little smile as she lit her first and favorite cigarette of the day. Cerulean gaze narrowed into disbelieving slits as she eyed the knife thrower. “Bout like any other, huh?” She repeated; enjoying how Isaac’s recalcitrant nature all but snapped her good natured trap closed. “Well…that’s not what I’ve heard.”

Isaac’s brows slid upwards at the obvious challenge laid down by the snake charmer but his face remained an impassive mask; the path of his thoughts as difficult to navigate as Minos’ famed Labyrinth. A slow sip from the Mason jar was coupled with a chicken playing stare leveled at Lucille. “Guess you heard wrong.”

“Mm. Doubtful.” Lucille gave a waggle of brows in answer to that dour expression and turned to look down the rows of tables. “Hey fellas…” In a loud voice sure to attract attention. “Guess who went into town the other night and actually hung out in a bar?” Called out while pantomiming a finger pointing gesture at Isaac.

The words had no sooner left Lucille’s mouth than conversations started to stall out and end completely. Like dominoes falling in a row, Lucille’s little announcement rippled throughout the tables until most everyone was staring down at the pair. Isaac gave Lucille a cautionary look before slouching back into his chair with arms crossed over his chest. He so rarely took part in the banter that he never expected himself to become the target of it…besides…most thought better of it if the desire even existed.

“Funny.” Single word voiced as he looked back at dozens of faces staring at him as if they all expected him to give a speech about it. He passed the awkward moment by producing a pack of Lucky’s and packed the box against the base of his palm several times over.

“I thought so.” Lucille confirmed as shoulders bobbed in hardly concealed mirth. She took another bite of her melon held daintily between two fingers and waved her little finger at him. “Gotcha.”

“Mm. Would appear you did.” Isaac conceded while slowly exhaling a chest full of smoke into the morning breeze. “How’d you…” The question going unfinished as a certain name bloomed behind his gray gaze. “Dixie.” Said knowingly as soon as the name materialized. She was the carnival’s candy flosser and reigning gossip queen.

“Dixie.” Lucille confirmed with a laugh and a scratch behind Boomer’s ear for good measure. “She does more than just sell cotton candy ya know.”

“***.” Boz calling out Lucille’s accusation. “I don't believe a word of it."

“I dunno mon, dat moon be a crazy ting…making all kinds of disbelievin happenin.” Jamaican patois signifying Andre had taken his turn. "Could be makin' even a Mime a Mockingbird.

“Wait…” Mouse chimed in. “Isaac went to a bar? You talk to anybody?” Mouse asked, ready to answer his own question and provide the punch line before Isaac could speak. “Cause we all know you don’t talk to anything that ain’t got four legs.” Spoken to a round of laughter. It was rare that Isaac became a target as opposed to throwing at them so the other carnys got their laughs in while they could.

“They let Boomer in?” Mouse continued as he would have had he been sitting in the tank. “Lemme guess…you told them he was your seeing eye dog or something right?” Mouse holding up a hand to his ear. “What’s that boy? Isaac’s at a bar and wants a sweet tea?” Imitating an episode of Lassie to the amusement of those around him. “But he never talks so how’s he going to order one? OH…you did it for him? Well that’s a good boy.”

Isaac listened to the barbs and riposted with silence and a stare; letting those who wished to make a few cracks at his expense have their moment. That was the ritual and fighting against it was like chumming the waters…only made things worse and attracted more attention. Far better to endure in silence and let it die a natural death. Filter clamped between fore and middle fingers, Isaac held the cigarette out to the side to knock the ash free of the rolled paper. It had been an odd night. He wasn't quite sure what possessed him, what with him being suddenly and inexplicably social. Perhaps Andre had been on to something with the moon affecting his blades, the dunk tank and Fia’s carousel. Maybe that…whatever it was…had extended to him giving humanity a whimsical chance.

Though when Mouse kept digging and then targeted Boomer Isaac had had enough. Mouse had a practiced way of getting through the thickest skin. It’s what made him such a great Dunk Bozo and no one was permanently immune.

“What’re you…new?” Isaac finally asked when Mouse was done. The use of that particular question, asking if Mouse was new, brought a quick silence to the other carnys. Implying that Mouse was inexperienced or displaying bad judgment, calling someone "new" was a serious accusation in the Carnival family.

“You know, I think being in that cage does things to you, Mouse.” Isaac finished and tossed the last of a biscuit down to Boomer. “You should really learn when to turn it off." He paused, ashing his cigarette and giving Mouse a long considering glance. "Or maybe you can't. Maybe you're terrified of what you'd hear in the silence.” That lazy drawl had a way of cutting even deeper as the words tumbled slowly and steadily from Isaac’s lips. Not just skilled in throwing knives with his hands; he could hurl their verbal equivalent with practiced ease as well. Most carnys were an observational sort though Isaac’s reserved nature and stage performances made him especially adept at reading between the grimy gutters of humanity.

A sudden chill fell over the breakfast tent as the other Carnys suddenly became very interested in their food.

“Just makin jokes. Way to kill the vibe, man.” Mouse continued to chew his breakfast with a sullen grind to his jaw. Something about what Isaac said sticking him in the ribs more than he'd like to admit and the blade was wedged deep. He picked up his well-worn and weather beaten copy of The Scarlett Letter. “I’m off to hang with more evolved company.” The sudden change saw sarcasm creeping back into Mouse’s tones even while he flashed a good natured grin. Nothing could ever keep him down for long. He paused to fill a mug with coffee before heading off towards the trailers.

Isaac blew the held smoke from lips and nose while leaning back in his chair, tipping it back onto his back legs. A pat to his thigh had Boomer hopping up for a rub. The Stray that was Isaac’s personality loped back out to the perimeter of the group as his attentions once again retreated inward and detached himself from the group dynamic. He was there and not there all over again.

“Yo Queenie! Up and at em.” Mouse called while banging on the screen door of Fia’s trailer. The sonic assault rattled like shaken sheet metal as he banged again. “Carpe that f*&#n' coffee.” Syllables stretched out and pitched skyward as he tried to entice Fia from her humble abode.

“The sun himself is weak when he first rises, and gathers strength and courage as the day gets on.” Said with another nerve rattling knock on the door. “If it’s good enough for Dickens, it’s good enough for me and you!”
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Fiametta Belmar
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


Joined: 09 Jan 2013
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1616.22 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fia awoke with a start, a sheen of sweat soaking through the cotton tank she wore, clinging to her skin like the residue of what she had tried in vain to bleed from her system the previous evening when all had gone awry with the Carousel. The taste of ashes was fresh in her mouth. She remembered the taste well. Her dreams were often littered with them.

She reached for a hand rolled cigarette to drown out the unsavory taste. Lit the moment it touched her lips without the appearance of a lighter or match. Cinnamon, cardamom and clove interweaving on her tongue to compete for dominance to spice the ripe fruit of her mouth.

She dreamt of him again. He had been a consistent catalyst in her soul's jagged and riotous evolution. The plot twist in the final act, an offered hand when she had been poised at the precipice. Perhaps each had been a synergist for the other. He had always told her this and somewhere, deep within her, she wanted to believe him.

They had been dancing this dance each knew well for centuries, though admittedly, He had the steps down better than she. Perhaps it was because He had been wise enough to listen. Silent where she was vocal, accepting when she had always questioned. The detached, and yet never indifferent observer, where she had always been the revolutionary on the front lines.

Her Achilles heel in many ways, He anticipated her like no other. Able to discern from the slightest angle of her chin, the flash of her gaze, the barest arch of her foot that she was about to run. He weathered the violence of her storms lifetime after lifetime with an unnerving calm in the center of the all seeing eye. He spoke to her the same as he had the first time. Kindness without condescension. Love without conditions.

It was a blessing it had just been his voice and the feel of Him. If she had seen his eyes it would have been her undoing. She had spent thousands of years trying to shake the memories. His essence had firmly taken root to the core of her and she had tucked it away like Hope in her Pandora's box of sucker punch lessons. All the work to contain all the wild within now coming apart at the seams. He had unraveled her with such ease and shaken her convictions to their core.

Still, she ached to see him again. He had always treated her as an equal and never an acolyte by asking her to stand beside him yet never behind him or beneath him. He knew too well that particular slight was a deep wound still tattooed on her soul from a prior incarnation.

The night she had broken bread with the twelve she had called them her brothers. They grudgingly tolerated her, but only because he asked it of them. It was not within them to truly accept her as one of them. She was not oblivious to the sideways looks. Adept fisherman, they cast nets of jealousy and judgment. While parroting recited, hollow lines meant to please. Their intent was to jockey for position, if only for a moment, to bathe in the baptismal waters of his gaze. Resentful of the special place he gave her at his side.

Not that she had cared. She was well used to the staring and the whispers and she'd always answered with a raised chin and a look that blazed. His gaze had always been a cool Revelation, hers was Baptism by fire.

The bread had tasted like ashes that night.

And in the end, her "brothers" had closed their eyes and ears to her. The wild fire of the truth she issued too dangerous to their straw dogs of hypocrisy. And long after he transcended, they spent their days making sure their names were anchored firmly in the ever changing tides of their revisionist history. While her own role had diminished to that of the repentant whore.

She was the flame on the sacrificial pyre. But the sacrifice had been him, and her time with him was the only true joy her soul had ever known.


Forgive. Accept. He is calling you home.


She breathed out the word with the smoke in answer. The ache in her lungs more to do with a seed of sadness than anything to do with the smoke that curled there like beckoning fingers. She whispered a single word;


"Never."


In the darkened corners of the trailer, the shadows smiled, as if the tide had turned in their favor and the light from the candle dimmed ever so slightly.

Mouse's booming knock set her nerves on edge. She dragged her body from the bed like she was pulling against the tide, limbs heavy as she threw the door open for Mouse. The sun poured over her skin, and she squinted her mismatched gaze of peridot and amber against the light. It felt like counterfeit gold compared to the light she had felt coursing through her from his presence.

Had it been him? Had she imagined it?

The ache in her chest from the void had her fighting the urge to take the coffee and slam the door in Mouse's face, but she checked herself. She had been unforgivably rude to Isaac the other evening when he had been trying to help. The moment had been stubbornly knocking at the door of her conscience. No sense in proceeding in kind with Mouse.

Her brow arched at Mouse's kid gloves look, while her tongue poised for a hiss. "Yes? I'm fine. Haven't passed out again. Still breathing. Lucille already came by to play Nurse."

"Y'had us all a bit worried. You think it has anything to do with the headaches you've been getting?" He noticed the dampness of her shirt. "Jeez Fia, you're soaked. You have a fever?" He stepped forward to reach a hand to her face.

As he advanced, she didn't retreat, but brought her arm up like a sword to block his touch. "No." A pause. "Nightmares." She pivoted to change her shirt before moving to the basin by her bed to splash water over her face and neck before reaching for a towel. She took a moment behind the fabric to recalibrate before lowering it again to face Mouse. "I'm good Mouse. Gonna grab some breakfast here in a sec. Would you give me some time?" She threw on a pair of jeans and waited for him to get the hint.

Perhaps in keeping with Isaac's observation, Mouse never knew when to stop. He thought he had a solution that always seemed to improve Fia's mood, so he took The Scarlet Letter from under his arm and thumped it upon her bed. "Thought we could try again. I think you'll like this one. It's been a few weeks. Just a few sentences to start, yeah? Can't hurt."

Fia stilled. The longing in her as she looked at the book spiked at a fever pitch before she turned partially, thick lashes lowered to half mast over her mismatched gaze. Peridot warring with Amber. "It's...the letters. Could you just..." The words were lead-heavy on her tongue. "Read it to me?" It killed her to have to ask.

Mouse hesitated. "Fia, I know you can do this. If you'd just try."

"You think this is a matter of trying? Or lack of intelligence?"

"No." Mouse back pedaled. "I'm not saying that, I think if you..."

"Don't you think I want this with everything in me?" Her temper was rising, she was starting to feel cornered. Her fingers began to twitch and burn. She needed air and fast. "Forget it. I'm sorry. I just need a little...air and I'll be...."

She burst from the trailer to move towards the cook tent. The heat on her skin unbearable. She was ready to ignite. Her temples throbbed, words reverberated and echoed.

Forgive. Accept. He is calling you Home.

Fia pivoted, as if trying to escape from the words only to nearly slam into Mouse again.

"Just the cover. Just try the cover." Mouse was in her face again as she pivoted.

As he held it up. Her mismatched gaze focused on the letters. They began to move before her, rearranging themselves of their own accord.


Threat...Secret...Tell.


She squinted at the letters before they rearranged once more.


Tell...React...Her Test.


"Just one word, Fia. You've been able to do it before."

"I said NO!" Her palm hit the book as if she were pushing against a wall before the book erupted in flames, reducing pages to ash and scattering the words to the winds. Fia recoiled back like a spring, as speechless as Mouse before she took off across the Midway at a run towards the Carousel.



I had a dream last night
I dreamt that I was swimming
And the stars up above
Directionless and drifting
Somewhere in the dark
Were the sirens and the thunder
And around me as I swam
The drifters who'd gone under

Time, Love
Time, Love
Time, Love
It's only a change of time

I had a dream last night
And rusting far below me
Battered hulls and broken hardships
Leviathan and lonely
I was thirsty so I drank
And though it was salt water
There was something about the way
It tasted so familiar

The black clouds I'm hanging
This anchor I'm dragging
The sails of memory rip open in silence
We cut through the lowlands
All hands through the saltlands
The white caps of memory
Confusing and violent

I had a dream last night
And when I opened my eyes
Your shoulder blade, your spine
Were shorelines in the moonlight
New worlds for the weary
New lands for the living
I could make it if I tried
I closed my eyes I kept on swimming


~ Josh Ritter
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Unintended Consequences
Wyrmling
Wyrmling


Joined: 17 Oct 2013
Posts: 10
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722.32 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2013 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Ángele Dei, qui custos es mei, me, tibi commíssum pietáte supérna, illúmina, custódi, rege et gubérna. Amen.”

The chanted prayer reverberated within the cavernous halls of the church as the priest guided his flock with the ancient language. The prayer was echoed back by the congregation, stilted words stumbling as new born tongues struggled with the antique language of Kings. Marble glistened wetly in the glow of candle light while sunlight streamed through stained panes on high. Angelic statues with silver swords gleaming stood sentry over venerated saints while altar boys flanked the priest on bended knee. The entire building, procession and ritual bespoke of awesome power while reiterating messages of meek humbleness. Of shackled servitude.

Such an incongruity amused the figure sitting in a pew towards the back of the large hall. Chartreuse colored eyes swept round the assembled parishioners and noted with a certain satisfaction that the pews were sparsely filled, attendance slowly waning as the years drug on. And who could blame them? The flock would scatter without a shepherd to tend to them, and this absentee shepherd had been gone for some time. Perhaps someone else would tend to their needs? The thought and the potential contained within brought a momentary hedonic smile to his lips. Eyes were, however, inevitably drawn to the crucified Christ above the priest, His eyes cast upwards beneath a thorny crown, agony mingled with forgiveness upon his handsome face.

The medieval iconography pulled a frown from the man’s generous mouth. A certain anger revealed at the expression though tinged with regret for what could have been; the lie which had flown round the world on winged words would soon be revealed and expunged. One leg was shifted over the other in a gentlemanly cross as he reclined against the hard wood of the pew. The faint smell of lemon wood polish tainted the air as it mixed with that of incense. Frankincense and Myrrh gifted the air with their perfume while dusty paper of little read books littered the pews. Less the bitter scent of decay; more the quiet smell of opportunity. Fallow fields and idle hands becoming a checkered chessboard of pieces to play with.

A newly arrived smell competed and ultimately dominated that of books and wood thus drawing his attention away from such mundane things. Light and airy, the soft fragrance of lavender bolstered by a base of vanilla heralded her arrival. He turned his head as the late arrival quickly genuflected while making the sign of the cross and hurried along his row.

“Pater noster, qui es in cælis, sanctificetur nomen tuum; adveniat regnum tuum; fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra…” The Lord’s Prayer droned onward in the background of his attention as leonine eyes watched her approach with the lazy interest of a coiled viper. Her white dress, so unlike the black threads of his ruthlessly tailored suit, hugged her sylphlike body and revealed all the danger held within her curves. He assessed her as the type of woman who knew she was beautiful and was unafraid of enjoying it…revealing it.

She offered an apologetic smile as she approached, such a visible lateness creating the urge for contact and the desire to blend in amongst a group in order to lose the stigma. “You mind?” She whispered as she nodded to the space next to him.

He returned the smile, covetous mouth twisting upward as he nodded and plucked his cane from the space alongside him. The silver wolf’s head glinted as it passed through a shaft of light before he set it against the pew in front of him. “Hardly.” Dulcet tones inviting her to sit alongside him while watching how her tiny golden crucifix settled upon the hollow of her throat.

“Can’t believe I’m so late.” She confessed in a whisper as she settled, painted nails tugging her skirt towards her knees before putting a proper cross of heels at her ankles. “My husband…he doesn’t believe.” A glance down…the sorrow within that simple phrase revealing the entirety of her marriage.

“How fortunate.” Throaty purr of hypnotic tenor as he angled his lithe frame towards her, placing her and not the godly devotion proceeding at the altar at the center of his attention. “For me.” Clarified with a disarming smile as she lifted her eyes to his in question.

She took the compliment for what it was, a coquettish curve of her secretive mouth forming despite the impossibility to grasp the layered meaning of his words. Blue eyes with an inner halo of gold lingered upon the golden green magnetism within his for an improper moment or two longer than necessary and then shifted to watch and listen to the priest.

His attention, however, lingered upon her. The mass droned on around them, winding down to its conclusion while he watched without staring, admired without leering, caressed without touching and uncaring when she noticed. He had placed her and her alone at the center of his attention, her occasional glances and demure curve of painted lips confirming that she enjoyed the visual pedestal he had placed her on.

Forward fingertips danced like raindrops across her bared shoulders, a certain naked wantonness to his touch along heated flesh. Her jump not one of shock and outrage, but of enjoyed surprise as he gave her the slimmest of tastes of what worship alongside her husband could feel like. Head canted to the side, leonine eyes watched as she nervously turned the golden band upon her finger; physical symptom of the beginnings of doubt and desire.

The final amen was spoken and the congregation began to stand, slivers of separate conversations rising to the rafters as the viper uncoiled to lean towards the little mouse caught within its gaze. A whisper brushed lips against the shell of her ear, lascivious words corrupting sacred vows with his pleasurable venom while causing a blush to flare upon her cheeks. Her scent lingered within his senses as he withdrew, a hand falling to squeeze the smoothness of her thigh as he stood. He held her gaze a moment longer before leaving her to catch her breath. He plucked his cane from the pew and strode towards the front of the church without a look back to the woman who could do nothing but watch his departure.

No longer his house, the interloper tingled with the anticipatory sensation of a thief when they crept where they did not belong. “Hello brother.” Flippant greeting as he strode by a statue, gleaming sword held high, to stand along before the crucified figure nailed to a wall.

“Once again I find myself standing beneath you. The King of Kings.” Defiant and unbending stance as he stared upon the tortured figure. Words embittered with remorse for all that had happened. “I respected you once, a long time ago. Agreed with your vision, shared your faith.” Ebony cane tapping, almost nervously upon the marble floor. For all his arrogance and sophistication, he still felt naked standing before Him. “Yet you allowed yourself to simply surrender and be nailed to a cross and still had the temerity to forgive.” A disbelieving shake of his head, free hand smoothing locks of jet back from his brow before sliding over darkening stubble which appeared as if no amount of shaving could ever lighten.

"I know you have been talking to her...trying to reach her. Perhaps she’s even convinced herself that she still loves you. After all…you gave her such a special place at your side.” His mouth flat lined at the thought. “Did you think you could hide her from me forever and I wouldn’t find her? My shadows whisper to me that she has refused to forgive your...” He paused, his mouth hooking in a cruel sickle of mockery before delivering the word in bastardized bow, “Master.”

He leaned in to whisper as if he didn’t want the Angels that flanked them to hear. “I know her much better. I know what still stirs and licks upon the ladder of her spine. You made one tragic mistake when you cast out the seven from her and left the one. Did you think you could sway my Queen to your side? That she would have ultimately forgiven that original slight when he cast her out so cruelly?” A soft snort. “That woman was not built to play pawn and puppet.”

He paused, taking a moment to turn a ring upon his finger. “We are not so different you and I. We admire her spirit. Is that why you left my beloved within her soul when you cast out the Seven? Because you respected her strength and independence?” A dry curve of his mouth. “Ah Yeshua. The original feminist. Thought you could heal her within your little Magdalena?”

A slow forming smile cruelly split his lips as no answer appeared to be forthcoming. “Our love for her cannot coexist. She will choose. My shadows are ever present and no matter how fast your light travels, I will have arrive there first.” A grim promise as pulled a vestige of another time from his pocket and placed it upon the rail before the Cross, a reminder of what had and will happen again. “Why won’t you answer me?” Almost pleading for just a single word of Grace after all this time…though upon the silence handsome features hardened to that of granite denial. “She will turn from you…I will see to it.” Spat with the venom of ancient hatred as he turned his back on suffering visage to nearly collide with an approaching priest.

“My son…your soul seems heavily burdened.” The aging priest spoke with gentleness, wizened eyes taking in the black clad figure before him through his spectacles. “Perhaps you would care to confess your sins to Him?” A nod back towards the Cross.

He glanced back towards the Cross, noting the fig he had placed upon the rail with smug satisfaction before turning back to the priest. Oh how he appreciated the arrogance of the belief that one could not speak directly with their God. “Very well intercessory.” Cool composure returning as the anger of silence faded, the moment of vulnerability hardening into another plate of armor to be stacked upon the rest. “Perhaps you are right.”

The priest nodded, a faint smile borne from unease at the way the man had called him intercessory sprouting upon his elderly features. He could sense something off-putting roiling from this one’s frame. Confession would definitely do him good. “This way.” A hand offered in the direction of the confessional.

“Forgive me father for I have sinned…” Hollow words beginning the man-made ritual. “Immensely.” The pleasurable exhale from the memories spilled forth into the darkened room, the crimson curtain obscuring the lackadaisical posture from view. One of his favorite past times had long been corruption of the clergy.

“And what are these sins?” The soft voice of the priest coming through the screened window as he listened to that pleasurable sigh and shivered despite the warmth within the church.

“They are too numerable to name. You have neither the time nor I the inclination for enumeration.” Lacquered prose bored as he admired the iron ring encircling the middle finger of his left hand. Etched deep into its surface was a scorpion, eyes set as twin tiny rubies shimmering in the faint light of the confessional. “But I have enjoyed each and every one.”

“Why do you find such enjoyment in these sins?” The priest asked, silently crossing himself while wondering just who and what sat on the other side of the flimsy confessional screen.

Eyes lingered on the scorpion for a moment longer, the figure shrugged before leonine gaze peered through the screen. “It is in my nature.” Amused, offhanded answer from the Scorpion while he inspected the blackness of his jacket, a moue of distaste pursing his lips as he pulled a single misplaced thread from his sleeve. He curled it between fingers and cast its imperfection away from his body. “Now tell me of your sins, Father.” Purred as fingers knocked softly on the dividing wall between priest and confessor.

“My sins?” The priest asked, clearly confused.

“Mm. Indeed. Is not all man fallible? Are they not all capable and committers of sin?” Spoken as he uncoiled from that uncaring lean and pressed his ear against the wall to better hear the uncomfortable breathing of the priest, lapping up the sudden discomfort as thirsty beasts do water.

“Indeed we all sin, however this is your confession.” The priest spoke and leaned further away from the dividing wall and screen. In his long service he had never had a confessional go like this.

“And who do you confess to, Father? Do you speak directly to Him? Or another priest perhaps? It must be so hard,” voice greasy with oily sympathy, “to hear the burdens of others while never alleviating your own. Where does this tangled chain end, hm?” Asked while fingers continued to tap against the wall, a metronome of conscience while lips pressed directly against the screen. “Tell me.” Whispered words promising forgiveness, understanding and acceptance. There was no compulsion in his tone, just the assurance that it was okay, that it was needed. “Tell me and embrace that which we are taught to deny.”

Amusement nearly cackled forth as he heard the sucking in of the priest’s breath, the sound of hands rubbing the face and that delectable sound of temptation taking action. He listened while the priest confessed; the smile which formed born of a malignant joy when the priest confessed the lies he had been living, the shame and sadness. Attention divided, the silver wolf’s head of his cane parted the curtain a fraction revealing the woman in white waiting for him. She had made her choice as had the priest. There were rules to the game after all…their choice could not be compelled any more than his has been. The smile turned slick with desire as leonine eyes noted the absence of a golden band. He stood and fastidiously adjusted both suit and hair until they appeared perfect.

“Very good father…you sound relieved.” Spoken with the knowledge that he had crippled a man’s faith, as uncaring as he would be when he corrupted other vows this morning. “You’ve set your stones down today…which is good because I have another, equally enjoyable confession to attend to.” Stepping forth from the confessional booth and leaving the priest alone with silent tears. It was in the Scorpion’s nature to tempt as much as it was in man’s to give in. Just moving pieces around the eternal board.

I am always here. Your choices have caused you to stray and so my voice grows faint in your ears. You need only to choose to return and I will welcome you home for in choice lies the opportunity for salvation. The whispered words emanating from the behind the altar of the church going unheard as the Scorpion escorted the woman away.
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Fiametta Belmar
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


Joined: 09 Jan 2013
Posts: 32
See this user's pet
Can Be Found: on the road
1616.22 Silver Crowns

Items

PostPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2013 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The lights along the midway began winking out sporadically as this venue and that ride finally called it a night and began the arduous process of closing down. Halloween had been an exceptionally busy night for the Carnival; the grounds stuffed full with all walks of life seeking a bit of fright on a night known for its thrills. Children ran parents ragged hidden behind masks while riding sugary highs and romances bloomed with a sudden squeeze at an unexpected scare in the haunted house.

But the following nights? As dead as those who inspired the myriad of costumes. Tucked away safely in their homes with candy laced hangovers and battling the effects debauched parties few had the inclination or energy to turn out for the offerings of a carnival. Such were the crests and troughs of carnival life; excitement over the money made one night turning to disappointment over the doldrums of the subsequent evenings.

Fia felt right in the middle of that balance as she exhaled a chest full of hand rolled smoke while sitting within one of the chariots on the carousel. With one knee pressed in close, that mismatched gaze ticked between the dying lights of the carnival and the growing sparks cast like diamonds upon the ether. The carousel was dark, powered down early after the last few riders had tumbled forth and Fia sat within a jagged edge of shadow while staring up at the moon, its milky crescent curved like a bow above the earth.

Forgive. Accept. The words still played and replayed in an endless loop within her subconscious, roiling atop the burning resentment which remained slow to cool.

Thoughts of what she had done to Mouse still lingered round the edges of conscious thought, Fia fighting the memory of his face as his book had turned to cinders around his fingers. Such things wore heavily upon the head of the Carousel Queen while she took another drag from her cigarette and watched the slow turning wheel of Big Eli. He is calling you home. The words pulling her gaze from the Ferris Wheel to the glowing nub of her cigarette.

“Hell with it.” Fia whispered to the darkness as she unraveled herself from one of the chariots. “I’ll bite.” Immune to the chill in the air, Fia smoothed her hands down over her skirt before pushing the sleeves of her well-worn motorcycle jacket back up to slender elbows. She pressed two fingers to her lips and then placed them upon the forehead of a hand carved carousel horse.

She lingered beneath the lights of the arch of the Crossroads Carnival. A look over her shoulder before she stepped through the arch at the Candyland booth to check that the gossip mongering Dixie was currently busy with juicier prey for the moment. She didn’t feel like fielding questions in the morning.

The town wasn’t that far away, the Carnival setting down within close proximity though still allowing the carnys a degree of privacy. She briefly considered "borrowing" Isaac’s motorcycle but dismissed the idea as quickly as it had formed. No sense in borrowing even more trouble. Knee-length studded black boots carried her away from the carnival, the lights dimming as she crossed the no man’s land between carnival and civilization.

She was hard wired for rebellion, but this incarnation had her trying to walk the tight rope and find the balance which was reflected in her mismatched gaze of peridot and amber.

Away from the whirling lights of the Midway, another light show in its own right had begun once Fia stepped from the ever revolving wheel of the carousel and spilled her into the veins on the streets.

All that wild within pulling at the seams of her as the shadows whispered, beckoned, clamored for her attention. Her head tipped as the smoke that escaped her lips, curled around her shoulders and translated their words for her. No filter. Figures.

Striding into town, hands tucked away into the pockets of her jacket, Fia had no real plan or destination. Footfalls disappeared into the fugue of the past, aimless steps reflected in the cracked mirror of her equally disconnected thoughts.

“You gonna throw a girl a bone?” Asked with dry murmur as her gaze shot skyward. Suspect. “Or is that somethin’ else that’s on me to figure out?”

It was this time of year that Fia found herself missing her mother the most. Fall had been her favorite season because she had always said the crisp air ushered in possibility. Whisking away the old and dying and whispering promises of new life and direction in the months to come. The opera singer had been taken from her when she was only seventeen. Embracing womanhood and on the cusp of becoming an adult, Fia had been devastated. Her mother had also seemingly been the only one to understand her…gift? The only earthly soul to accept her until she found the carnival.

“Could use some of that direction, Mom.” Fia whispered, a soft request to her mother’s departed spirit as she made a turn to the right at an intersection. The traffic light, flashing red, twisted and swayed on the wind. Left, right, straight…didn’t matter to the Carousel Queen. The lack of direction echoing the broken compass within her.

In the distance Fia heard the ringing of bells. Church bells. He is calling you home. One direction as good as another, stubbornness refusing to confess a word as the synchronicity of moments lined up like dominoes before her, she hesitated before cursing softly and then headed in the direction of the bells.

Guided only by their sound, the church took some time to finally find though when she did, Fia came up short with breath stuck in her chest as peridot gaze first fell on the façade. A weaving of Byzantine and Gothic revival, the varied styles flowed rather than competed into a masonry masterpiece.

The limestone reflected the silvery moonlight, the stone shimmering beneath the pallid light. The Great Rose Window hung suspended above three Roman styled entry arches, faint illumination of muted light and candles from within ghosted through its thousands of panes of colored glass to graciously invite those beyond within with its warming glow.

Fia flicked her cigarette away as she crossed the street. Despite the hour a pair of gentlemen stood outside the doors, clearly waiting for anyone to approach. “Welcome.” The first said as he approached Fia, a tri-folded flyer offered into the space between them. “I’m Daniel.”


“Daniel.” Fia measured his name upon her tongue, and it registered in the ever see-sawing balance in her gaze. “Pleasure.” She did not give her name in return. A brow arched as she tentatively reached out for the flyer, mismatched gaze peridot and amber scanning it briefly. “What’s with the bells at this hour?”

“All Souls Day.” Daniel answered, gentle smile for the woman as she glanced to the flyer. “Though our doors are always open, today is especially important. Today we honor all who are unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends. The bells soothe those souls still toiling in purgatory."

A soft snort at his answer. “What about the rest of us here? You ever think this is purgatory?” Fia mused under her breath before she set down the flyer. Her gaze returned to the man with a slight incline of her head after she had rendered him momentarily speechless. “Sorry Daniel.” Her mouth held a soft curve of sincerity. “Been awhile since I’ve stepped foot in a church. Not my usual stomping grounds you know what I’m saying?”

Daniel smiled at the woman. "Perhaps you have a soul you wish to pray for?” He asked, opening his body to beckon her towards the doors of the church.

“Don’t we all?” Fia asked, mismatched gaze shifting from the man to the house of God behind him. The choir was rehearsing upon the altar, their voices touching something deep within her.

A flutter in her pulse, something skimming under her skin in anticipation though she could not put her finger on it. Her thoughts returned to her Mother.

“Perhaps I’ll light a candle in case she’s lost her way. Thank you, Daniel.” Murmured softly as she stepped past Daniel and into the Lion’s Den.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2013 11:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Continued From Above

The Hallowmas crept forward into its third day as the debauchery of a corrupted All Hallows Eve gave way to genuflection on All Saints Day before the celebration of All Souls Day. The triduum would conclude with the day’s celebration and remembrances of those souls toiling until purgatorial stones could one day be cast off. The day being important to the faithful flock of the universal church; the Hedonist gave the day his special attention as well. Given the late hour of the evening, the mass was just concluding, large pockets of humanity spilled out onto the street; their good deed done for the day.

Such a shame that a Holy Day of Obligation followed All Hallows Eve so closely, the Scorpion mused as he moved opposite the streaming crowd exiting the church. How like Him to give with one hand and then take away with the other. But then that had been the 5000 year irony of His creation: stacking the rules of the game against the pieces upon the board.

The smell of cloves clung to both suit and skin as he exhaled; the smoke trailing behind the steam engine of sinful desire as he continued towards the church. Rawboned body was propelled forward with the lazy gait of one who had recently overindulged. So many souls begging for a release to agonizing denial, so many faces hidden behind masks allowing latent ego a shameless escape while so many roles played themselves out if only for a single night…that was the deliciousness of All Hallows Eve. He was simply too much an epicure not to partake on a perversion of pagan rituals.

Idle hands had suddenly been very busy with so many pawns cast out upon the board. Whispered promises had positioned some, lies and half-truths fed the egos of others while still others required another, special, kind of coaxing. The Hedonist eschewed the concept that busy led to barrenness…quite the opposite when one peddled his unique wares.

Covetous lips spread round the hand rolled clove in a sickle shaped smile for the ease of the night…just give them permission, voice the excuse on their behalf and they would commit.

The Scorpion’s progress towards the church became stymied as chartreuse stained eyes drifted through the growing darkness to note diminutive buds of light scattered throughout the cemetery behind the church. The small space provided for a nest of headstones, some much older than the current church, lying twisted and sprawling; the desiccated bodies beneath forgotten and long ago rotten beyond recognition. Small clusters of souls huddled round alabaster crosses or traditional curved headstones in order to pay homage to their dearly departed with both flowers and flame.

A bare hand strayed to the side, prurient fingertips caressing across the wrought iron bars of cemetery fencing; the carefree gesture of one unburdened by miserable regret and denial. ”Dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres,” whispered in that primeval tongue as the scorpion branded ring of iron sang a siren’s note with every impact to a bar. “How quaint.”

A caliginous narrowing of eyes as he watched a woman light a candle and
place it with the others amongst a collection of stones.
Steps finally arrested by the sight, a hand lifted to grip the bars as if they were a prison gate. Golden green smear of eyes peered at the incarcerated beyond with a satirical smirk of incongruous pity upon the comely planes of his face.

Imprisoned by their belief, locked down by their narrow views they had sentenced themselves to spiritual death row. He would become their last second reprieve and pardon their deprived spirits. After all, the only way to resist temptation was to yield to it.

A brisk wind stirred, flickered the flames which stared back from the darkness of the cemetery like Medusa’s petrifying serpent gaze. The chill pulled the Hedonist from his musings and aided in the resistance of bantam flames. Something about that leaf whirling wind gave him a shiver as it defeated the flimsy barrier of suited sable; the biting chill portending more than just the coming winter.

The diluvian flow of humanity from the church had dwindled to a feeble trickle of ones and twos and eased the Scorpion’s walk towards its front façade. Contrarian path forced those he approached to fork to either side of his body like a river round a stone; the gentlemanly tapping of his cane warding off those who wandered too close.

With their sins freshly washed and their hearts full of saintly devotion, the lingering people provoked little interest from the Hedonist. He would strike when the iron was hot with desire, when their mouths were desert dry from pleasure deferred and gratification denied.

The Hedonist paused before the western façade of the church. Leonine eyes prowled up the length of the accompanying campanile. White washed stones of limestone matched the bell tower to the church in both color and style as they soared past the roof of the church proper. Heavy bells toiled to and fro as they rang to announce the holy day to the masses.

Oh how they clung to their past even as the world powered and progressed right by them, such an antiquated way of looking upon a modern world…and all in the name of tradition and history.

“Such a waste.” Spoken amidst a final exhale, words brimming with compunction as he contemplated the time and money dedicated to erecting such a thing. What else could have been done with that time? What earthly pleasures enjoyed in lieu of heavenly devotion?

The unanswerable question sped from his thoughts when muscles suddenly stiffened, jerked taught by a primordial responsiveness to a long lost sensation. The Hedonist’s head snapped raptor like over a shoulder to retrace an invisible path leading away from the church.

“You’ve come home, hm?” serpentine whisper or words uncoiling from between lips parted by pleasurable surprise. The question voiced to the empty space about his body as he turned, eyes prowling along the previously taken path towards the heavy bronze doors of the church.

“Was it faith or doubt which guided your runaway steps?” The upward curling of lips fought against the pull by fingers stroking over his stubble strewn jaw; the question would be answered soon enough.

A fastidious tug to the sleeves of his jacket reset the line of his suit before he moved towards the steps of the church. Everything was just as it had been upon the previous Sunday. The travertine floor, a checkered pattern of peacock green and coral red, glistened in the soft glow of burning candles. The choir looked resplendent in their angelic white gowns shot through with an inverted lambda of yellow, the arms of the V wrapping over their shoulders as they continued their musical devotion from the chancel.

Everything the same and yet something deliciously different.

The Scorpion watched from the shadows of the vestibule, comfortable in the servitude of darkness while eyes prowled about the relatively empty nave in search for his little runaway. Never one to hurry, the Hedonist remained content to catalogue those who remained within the walls of the church before eyes set upon her. “Ah…there you are.” Words purred as smooth as anointing oil when eyes fell upon her standing before the votive candles.

He curled round the back of a fluted marble pillar, fingertips trailing along the ridges a hair behind his progress as he turned to advance down the central aisle. With no need to rush, he took the moments to watch her from a distance. She was different then when he’d last seen her though he instantly recognized the certain spark within, the spark which had eluded him for some time now. But no longer.

How ironic that he approached the ancient and rejected first bride down an aisle which had seen countless weddings before the image of the one who had rejected her. Perhaps he would claim her in the same fashion, turn the agonized image upon the cross into a witness of their dark union upon His altar. Such thoughts provoked a triumphant smile upon his face, the expression remaining as he looked to the crucified Christ upon the wall.

I wonder…is it beyond you to trick? For surely you cannot expect me to believe it would be this easy? Or have you merely just given up your millennial long game of hide and seek? Voiceless thoughts directed to the silent figure upon the wall before turning both gait and eyes away from Him in order to fully appreciate his quarry.

Upon close inspection he felt the magnetic pull from within threaten to turn him inside out as the insatiable desire to possess what had once been his tempted movement within straining muscles. Impossible to be completely immune for she had been his equal in many regards, he struggled to resist the dance of his mahogany haired Samodiva as she beckoned across the ages.

“It is said prayer is quite powerful…whom do you empower?” Susurrant words breaking the silence and thus the allure of what promised his destruction if he relented too early as he came up alongside her, aristocratic features half illuminated within the flickering glow of the candles burning beneath them. He gave no indication or care that such a question might interrupt, eyes flicking downward to winsome fingers tracing around the circular edge of a prayer candle’s glass cup.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 3:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Cont.)

His presence was not announced through tell tale smoke of the hundreds of tiny flames which held her attention. Though she could not read in the traditional sense of the word, vibration was something she could map out effortlessly and fluently. Code that she easily deciphered through the many masked illusions of matter. Lips could lie, vibration could not.

Her head whipped around as he drew near to her divided sphere, a lush curtain of mahogany and chestnut ripped away to reveal her face to him. Even the sacred geometry of its construction was divided, the Madonna and the Whore. Both ever present in the alchemy of this woman.

Her lithe frame was wrapped in leather, makeshift armor, though there was a tender vulnerability of lace that existed beneath if one were to peel back the layers of this multi tiered lotus. Though clove, cinnamon and cardamom spiced the ripe plum of her mouth, different scents anointed her skin beneath a veil of lace were one to draw close enough to whisper. Heady Hyssop, the purity of White Angelica, a single drop of Spikenard placed to the heart. As sacred to her as the memory of the soul it honored.

It was his vibration and not his face that she recognized, that felt so familiar. The irrefutable fingerprint of his soul. There was an uncoiling at the base of her spine, a flame ignited. White hot kundalini demanding release as it wound up the column that barely managed to hold her together. It rattled behind the cage of her ribs, never quite reaching its intended destination. It would wait. It would be patient. Soon. A soft exhale poured from that sibylline mouth, angelic in its fall.

“Do you think so?” As if they had already been in the midst of a conversation. She spoke so easily to him it surprised even her. As if she knew he would understand her language. “It is not merely the prayer that empowers, but the belief…” she paused, “and the intention.” Added after a moment. Her chin raised to indicate an elderly woman kneeling with a rosary. Fevered fingers moving over the beads as her lips parroted words she was taught would be the gateway to all which she desired.

Compassion, not mocking infused her voice as she looked at the woman, though there was something else there, a veiled tinge sadness from a divided Magdalene. “People find comfort in structure, in repetition and ritual. The mind almost demands it…feeds on it. However, without the belief, the alignment of intention with your words, they are useless. Scattered leaves to the winds. Recycled jargon. The ritual has eclipsed the meaning.”

She paused as she watched the woman’s fingers continue to work over the beads in their feverish haste as if she were trying to outrace her own thoughts. “She does truly believe that if she completes the sequence, she will be granted her request. But…you see…” She lifted a finger to indicate around the woman. To trace the energy there that she saw in watercolors. “She does not truly desire in her heart that which she prays for. She is praying for what her mind has told her she is supposed to want. What she has been conditioned to want.”

She could see the darkness around the woman, the murky waters of the lie she tried desperately to mask with the mantra she repeated and clung to. To drown out what her heart whispered, hoping to hold it under water long enough so that it would never again surface. Her perfectly constructed house of cards would come crashing down if she were to heed it. Fia did not cross into the boundary of what the woman prayed for. Her privacy held more sacred than the words the woman uttered.

“Guilt is a terribly thick cloak to carry on the shoulders.”Her voice was underscored with regret. She wished she could remove it from the woman. Give her permission to voice that which she truly wanted. “But sometimes our true desires are more terrifying than the thick chains of a lie. We are afraid the truth will consume us, so it is easier to drag the chains. Especially when you've grown accustomed to their weight.” She finally turned her attention to look at him. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

**********************

On bended knee is no way to be free
Lifting up an empty cup, I ask silently
That all my destinations will accept the one that's me
So I can breathe

Circles they grow and they swallow people whole
Half their lives they say goodnight to wives they'll never know
Got a mind full of questions and a teacher in my soul
And so it goes

Don't come closer or I'll have to go
Owning me like gravity are places that pull
If ever there was someone to keep me at home
It would be you

Everyone I come across in cages they bought
They think of me and my wandering but I'm never what they thought
Got my indignation but I'm pure in all my thoughts
I'm alive

Wind in my hair I feel part of everywhere
Underneath my being is a road that disappeared
Late at night I hear the trees they're singing with the dead
Overhead

Leave it to me as I find a way to be
Consider me a satellite forever orbiting
I know all the rules but the rules did not know me
Guaranteed.


-Eddie Veddar
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2013 12:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Taken from live play. My thanks to Fiametta's player for patience during the past couple of crazy months.)

The revelation of mismatched geometry of the woman before him nearly caused him to falter, though the Hedonist had long grown accustomed to last minute changes and weathered the crosswinds of her look with a slow forming smile. While others would see a simple genetic trait, he understood the sacred symbolism within the opposing colors of her eyes; translated their meaning even before the brushed away strands of mahogany and chestnut settled.

“I would not know.” Voice slick with rapacious desire as he glanced up from the tiers of votive candles set before them both. “I have never felt the weight of such a cloak nor have I burdened my legs with the chains of regret.” Not exactly a lie, for his original betrayal had been borne from pride and thus been twisted into justification.

She was more than what he sought. Proximity allowed him to sense the dual presence within; the object of ancient desire linked inexorably to another, equally misunderstood, entity. Unexpected though not disappointing, the Hedonist’s smile shone as he worked out the twisting of souls, the twining of fates. What had first been seen as yet another obstacle turned into yet another opportunity for reprisal. Oh the enjoyable irony of what stood before him, of what would become his.

“Guilt, like its cousin regret, is no more or less a child of choice.” The Hedonist elaborated while continuing to trace the circumference of the crimson glass of the votive holder. “Souls like that one…” a nod to the praying woman who now fought the stiffness of servitude as she tried to stand, “are victims of the beliefs and rituals you speak of. But it is their choice and so it can be undone with choice.” Fingers wafted through the heat of the flames, a wan smile forming as he influenced the markers of prayers as easily as he did those who had uttered them.

“She prays for the life of a husband she does not love who is as of this moment, withering away in a hospital bed.” Whispered words violated the sacrosanct privacy without compunction. “Her heart has long belonged to another,” he continued as chartreuse eyes drifted back towards the woman as she sat upon the first pew. “She would be happy in his arms, but forbids herself such joys because of her…” a pause as the Scorpion ringed forefinger pointed skyward, “Vows. I see a husk of a woman, so desperate for a drought ending soak that she is no longer capable of realizing she denies herself that which she so desperately seeks.”

Shadows whispered all around him, his dutiful servants conveying countless truths, lies, sins and salvation. The cacophony of such things a whirling dervish of chaos that would shred the minds of the uninitiated into ribbons; reducing the sane to a catatonic and worthless existence.

He knew the truth of the woman’s crisis. The false prayers for life when death was secretly desired; the illicit love of a lifetime stamped out beneath the jackbooted vows of a marriage gone horribly wrong. Contemptuous glance to the crucified figure on the wall as if to ask if He was truly glorified by such false piety. “I see kneeling there the bastard child of doubt’s liaison with fear. She prays for fear of embracing that which she truly desires, because the foundation of this house demands debasement of human desires.” Shoulders lifted in a pitying shrug, angling back towards Fia with both hands wrapped round the lupine head of his cane.

He continued as he turned fully to face her once more. “Such a life of misplaced servitude will only yield unhappiness in the end. You must know this to be true.” Hinting at certain past events, at reproachful conversations held amidst candlelight, an inability to forgive; building blocks for his idle hands. “Regret is a far heavier garment than guilt ever can be. Guilt diminishes over time while regret grows ever heavier, bends and contorts the spine with its remorseless wonderings of what might have been.”

His chartreuse gaze drifted back towards the woman; watched as she finished her prayer and then struggled to regain her feet from the stiffness such a subservient posture created. “That is not guilt which weighs her down, it is regret. Regret at misplaced devotion…at honoring Him when she should have honored herself. “

“But that is her. What of you?” His question dismissing the woman without another thought as words pried past the slim armor of leather to get at that tender vulnerability in order to lay her completely open before him. “What do you regret hm? What guilt burdens your delicate soul?”

He knew many of the answers, though there was much time unaccounted for. He had been close several times before, his queen always spirited away, his advance blocked by a multitude of pawns of the other side. But no longer.

Fia would leave the half-truths and sticky white lies to the tireless spiders which enjoyed spinning webs. Though their patterns were intricate, even beautifully woven, they were ultimately predictable. Tender traps that she’d long since tired of through the ages. She’d just as soon burn through them all. The fire within her craved something bold enough to burn true. Lying tongues were cloaked in too much residue to produce anything to truly move her.

The choir, which had just concluded the chant, fell silent for a moment before picking up the next selected work. The Scorpion pulled back from his lean upon the votive counter as the choir shifted from one song to another; the first mournful notes of Henryk GóreckI’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs wafting through the near empty nave. He tugged at his sleeves, resetting the line of his jacket before lifting eyes to hers once more, watching her carefully.

The mournful voice of the sole soprano that stepped forward to sing the Virgin Mary’s lamentations causing the Hedonist to cock his head and listen. Ever a lover of music, that single voice seemed to fly through the cavernous church on angel’s wings.

“What of me?” Fia echoed his words, her response poised upon her tongue before she heard the first notes of the song. Fia’s head whipped around towards the altar as if yanked by an invisible chain that connected to the very essence of her being. Color drained from her face as she stood frozen, arrested in disbelief as the woman began to sing.

“Is something wrong?” Purred words slick with the unctuous quality of half-expectation. The Hedonist turned to fully capture that mismatched gaze within his covetous eyes; preferring to focus on the fiery and untameable amber side. His side.

“The song…”She began, her voice barely above a whisper, the weight of grief pressing against her chest was almost paralyzing. “Was the last piece my Mother performed before she died.”

“How tragic.” Sympathy oozed from every syllable from the Hedonists tongue. As he moved to walk behind her to her other side. “How old were you?”

“Seventeen.” She answered as if on auto-pilot. As the woman sang, she continued, her jaw setting itself hard against what wanted to seep in. “My Mother wanted me to hear her perform it before she told me the words. You see I struggle with…” A shake of her head as she cut off the thought. “She told me the words did not matter. We tend to attach our own perceptions around words. She asked me what the song made me feel.”

“And what was that?” He watched the setting of her jaw as it locked into place, committing every nuance of her face to memory. She was working so hard to keep it back. He could see it swimming so close to the surface.

The words caught in Fia's throat, a hard knot she had yet to unravel, to be able to find peace, and yet refused to be swallowed down; not this time.

“Sorrow. The unbearable pain of loss.” It washed over her in waves, so much so that her hand gripped a pew for support.

“Such a lovely piece. I’ve heard it before, though the translation fails me. What are the words?” Another lie, carefully woven into the rests between the transcendent spell the music was weaving. He kept his tone soft, this maestro careful not to let his voice be the dissonant note to disrupt or intrude on the carefully composed moment he sought to exploit.

“My Son, My Beloved…” She began a loose translation of what her Mother had shared with her. “Share your wounds with your Mother. And because my dearest son, I have you always in my heart, and will always serve you lovingly, speak to me your Mother, and make her happy. Alas, alas, I know you are already being taken away…my dear hope…” Her breath hitched, her gaze finally lifting as if compelled to the crucified figure above the altar.

She dared not utter another sound, for the delicate pane separating her and a soul shattering memory replaying within her subconscious was already starting to crack. Another word and she felt that the barrier would shatter.

“So cruel,” He murmured, so close to her ear. “To experience such a deep love and to then have it torn from you. One has to wonder why such an injustice is necessary.” His hand slithered round to take her hip to turn her as if to embrace her into a dance.

Fia’s hands curled into fists, nails digging into palms hard enough to draw blood. As he stepped forward to take her hip, she was torn from the riptide of memory into the present.

She pivoted in easily out of his reach. Steps that would mark the beginning of a different kind of dance to evaluate the man standing before her. She moved like a muse of Balanchine, an oddly divided swan queen. Danger within grace, Odile in a pas de deaux with Odette.

Though he felt familiar, she could not place where she knew him. The reverberation from his touch was intense, but the root of its remained hidden from her. Words flashed before her that had jumped out from the pages of the book Mouse had tried to get her to read. The book she had reduced to ash.

Threat…Secret…Tell…React…Her Test.

Like a photograph not fully developed in her mind’s eye. She felt an intense flash of heat above her brows, a burning sensation in the middle of her forehead. She touched her finger to the spot as if singed, she stepped back, her vision suddenly blurred; a curtain drawn.

She was so close to knowing him. The Hedonist had felt the heat of that serpentine ignition; watched as it slithered round the mercurial caduceus of her spine and traveled upwards towards the wings of her shoulders. Mouth had gone desert dry as he waited for its release, posture tilted forward with the anticipation of the faithful about to receive the transmutation of flesh and blood. It had been too long since his last communion with her; body vibrating at the prospect of such a sinful reunion.

“It is only partially open. If you would permit me, I can give you extra help to that particular line of sight.” A finger was raised to the center of her forehead to do just as he intended. He felt the barrier even as he crossed it, should have expected it though his own temptation had clouded his judgment. A brow arched as his hand slowed its trek towards her brow, fingers tightening in a resistance that was not his own.

It happened so quickly, she did not know what hit her. The impact and sheer force of the energy so powerful it rocked her backwards after it entered through the crown of her head. A pure, blue light radiated from her as her hand lifted seemingly on its own. The hand felt foreign from her own, as if another had been placed over hers, larger and almost masculine in nature, with a strength that vibrated through ever cell of her body. When he reached to touch the center of her forehead, the pulse sent the shockwave of brilliant blue from her and straight into the sphere of the man before her.

The Hedonist winced and screwed his eyes shut against the sudden intrusion of such undiluted light. Long accustomed to shadows and darkness, such brilliance forced a recoiling step away from Fia. A moment later shadows gathered and roiled forward like a storm surge upon a low lying beach intent on extinguishing such a powerful flare. But now was not the time, such hallowed ground not the place and so the shadows drained back to the corners and recesses of the nave.

“Ah, Michael.” The Hedonist sighed with recognized disappointment and a chartreuse glance skyward. He pulled his hand from her face to look upon the watch wrapped round his wrist. Its many hands ticked and spun at different speeds, tracked many kinds of time while the celestial zodiacs moved round the perimeter of the face. “Ever the clock watcher and over achiever.” A spark of poisonous resentment staining the timbre of his voice; the Hedonist speaking to no one in particular.

“But it is not yet time. You know the rules as well as I. A bit overprotective aren’t we? Is it fear which forces you to overstep your place? Fear that she will enjoy what I reveal?” The prescient smile which slowly formed upon aristocratic features borne of surety in the face of silence.

Eyes drifted downward to find the mismatched gaze of his absent queen, a whimsical smile upon his face. A long, considering glance given to the lovely little channel that stood before him. Wavering somewhere between admiration and annoyance. “You must be…very strong to be able to channel his energy. My old friend was giving me a warning that I am not allowed to open it for you.” A tip of his head. “The door that which will bridge the gap between us. Or perhaps he’s a tad jealous.”

A smirk was thrown over a shoulder to the winged statue behind him that held his sword aloft, though the warning was heeded…for now. The Hedonist kept a wary eye on the powerhouse of a woman before him, intrigued that she remained almost unaware of the dormant power warring just beneath the surface. “You have powerful allies. You have long been a favorite of his. Though they will hinder far more than they help.” Admitted while he produced a cigarette from a silver case. His equilibrium returned, the Hedonist made no move to elaborate on his revelation.

The tip of the cigarette caught in the tiny flame of the prayer candle, the Hedonist paused to exhale a twisting column of calamus scented smoke. “I look forward to seeing you break such chains.” Harkening back to their previous conversation. His generous mouth split in a wry smile before extinguishing the bantam flame with an exhale from between pursed lips. Eyes remained on the tiny wisp of smoke as both prayer and light were snuffed out with a single breath.

“Perhaps you will show you me your carousel in the meantime.” Spoken as movement returned to latent limbs, a promised meeting in the near future voiced more as an absolute than question. He allowed fingers to navigate the dangerous curves of her hips as he pressed past her. He’d leave her to figure out how he knew of her whereabouts. The touch was fleeting though heavy with a promised insinuation of more. It was, after all, in his nature.

Her hands were still vibrating, she had not expected what had just transpired between them. The aftershocks of the energy were still coursing through her. The sensation far from unpleasant, though her body took a moment to adjust. His words barely registered in her conscious mind, though a higher consciousness had taken in every word he had spoken.

Fia noticed the pain in her forehead had vanished the moment he stepped from the building. She glanced up to the statue of Michael, his sword held high, a question forming on her tongue when her gaze fell to the smoke from the prayer candle that he had extinguished in his wake.

She glanced around her before her hand lifted to re-light the flame so that it burned anew. Hope was a flame that should never be extinguished. A final glance to the altar before she stepped from the doors of the church, oblivious to the soft sound of wings fluttering in the rafters, or the white dove that followed her home.

(If interested in the song please click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKk-w_0SpSw )
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The backyard of the carnival, where all those who worked at the carnival had their trailers, was a complex and chaotic arrangement of trailers, trucks, tents and storage areas. In sharp contrast to the precise and designed layout of the carnival proper, the living lot looked as if a child had set up a boneyard maze of toy cars in haphazard fashion which created twisting foot paths between them along with random and confusing dead ends which proved difficult to navigate, at times, even for a carnival veteran.

There was, however, a certain method to the madness. The back of the reptile tent opened up alongside Fia’s trailer and a storage area which allowed easy and unimpeded access for water and food to be run to the various tanks within on an as needed basis. It was here that Isaac and Boomer had ended up shortly after breakfast.

“Cmon boy.” Isaac grunted as he picked up a large tank and pulled it from its stand. Boomer trotted ahead, oblivious to the many dangerous predators, reptiles and amphibians lining the shelves. Isaac followed, sinewy muscles taught as he kept the tank steady so as not to disturb the large constrictor held within.

A shoulder easily pushed aside the coarse, olive drab canvas of the back entrance; allowing Isaac to step into the cool autumn morning. The crisp air caused a certain sluggishness within the serpent and thus made him easier to handle. Isaac appreciated such moments of solitude, rare as they were amongst a bustling carnival.

“Hey Isaac.” The salutary words cracked through Isaac’s pacific moment like a hammer through glass as he set the tank down on a beat up wooden table.

Boomer picked his head up from the dirt and made a low sound that was halfway between a bark and a growl. Isaac shot the mutt an amused glance without turning to face the owner of the intruding voice.

“Hey man. Whatcha doin?” Mouse asked as he came up alongside Isaac and drummed his fingers on the worn wooden table Isaac had set the tank on.

“Working.” The succinct answer drawled out without elaboration as Isaac shifted his glance from the tank to Mouse.

“Oh yeah? Changing the tank or something?” Mouse asked. Why was it always so difficult to talk to Isaac? “He looks like he could use a fresh one.” Added in the gulf of silence as the Dunk Bozo sought to fill it. He reached out to wrap a knuckle on the glass to try and elicit some movement from the constrictor.

Isaac snapped a hand out to grip Mouse’s wrist and shove his hand away from the tank. “They don’t like that.” Calm words coupled with a menacing stab of slate for Mouse. “Imagine if every time someone saw you they came up and boxed your ears.”

“Hey…damn man. That hurt.” Mouse yelped and jerked his hand away from Isaac’s grasp. “Most times people want to dunk me when they see me.” Mouse continued, attempting to inject a little humor into the conversation while rubbing the throbbing pain from his wrist courtesy of Isaac’s sudden grip. His chuckle died a quick death when he saw Isaac didn’t share the humor. “Sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Something you want Mouse?” Isaac asked as he pulled the cigarette from between his lips and exhaled into the space between them. Granite colored eyes read the uncomfortable posture, the obvious need to talk about something other than the constrictor’s tank on Mouse’s diminutive frame. It was as easy to read as one of Mouse’s many books he always toted along.

“Just saw you over here alone and thought I’d come say hey.” Mouse began, fingernails scratching against the flecked paint of the table top. “You seen Fia lately?” The sudden pivot of topics switching to the one which had weighed on Mouse since Fia had literally blown up on him the other day. “I think she’s been ducking me since…” Mouse hesitated, unsure if he should tell Isaac what had transpired.

“Nah.” Isaac answered amidst another gray exhale of smoke. “Then again I don’t go looking for people who don’t want company.” Isaac answered and tapped his cigarette to knock free the accumulated ash on the tip. “Probably best to leave that one alone till she wants to talk…all things considered.” Isaac had seen the blow up and the resulting inferno during his walk back to his tent from breakfast.

“All things considered?” Mouse asked as eyes narrowed in thought for a moment. “You saw what happened didn’t you?” Though he was the carnival’s resident Bozo Mouse was quite the perceptive one…he had to be in order to call out the perfect insult that would keep the townie spending money.

“Hard to miss.” Isaac’s antebellum accent slipping around the half smoked cigarette handing precariously between his lips. The simple observation made, Isaac returned his attention to the tank.

“I was just trying to help her to read.” Mouse began as he hopped up into a seated position at the opposite end of the table. “I mean, she’s had a rough couple of days and I thought it would be good to help ya know? I didn’t know she’d react that way…with the fire and stuff.” Mouse continued unabated; his tendency to ramble when excited on full display. “We’ve been working on different books every now and then and she’s been making good progress…until today that is.”

Isaac blew out an irritated sigh of blue-gray smoke as he eyed Mouse hop onto the table and verbally vomit every thought which ran through his head. He flicked the cigarette to the loose gravel of the lot and ground it beneath the toe of his boot. He turned back to the tank and eyed the mottled constrictor coiled up at one end while trying to ignore the continuing outpouring of speech from the other end of the table.

“…and then she just almost vaporized it…with a single touch. She’s never been that way before. I mean there was that one time on stage but that wasn’t her fault. That guy…” Mouse continued unconsciously ruining Isaac’s wished for silence with his voice.

“You pushed her too hard.” Dogwood drawl wedging a knife into Mouse’s words and slicing him off midsentence. Calloused hands reached up to unfasten the screen top of the tank and then remove it. The constrictor within made little movement, merely watched with unblinking vertical slits of interest.

“Huh? What does that mean?” Mouse asked, looking to the side to watch Isaac reach into the tank with both hands. “What do you mean I pushed her too hard? I was just trying to help.” Mouse added with a defensive jut of his chin. “She always puts up a fight…sometimes you just gotta push through that sometimes.”

“How’d that work out?” Isaac asked as he tapped his fingers along the body of the snake to let it know he was there and meant no harm. He gently gripped the constrictor behind the head with one hand and lifted with the other to pull the snake from its tank. There was no fear in Isaac’s movements, no tentativeness in how he gripped the constrictor. Fear only heightened their senses and made one vulnerable to nature’s inevitable course. Isaac watched, fascinated, as the snake slowly began to coil around his arm, finding purchase with its scales and evolutionary talent.

Mouse watched in silence as Isaac lifted the snake from its tank, sure that the thing was going to strike or at least try and get away now that it was out of its confinement. “Obviously you saw it didn’t work out very well. But that’s just fear on her part.” Mouse reasoned. “I’ll get another book and we’ll try again later.” Said more for himself than for Isaac as Mouse was determined to show Fia that this could be done.

“I wouldn’t.” Isaac spoke while rubbing the back of the snake’s head with his thumb. He turned to Mouse while the snake continued to move and twist around his limbs. “Go in the tent and fetch me one of the burlap sacks on the back shelf.”

“Why not?” Mouse asked before brows shot up at Isaac’s order, the previous question momentarily forgotten. “What? I aint your assistant. What are you even doing?”

“You rather hold him?” Isaac asked and stretched his arms out to offer the six foot constrictor to Mouse. “Favor for Lucille.” Though in reality Isaac enjoyed what he was doing. “We’re letting him go today. Now go get the sack.” Isaac repeated, a curving Savannah smirk forming on his lips as the color briefly drained from Mouse’s face at the offer.

Mouse hopped off the table and scurried into the tent. He emerged a moment later with a large burlap sack in one hand and came trotting back over to the table. “You do favors for people now?” Mouse asked as he followed Isaac’s bidding and held the sack open. The dunk bozo leaned back as Isaac leaned forward to smoothly deposit the snake into the sack.

“In exchange for her talking to Dixie…and getting her to stay outta my business.” Letting go of the snake and pulling his hands out from the burlap.

“Good luck with that.” Mouse laughed as he handed the sack to Isaac. “I thought Lucille kept all the animals?”

“Nah. Not right to keep em caged up for their whole life.” Isaac answered as he cinched the knot down on the sack and took it from Mouse. “Kills their spirit.”

“What about Rufus? He’s been here forever and Lucille seems like she’s never going to let him go.” Mouse willing to be distracted from the events with Fia for the moment.

A rockslide of slate came crashing down on Mouse as Isaac slid that narrowed gaze away from the writhing burlap. He fished a fresh cigarette from a pocket and struck a flame to the end. “Rufus can’t ever go back to the wild. The people me and Lucille saved him from saw to that.” The words spat out with a degree of prejudice rarely seen from Isaac. “We did the best we could when we found him.” Regret now bleeding into that anger, softening it despite the brutality of that place where he and Lucille had rescued Rufus. What went unsaid, and what was unknown is that Isaac had gone back to that place and ensured the people involved in that barbarous road side circus never worked again. “Besides,” a slow exhale of smoke as Isaac forced his blood to cool, “Rufus is happy where he is. They don’t have a problem expressing their dislike.”

Isaac gave a twist at the hips to look for Boomer. He saw a flash of fur as the mutt darted between trailers, evidently on the trail of some fascinating scent. Content to let the dog enjoy his pursuit, Isaac bent down to pull a hose off the gravel. A twist at the spigot allowing water to spill from the end. He began to spray out the tank, cleaning it for the next rescue they found.

“Oh.” Mouse answered, not exactly knowing what to say regarding Rufus. Unable to remain quiet, however, Mouse eventually asked the question again regarding Fia. Never accused of knowing when to let things be, Mouse found it impossible to stay quiet for long. “So why isn’t it a good idea to try again with Fia?”

Isaac continued to spray the tank out in silence. The water splashed and ripped along the glass, swirled around the branches and floated the leaves to the surface. The hose was tossed aside so the tank could be dumped out with one hand, the other pulling the cigarette free for an exhale.

“Not wise to corner her again. Might get more than your lil book burned if you do.” Isaac spoke, remembering the look on Fia’s face as she had shouted no and pushed against the book. That desperate for freedom kind of look. He admired such honest ferocity, could relate to the burning desire to be free and the fear of the alternative.

“But I didn’t corner her.” Mouse came back, a cross of his arms over his chest. “I was trying to help her realize that it’s not as hard as it seems. That she’s her own worst enemy when it comes to this stuff.” Mouse digging his heels in on the concept of help trumping another’s resistance to it. “Maybe if I apologized first and then brought up the book…” The ying and yang of Mouse’s existence on full display. He’d cross a line and the apologize thinking that made everything and everyone instantly copasetic only to cross the same line later and the apologize again.

“Do what you gotta do then.” Isaac’s uncaring drawl wrapping around his cigarette, gun metal grays focused on drying off the freshly clean tank with a rag. “Cornering a wild thing like Fia though…weren’t gonna be no other end than the one you got.” A pause to ash the cigarette and fix Mouse with a leaden look. “Just know that if there’s a next time…it’s all on you.”

“You done preaching?” Mouse asked, anger mushrooming up within him. “Or do I need to take notes on this lecture?” Biting sarcasm dripping off those clipped words.

The bifurcated exhale of smoke came through his nose, the breath tinged with a hint of anger now. “I aint my daddy’s Baptist preacher. Sides…sermonizing only works on the willing.” Laconic tongue laced with latent resentment of a personal history. “Let Fia be.” Isaac cautioned as he picked the empty tank up and pressed into Mouse’s diminutive chest. “Then go tell Lucille that I took care of Charlie. Make yourself useful instead of being the problem.”

Spoken as he dipped to pick up the burlap sack and hang it over his shoulder. He gave a look for Boomer before digging his teeth into his lower lip and eliciting a sharp whistle. A distant woof answered the sound and a moment or two later Boomer could be seen belly crawling out from under a trailer.

“C’mon boy… “ Isaac called as Boomer fell into step alongside the knife thrower, the pair heading out to the Midway and leaving a rather surprised and silent Mouse behind to contemplate both past actions and future thoughts simultaneously.
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Isaac Wheeler
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The walk out of the carnival had been a cathartic one for Isaac. Away from the sickly strands which connected so much of humanity together, away from the incessant chattering of Mouse and away from people in general. For a man who had never really called any place home, out here in the untainted stretches beyond the reach of concrete and glass…this was the closest thing to home.

The several mile walk had eaten up most of the morning though in that time the temperature had climbed enough to put just enough warmth in the air that the constrictor hanging in its burlap sack from Isaac’s shoulder had recently begun to stir. Isaac enjoyed these moments of newly realized freedom the most.

He’d walked until he had found a suitable environment for the constrictor to be released into. Not native to these parts, Isaac had settled on marshy area which provided plenty of cover from predators as well as ample prey opportunities. Isaac set the sack down on the ground and pulled the heavy constrictor free of the last confines it would hopefully ever know.

“This look like a good spot?” Isaac asked while holding the constrictor. He stepped several feet out into the muddy water of the marsh before bending his knees and crouched down. He gently uncoiled the snake from his arm and set it down in the shallow water. Ever a capable swimmer, the constrictor remained motionless for a moment, undoubtedly gaining a sense of its new surroundings, before it slithered away through the water.

Isaac watched until the body of the snake disappeared amongst a tangle of roots and the ripples of its passing died away to be replaced by the stillness of the marsh. He washed his hands off in the water, Mouse’s words still echoing within his head about Rufus. The waters of the marsh so similar to the ones where he and Lucille had found Rufus…

Over a year ago…

“Come on…come on…come on…” Lacquered nails tapped out a nervous tune upon the cracked and worn steering wheel as Lucille waited for Isaac to return. “Where are you?” She asked the night air, thick with humid expectation while brewing a thunderstorm of fear and apprehension. All around her the denizens of the night sounded their existence upon the warm air, each creature adding its own unique notes to the symphony of a slowly dying ecosystem. Denim eyes shot to the rear view mirror of the beat up 54 Ford before looking over her shoulder as if she didn’t trust the reflection in the rearview. “Come on Isaac.” Lucille silently pleaded to the inky darkness of the surrounding swamp.

Hands squeezed the wheel repeatedly in a vain exorcism of edgy energy. She knew this was the right place; seen it in faded Polaroid snap shots of the carousel’s images from her first and only ride. The forked cypress towering into the night at the turn off, the hard packed single lane road along with the pocked and dented red and white air boat tied up alongside the rickety dock advertising “Billy’s Gator Tours.” Each scene a one for one reproduction of the sights the carousel had first produced.

Lucille gave a covetous look to the pack of cigarettes perched tantalizingly close upon the dash. “Screw it.” She hissed to herself and snatched the pack from its perch. He’d cautioned her not to smoke, the light and smell could give them away, but Lucille couldn’t resist the need to try and calm her nerves. The flare of the lighter momentarily scorched her night vision though that first scratching bite of nicotine carved out a small island of serenity in an otherwise precarious position.

“I told you no.” The hushed drawl suddenly accompanied by the looming shadow at the driver’s side door. A snakebite thrust of a hand through the open window snatched the cigarette from her lips to pitch it into the murky waters waiting just a step or two beyond the one lane track of road.

“Jesus Isaac.” Lucille hissed as she swallowed hard in a doomed effort to force her heart back down into her chest. Cerulean eyes ticked over his lithe frame as her night vision slowly resurfaced. He was spattered with mud and the evidence of difficult labor married to the stress of the night dripped from his temples and jaw. “What did you see?” Curiosity tinged with equal slices of hope and dread; the hope springing from the desire that they were at the right place, the dread that the visions had been correct and they’d been guided to a place of suffering.

“You were right.” Isaac confirmed as he glanced back towards the tourist trap. The tip of his tongue sawed back and forth along an incisor, Isaac lost in momentary thought. “Lots of sick animals, hurt ones too.” Slate swung back to Lucille, the grim expression partially occluded by the nebulous shadows cast by ancient cypress trunks.

“What can we do?” The carousel had given her the vision though she’d given over the execution to Isaac once he’d been enlisted by description of the place, its dreadful conditions and the possibility of ailing wildness. She felt suddenly impotent as if the task before them was too great to be accomplished, azure eyes flagging as the first thoughts of defeat crept forth. Her insides were a Gordian knot of tension as she feared she had misinterpreted the carousel’s promise.

“Hey.” Speech subdued beneath an easy whisper, calloused hand possessing the smooth line of her jaw and chin in order to give her face a resilient lift. The softness of the gesture belying the tempest within; the last bit of gentle calm before the unleashed storm. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.” Reassuring her, he tucked a finger beneath her chin as he released her, the moment gone in a flash as gray met blue and found a common cause. “Back the truck up close as you can to the pen.” Plantation prose giving purpose and direction to their reasons.

“Okay.” Lucille gave a nod, the gritty heat of his touch taking a long moment to evaporate from her cheek. Resolve replaced defeat as she dropped the truck into reverse while Isaac stepped onto the running board for the ride.

“How many of those bastards are here?” Lucille snarled as they passed several empty paddocks obviously too small to contain anything older than a juvenile. Even then the fences made it impossible to get to the water beneath a roasting summer sun.

“Here’s good.” Isaac held up a staying hand and hopped from the truck.

“Best guess is three. All inside and a handful of beers into their evening.” Words a crushed whisper of drawled velvet now that their truck was only a stone’s throw from the dilapidated house which served as home base for Billy and his crew. As if to confirm the lack of action the only man made sounds which cut through the night were a gas powered generator and hollow noise of a television projected through a screened in window. Though distance distorted the noise, it sounded like a baseball game…bottom of the sixth.

“Gimme one of your knives and I’ll go in and cut a bitch.” Lucille growled while heaving the driver’s side door open and stalked forward.
Isaac hastily slid his lithe frame in front of her, blocked her with his body and stymied her progress with a hand anchored to her hip and shoulder.

“Easy girl.” The beginning vowel elongated beyond the normal boundaries of accented speech as Isaac seized the dominant role, overcoming and inhuming her will beneath his. He pressed his body against her before walking her back a step, could feel the visceral vibrations of anger rippling along her warm flesh. The awareness elicited a savage sensation within him, gave rise to the genetic desire to defend and protect as if she were kin; a desire present within creatures like him since prehistoric times. The light gray of granite joined the calming words, injecting an unspoken forcefulness which fused itself to the press of hands. “You aint cutting anyone in those heels.” Wit desert dry as he sat her back down on the driver’s seat. Lips twisted in the darkness, a ghosting twitch of a smirk for her sudden and fierce outburst.

Lucille had been surprised at the strength contained within Isaac’s willowy frame and though she hungered to exact any form of revenge she found herself suddenly bending to his words and wishes. She pushed back as arms crossed defensively over her chest, chin jutting out in a pin up pout. “I’m not just going to stay with the car.” Defiant words blunted beneath the whisper.

“You aren’t going to get yourself hurt neither.” Prideful tone the calling card of a southern gentleman living out the cavalier code of the defunct gentry class. He’d tangled with the drunken good ole boy type before and wouldn’t allow Lucille to fall within their crosshairs. Isaac stole a glance over his shoulder to the house before nodding towards the bed of the truck. “He’s a big boy…no way we can lift him. Get the boards down and make a ramp.” Crisp instructions before he slipped around the hood of the truck, sure Lucille would do as she was told.

“I would have too.” Lucille muttered a promise to herself, stabbing at the air as she moved towards the tail gate.

Isaac arced out around the diffused curve of artificial light. Hunched frame that of a wild thing as it loped towards the alligator pen and vaulted over the rail. Boots landed lightly and sank into the mud along the edge of the swamp. He prowled forward, footfalls landing toe to heel to shackle any noise which might give away his presence. The surrounding calls of cicadas, the croaks of bullfrogs along with the entire host of biology did not skip a note in their nightly sounds. The advent of Isaac, used to prowling through such settings since boyhood raised nary a notice from the surrounding wildlife.

That other, equally dangerous creatures already knew he was there was not lost upon Isaac. They announced their presence as he crept through their pen, one by one turning predatory eyes upon him. A sound akin to a handful of pebbles thrown upon the water crept forth from unseen darkness, the alligator declaring its dominance and territory through its water dance. The eerie, disembodied sound continued for several moments, dominating the senses and blotting out the surrounding natural sounds of the swamp.

From another direction an intermittent, deep toned roar of a second alligator answered the water dance of the first, a showy and vocal dance for domination playing itself out as a soundtrack for Isaac’s trek. Isaac saw the cotton mouth of an open and waiting maw to one side and continued to move to the far end of the pen, footfalls fearlessly placed in front of one another. He was no threat to these apex predators and trusted that they would respond accordingly.

The pen was too small for so many gators. Isaac knew that Billy and his coworkers performed such acts, polluted the swamps to take other would be thrill seekers into nature’s jagged jaws for a few dollars so that the tourists could tell a tall tale of facing down the glades. And when they’d served their usefulness, they’d be unceremoniously shot and skinned, their hides going to some Fifth Avenue boutique in the form of a purse or a pair of boots. Isaac approached the far side where the largest alligator lay, its once proud body now listing despondently to the side. By natural rights this one should have been the dominant one of the bunch. Instead he was malnourished, cast to the side and only able to snatch what few scraps the others left. Eons of evolutionary perfection undone by capture and captivity.

He made no move nor signaled any sign that he noted Isaac’s approach.

As Isaac knelt in front of the massive head and noted the tangled nest of numerous protruding teeth, he saw the reason for the beast’s lethargy. Where the left eye should have been a gnarled, knotted tendon colored scar protruded and glistened beneath the milky sheen of moonlight. Isaac saw that the wound was too fine to have come from a grand battle for a mate…no…this one had lost his eye to passing prop on a boat or some other unnatural cause.

The two predators locked eyes for several moments. Had this contest of will, this quest for a show and acceptance of dominance occurred in the wild Isaac would have been dragged to the deep, churned in a death roll and become part of the food chain. Instead the large alligator blinked and looked away, quickly accepting defeat and exposing its neck for a merciful killing blow in the process. Fingers curled into white knuckled fists at such a showing, blood pumping like lava through the quickly mounting Krakatoa of Isaac’s temper. In taking the gator’s eye, in caging him for cell phone photographs Billy and his ilk had robbed this alligator of its pride, of its natural role within the wild and of its very will to thrive and survive. Such a cost demanded a repayment in kind.

Isaac shifted, locking eyes with the alligator again. Once sure that the alligator understood his intent, Isaac slowly reached out to place his hand upon the beast’s snout. The alligator gave a rumble of approval going so far as to lift its mighty head from the sand and give a quiet exhale.

“Mmmhmm…” Isaac growled back. “You haven’t forgotten who you are. Cmon boy.” Isaac whispered, rubbing the palm of his hand against the alligator’s nose and then along the side of its dangerous mouth. Had it been so inclined, the alligator could have splintered Isaac’s arm with enough foot pounds of force to lift a moving van.

“Rufus.” Lucille blurted out as Isaac materialized from the gloom of the swamp, the 700 pound alligator trotting in front of him, its belly off the ground and head swaying side to side as it moved towards the truck. She had no idea where the name had come from only that it fit perfectly upon first sight of the alligator.

Rufus climbed up the wooden ramp as if trained or guided to accomplish such a feat, the bed of the pick-up truck sagging dangerously low with the added weight. Lucille threw her arms around the suddenly surprised Isaac who patted her back before extricating himself from her entangling arms.

“Thank me when we’re all free.” Isaac grunted as he pushed the tail gate shut on the truck and motioned for Lucille to get behind the wheel. “Go on and get out of here.” Isaac ordering while tarrying at the tail end of the truck.

“What?” Lucille asked, steps faltering as Isaac indicated he wouldn’t be coming with. “We’ve got to get out of here…they could come out at any…” Lucille’s words trailed off as she saw the look upon Isaac’s face.

Granite tumbled down the sheer cliff of sharp features, the hardened expression conveying a silent message. Isaac had no intention of leaving unfinished business in the echo of the rearview mirror. “Just going to take a walk, clear my head.” Serpentine lies coiling themselves within a mask of honesty. Chief among the reasons he appreciated such creatures as Rufus is that they were incapable of guile, incapable of cruelty. He himself fell short on both qualities. “Go on now.” Stern advisement for Lucille’s questioning look as she inched towards the driver’s side door.

She needn’t say another word, willing to take Isaac at his word considering the other alternative of why he wished to stay behind was too grizzly to contemplate. “Be safe.” Lucille offered as she started the truck engine, depressed the brake and dropped the pick-up into drive.

Isaac had already turned by the time the brake lights illuminated. Shackles of reservation falling away as the time approached for the controlled, civilized and quiet half of him to recede to the shadows and be replaced by the brutal and uncontrolled savage. As the brake lights momentarily shone they revealed within their wrathful flare the wickedly edged hunting knife held within skilled hands which now had purpose.

* * * * * * *

The single exposed bulb barely illuminated the industrial sized plastic sink behind Buford’s carnival kitchen. It twisted and swung on the breeze, cast wild shadows which splintered and warped, reformed and grew in a never ending dance above the sink. Isaac stood beneath the bulb; arms plunged to the elbows into the deep sink, freshly calloused hands splashing water along stained forearms.

“I’m telling ya we’re pulling stakes soon.” Boz’s barbarian brogue tumbled from around the corner, the sound growing louder as he approached.

“Boss mon be makin too much profit to move, Boz-mon.” Andre’s deep, easy going Caribbean tongue clashing with the strident sound of Boz. The two Ride Jocks returning from enjoying a few adult beverages at the cook tent with a few of the other carneys after they’d shut down for the night.

The pair rounded the corner behind the kitchen and saw Isaac methodically washing his hands and arms at the sink. The two shared a look, their previous conversation forgotten as were their bunks at the curious sight of the resident knife thrower washing something…a lot of something off his arms at such a late hour.

“Isaac-mon…you been tinking we going to be moving to a new horizon anytime soon?” Andre asked and then finished off his Red Strip bottle. Benign question tossed out to Isaac’s unmoving back.

“Is that blood?” Boz asked, scarred face twisting in confusion at the crimson stains along the top and back of the sink.

“You be hurt Isaac?” Andre asked, Boz’s question keying him on the fact that something was quite off. The evening had been warm, soaked in humidity with little turning air for comfort which caused Andre to blink away dripping sweat from his eyes.

“Aint mine.” Isaac finally spoke, the sound of rushing water competing with that lazy drawl. At once confirming that it was in fact blood and that it belonged to something or someone else. Hands continued to slide down forearms, washing the coppery streaks and congealing masses from his flesh.

“Then who’s…”

Both men, much larger than Isaac, stepped back in unison as Isaac pulled the carbonized blade from the edge of the sink, its razor’s edge cast downward to cut the air as he spoke. “It aint my blood.” Repeated words measured as a miser would his gold with somnolent speech drawled out at a do it tomorrow pace. A menacing flash glinted within liquid pools of quicksilver as the primordial within stared back at the two ride operators.

Boz’ question dying in his throat as he realized the ramifications. Isaac wasn’t known for killing animals. “Aint your blood.” The warrior Boz confirmed, hands up in surrender as he suddenly wanted no piece of Isaac. Winner of hundreds of fights along life’s crooked path, Boz was backing away as he spoke.

“Dat blood be gotten an evil tint, Isaac-mon. Don’t be leaving no drops nowhere round you.” Andre advised, equally taken aback at the sight, mind trying and failing to divine the journey which bloodied Isaac and placed that burning light within his eyes.

Andre’s prescient words were received with a sibylline smirk. Hands and arms mopped up with a towel before the hunting knife was tucked away at the small of his back. “Any more questions, gentlemen?” The rhetorical query tossed away alongside the towel as Isaac pressed forward to cleave a path between the pair en route to his tent.
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Fiametta Belmar
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 5:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was the month of February. With the whirlwind of the holidays finally ebbing and the resolutions made in the New Year fading from memory, hearts were usually cracked open a little wider this month to reveal the essence of what ran wild and dominated the soul. Love cyclically entangled within sheets of Lust. Envy spiked the cocktails of Bitterness that had bellied up to the bar with its old pal Misery (He loved company you know). Then there was Loss who couldn't quite resist dipping her toes in the shallow waters of Regret (that always left something to be desired); only to wade even deeper into the darkened pools of Sorrow.

Fia attempted to outrace them all. Immune to the chill and speeding on a motorcycle won at a high stakes poker game outside of Barstow. Freedom, adrenaline, speed and an endless open road of possibility were the only things that appealed to her at times like these. When she was trying to outrun something that kept hammering at her heart. On this, the day of hearts, she was a gifted if somewhat fractured Psyche, earning the eye of Eros and the ire of Aphrodite.

Winter had come with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and the Carnival had pulled stakes for the last time of the season. All the tents were taken down, the venues closed and the rides boxed up like expectant presents. The carnival workers had gone their separate ways; scattered like leaves in a wintry breeze. Where each went was anyone’s guess, but the good money was placed on most of them reuniting when the weather warmed and the touring season kicked off in the spring of the New Year.

Having no family of her own, Fia had spent her time during the off season traveling the Main Street of America on her new bike. What few possessions she chose to carry with her held in a beat up messenger bag. Having to fend for herself from a young age, she was savvy enough in the ways of survival to always be able to meet her basic needs. Material possessions were never things she placed a high value upon. They were as transient to her as whatever state she found herself in. This restless, wild heart craved adventure, new experiences, and new stories spoken to her from the lips of strangers that always opened different doors.


Finding a cheap roadside motel connected to a diner, she’d fallen asleep as soon as her head hit the pillows. She slept for what felt like days. When Fia awoke, she was famished and had a great need for some strong coffee. The diner connected to the cheap motel smelled like grease, home fries, maple syrup and all sorts of savory delights that called to her in a way made Fia’s stomach grumble. She soon found herself hurrying to throw on some clothes to partake in a stack of pancakes.

She slipped into a booth and moments later one of the waitresses brought a mug, napkin and silverware for her as soon as she was settled. “You look like you could use some coffee, hon." Setting the mug down, she waved the pot with an orange top in question. “Regular ok?”

“More than Ok. You’re an angel,” Fia gave the woman a grateful smile and casually observed her face without the intrusion of truly staring as she poured. There were dark circles under the woman’s eyes that she had tried to hide with a pseudo brave face of makeup and a distracted sweep of powder.

“I’ll be right back to get your order.” The woman gave her a smile before moving away from the table to the counter.

Fia’s mismatched gaze of peridot and amber tracked the woman as she moved back around the counter to tie an apron on. Another waitress approached her with a murmur that was not low enough in volume to escape being overheard from where Fia was sitting.

“Deb…go home. Get some rest. I can cover your shift. You look exhausted. Have you slept?”

Deb sighed as she tucked a few straws into her apron. “Matthew had a bad night last night.” It looked like it physically pained her to say the words. “Thank you so much for the offer, but I can’t afford to be at home. Donna is there with him. The rent is due in a few days and the hospital bills keep coming…”

“Are they still running tests? I can lend you some money. It’s not much…but with John back at work now….”


“No Connie. You have your own worries with the house.” Deb clasped her friend’s hand in a manner that could only be described as fierce gratitude as she met the other woman’s eyes. “But I thank you for the offer. Truly. I better get back to get this lady's order.” A glance over her shoulder to Fia.

When their eyes connected, the sorrow she saw there gave Fia a pang in the center of her chest. A rattle behind the cage of her ribs as if what she saw in the woman’s eyes just disturbed whatever it was that had been slumbering. Ripples of energy fanned out from that initial pang and a wave of dizziness came over her. She touched her fingers to her temple, her brows drawing together.

“You ok hon?” She heard the woman’s voice, cautious and hedging, but it felt like she was hearing it from under water. The waitress placed a tentative hand on Fia’s shoulder.

“I’m ok.” Fia heard herself say. Assuring the woman she was fine as she gripped the table as if it were a lifeline. “I think I’m just hungr…..”

As soon as she felt the woman’s hand touch her shoulder, there was a flash of heat radiating between her brows and the room suddenly seemed to spin off its axis before Fia slumped against the table, her gaze on the blackness of her coffee before there was a clatter of tableware falling to the floor. Alarmed voices and scuffling footsteps faded from her ears before she fell into the blackness of unconsciousness.

When the darkness receded, she found herself standing in a long hallway with a blade in her right hand a candle held in the other. A door on the right side of the hall opened slowly to reveal the waitress from the diner holding her son.

The boy could not have been older than four and was shaking violently on the ground. His Mother held him, whispering soothing words against him, telling him it would pass, it would all be over soon. Holding him close as if she could absorb the shock waves tearing through his body with her own.

“My boy…my sweet boy….my son.” Why does he have to carry this… burden? He’s so small. Why? Give it to me. Let me take it. Give me the pain. Let me take it. Let me carry it for him. Let me take it. She pleaded over and over endlessly in her mind.

Fia could feel her helplessness, the anguish that all her endless love for her son could do nothing to stop the coming wave of tremors; nothing but provide the warmth of her presence and comfort. The comfort of not being alone. Fia gripped the blade as if she wished to tear out the anguish, or to fight whatever was causing the tremors within the boy.

“Why is this happening? Why are you doing this?” The Mother asked helplessly, groping for an unseen presence she had called to in endless hospitals, had looked to for answers in the corners of the ceiling during sleepless nights at her son’s bedside. “Why are you doing this?” Whispered dangerously low once again. A quiet thing, a slow gathering storm that gathered its fury and indignation across the expanse of her psyche. Shredding through all of her maternal patience and seeping through the exhaustion after endless nights of sleep deprivation. “Why are you doing this?!” A primal anger releasing as the anguish tore at her chest and throat like claws trying to release its scream that was just as quickly swallowed by silent sobs that were shoved down to the depths of her being.

Perhaps she would release them later, let them wash away with the merciful hot water of the shower when he was finally asleep. She would not scare her son for he had endured enough. He needed her to be strong for him, to be his comfort. She rocked her boy until the tremors eased, humming his favorite songs that seemed to make it all better. If only for a little while.

Tears filled Fia’s eyes for the woman. It seeped into the cracks of her heart as that door slowly closed on the Mother and Son and she was drawn down even further into a long, long hallway of impossible brightness. She walked further and found that she stood in front of another door. One that went back two thousand years ago.

Fia began to tremble as she stood in front of the door, to shake as violently as the boy had.


My son….my Son…

The words kept echoing over and over. Words that had touched her ears years so many lifetimes ago as she stood by the side of another Mother who held her son in anguish and helplessness. A soul who had carried a burden that few would ever truly understand in its magnitude.


“Don’t.” The single word brought up as if it was a shield, she gripped the blade she held in her right hand as if it would protect her from what was behind that door. Suddenly like a feral, injured animal with an instinct to protect itself, her whole body tensed. “I’m not ready. Please don’t.” She pleaded, softer now as those tremors rocked through the very core of her being and she tried to pull against the riptide of memory to keep it from pulling her under.

She had been holding this pain for so long and she knew exactly what was on the other side of that door. There was nothing that could speed her away from it this time. She could not run away, she could not shut it out or drown it out. She knew that the woman and her son were the catalyst, the trigger to guide her to this moment and ask her to open it. To give her one more chance to look at it and release it finally.

She felt His presence all around her before she heard His voice. That same Son with the breathtaking blue eyes from so many years ago. His energy held a strength that leveled her. It cut through every shield she had left, exposing raw layers of vulnerability but always with an impossible gentleness.

The golden warmth she felt before flooded through the hallway they were currently standing in. The one with no visible walls, only the walls she held within her. She was intimate with them. She had constructed each one herself. The shaking ceased as He lay a hand on her shoulder and the tenderness of the touch brought her to her knees. As if the burden from what she had been holding was too great to carry any longer on her own. The pure love of his touch caused her knees to buckle. There was nothing to do but to surrender to it.


“Would you lay the blade down?” He asked as she felt him kneel right beside her. Always beside her. [i[“It is not needed now. Not here with me. Nothing will harm you. You are safe. The door will not open until you are ready.”[/i]

He asked her. He always asked her. Always let it be her choice in the end. Never ordered, never commanded, never guilted, judged or shamed her. He still wore his power so lightly if only so that others would feel completely at ease in his presence and always reminded others of their own. “I have nothing that is not already within you,” He often told her.


Perhaps the only soul that could get her to lay down her defenses, Fia rested the blade on the ground as the tremors finally eased from her hands. She felt vulnerable without it, impossibly fragile, the candle still held in her left hand was clutched tightly as if she could absorb some strength from the light of that little flame. Her namesake.

“You have opened doors for so many and cannot bring yourself to open such an important one for yourself? I have always told you it was my choice. You could not have taken that from me. You could not have changed it. It was mine to carry. Just as you were chosen to be by my side. You gave me comfort. You brought me peace. I told you I would always be with you. I have never lied to you. I can bring you to the door, I can take the pain behind it, but you have to be the one to open it and let it go. I cannot open that door for you. Hanging onto the pain is not the same as hanging on to me. You will not lose me if you lay it down. You will not have to face it alone. I am right here.”

Fia spoke softly, a vulnerability shown to him alone as the sob worked its way up the slender column of her spine. “When I feel you like this…it’s like exposing a wound. It gets harder to close every time I wake up.”

“You are creating that wound with the thought that I am leaving you. You have created that divide between us that I would see you overcome. You must realize I am a part of you. You are a part of me. I have never left you. See. First you must learn to See. Release your pain. Forgive and see through the illusion that has distorted your vision. Have you wondered why you struggle with reading? Why the letters consistently rearrange themselves for you? The disconnect remains within your perception. It angered you what they wrote of our history. You felt it was a betrayal to our connection and to our Love. You no longer wished to read lies. That anger has distorted your vision in this lifetime. You must release it. Others will never be able to tarnish what we have with false perceptions. It is eternal.

“I am… not ready. Not yet,” she confessed. So afraid she would disappoint him with her admission.

“I will be here when you are.” There was not an ounce of judgment in his tone, only acceptance…only Love.


A thought came to Fia, she asked her question in a rush. She was afraid their time together was soon growing short, for the walls soon began to close in around her, the hallway beginning to shorten in length. “The man…who approached me in the church. Who is he?” She knew he would know who she meant.

There was a long silence before he answered her, so long that she feared he had not heard her. “I cannot tell you. You have unfinished business with this soul. He is still within your wheel. I cannot interfere, but I will be here for you. I was there with you that day in the church. I am with you always. Pick up the blade if you must. I will be here when you are ready to truly lay it down. There is another you know who has also carved his path with it. He is an old friend from long ago. Do you know who I speak of? Do you feel when I am with you? I am all around you. See. Learn to See and Listen. Can you hear me? Can you?”


“Can you hear me? Miss? Can you hear me? Miss are you ok?”

When Fia awoke she found herself on the floor of the diner, looking into the face of the waitress, seeing the worry and the concern. The same worry and concern she had seen when she was holding her son.


There comes a moment in every lifetime when each soul looks into the eyes of another and there is a choice. A choice to look away, ignore the pain that is seen there. To push it away, distract from it or run from it because it makes one uncomfortable, or reminds one of their own pain.

Or to make the choice to embrace each other, the pain, all of it. For once in her life, Fia chose not to run and extended her hand to the woman and grasped it. “I am sorry. I am so sorry about your Son. You are an amazing Mother. You might not be able to carry it for him, but you have no idea how much your Love has done for him. You are doing everything you can for him and more. ” She squeezed her hand when she spoke as if it were vital because she needed to hear it and her gaze never wavered.

The woman was taken aback at first, confusion clear as she tried to wrap her head around what Fia said before her chin quivered, and her face crumpled. Just hearing those words. That she was doing enough that she was enough when so often she felt she was nothing. That she had failed to protect her son. She began to sob. “I….”She had no words, they weren’t needed. She saw in the woman’s eyes that she understood, had felt her pain…had been there. “Thank you.” Gratitude was all she could find and grasp when she sifted through the broken pieces of glass and shared experience between them.

Ironically enough, awkward silences seemed to be where Fia felt most comfortable. When words failed and there was nothing to do but be in the thick of the moment. She had enough ease within her own skin to let the silence stretch on for miles. Always keeping her eye on the horizon in the gaze of another for the dawn of something true.

She finally released the woman’s hand when she saw she understood and then realized she had been clenching another object in her right hand. She looked down to see her hand closed around one of the knives that had clattered from the table.

Set down the blade. There is another you know who has also carved his path with it. He is an old friend from long ago. Do you know who I speak of?

Uncurling her fingers from the knife, she set it down and knew who she needed to call.


Issac.
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Isaac Wheeler
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2014 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The sun was setting on Big Sky Country, that burning disk of fire throwing up a brilliant and desperate firework show of gold and crimson as it inexorably dipped behind the distant purple mountain range which served as the spine of a continent. Ever since the carnival shuttered its doors for the off season, Isaac had been working at a horse ranch in Montana. Finding work had never been difficult…Isaac worked for cheap and that unsettling quietness about him meant he didn’t cause trouble with gossip or questions.

The Stone Creek Ranch had recently been bought by a New York surgeon who had cashed in his practice and traded the urban jungle of Midtown Manhattan for the open plains and romanticism of a bye gone era. Hired on as a hand, Isaac had known at once that no amount of denim, leather and feathered cowboy hats would ever fully replace the taint of the Upper East Side. But none of that really mattered…Doc Friedman was trying and had a respect and love for the horses. That was enough for Isaac.

Isaac could just see the lights of what passed for the nearest town on the horizon as he walked along the shoulder of an old two lane highway. Long ago done in by the advent of the expressway, the black ribbon of asphalt was showing its age with cracks through fading double yellow lines and a few weeds poking up along the edges of the white striped boundary. Give nature enough time, Isaac mused, and she’d never color within the lines. Every now and then one of those big tractor trailer trucks would come barreling down the road and give a blow to its horn. The Doppler Effect would stretch the sound till long after the truck blew by; its wake causing a buffeting torrent of wind which tugged at Isaac’s clothes and sent road side pebbles scattering like buckshot across hard packed earth.

“Maybe tomorrow we’ll take the Doc up on his offer of a ride.” That lazy drawl directed downward to Boomer, after one such truck made its pass. The mutt gave a wag to his stubby tail which ended up shaking his entire rump back and forth and gave a look as if he’d heard such before.

A long day behind him with another on the horizon, Isaac enjoyed the three mile walk to and from the ranch. Routinely turning down offers unless the snow was blowing, he walked alone with his thoughts…disconnected from a world sprinting wildly towards the complete opposite. Like the road he walked, Isaac was as an outlier…an example of a time that had come and gone.

“C’mon boy.” Spoken to Boomer as he shrugged off that slow southern pace and moved just a bit faster to put a little warmth into his lithe frame. His breath was beginning to fog, a sure sign of another cold night. Probably be frost on the ground if not a crystalline layer of snow. Maybe he should have taken that job down in Tulsa after all.

Home for Isaac and Boomer was one of those long stay motels. The kind of place where the recently divorced, traveling sales types and the near destitute could gather like coins in a child’s bank and hope for a better tomorrow. Almost completely vacant, Isaac and Boomer walked beneath the ghostly green of the neon sign advertising as much just about the time Isaac’s shadow was fading into the murky background of twilight. Passing by the abandoned swimming pool, its once blue concrete bleached white like whale bones and its chain link rusted and worn down, Isaac made a turn to the left and slid the key into the lock of room number 108.

Greeted with that musty, stale smell of age as soon as the door opened, Boomer rushed in ahead and went right to his water bowl. Isaac followed and used the heel of his boot to close the door behind him. The lock tumbled into place and the extra security chain drawn to; Isaac immediately switched on the heat on the underpowered and overworked window unit. The ancient motor clicked and groaned before stubbornly resisting its age and began to push out warm air. It still carried that stale, burning dust particle kind of smell…but to Isaac, a son of Savannah, Georgia, the smell was tolerable…being cold was downright sinful.

Eyes the color of a distant thunderstorm glanced about the place. Used to living in the open air of a carnival tent, the walls felt like those of an old sanitarium…like they conspired with one other to creep in a few inches every day while Isaac was at the ranch. Typical motel artwork hung above the bed, some random scene of pheasants roosting alongside a more western themed one of men on horseback. The paint was faded, the frames worn and a timeless layer of dust covered everything that failed to pass an everyday use test.

Yesterday’s leftovers became Boomer’s dinner, Isaac scraping the plate clean as the mutt wormed his way between Isaac’s legs to get at the bowl. “Easy now.” Isaac’s antebellum accent drawling out those syllables as he gave a scratch behind the ears to the feasting Boomer.

A glance of slate down to his hands revealed a caked in layer of dirt which blackened the lines of his palms and highlighted the swirls of fingerprints. Hard work was rarely clean…perhaps that’s why it was hard. Isaac moved into the bathroom and squinted against the glare of a single bulb reflecting off pink tile. One of those mismatches of style that had no explanation. Maybe the original owners had thought it was a relaxing color…or maybe the general contractor let his wife pick.

Isaac gave a twist to the four spoke knob of the bath and a moment later a few spurts of water choked and gagged its way out the faucet before finally sputtering into a decent flow. He then began the delicate balancing act of hot and cold to find a suitably warm temperature just this side of scalding. As he waited for the water to warm, he peeled his work clothes off and tossed them into a pile on the floor while placing his knife nearby on the back of the toilet. Using a hand to test the warmth, Isaac stepped into a much needed shower.

The cool aid made a fine environment for steam to accumulate, the small mirror fogging up quickly as the hot water did its job on Isaac’s well worked body. He snagged the towel off the flimsy shower rod, killed the flow of water with a twist to the knobs and drew the towel about slender hips. Boomer suddenly began barking up a storm and running to and fro through the motel room. Having been around the mutt long enough, Isaac could tell by the sound that Boomer seemed happy about something and not threatened. Perhaps the mutt saw someone walk by the window or heard a rat in the wall…Isaac preferred not to think about the latter option.

“Calm down boy.” Isaac said, pinching thumb and forefinger into his eyes before wiping his face clean and blowing out a spray of water from his lips. He was suddenly struck by the aroma of peach blossoms and dogwoods…the smell of home. He jerked the cheap plastic shower curtain back and stepped from the bath already having an idea as to why Boomer so excited but froze when he stared into the fogged up mirror.

Little dots, dashes and swirls had been drawn onto the fogged over glass like a little girl’s finger painting of Egyptian cartouches. He recognized the language at once…a completely made up language from his youth. A completely made up language between two people who had felt like aliens in their own home…a made up language that had allowed two souls to communicate in a way that was unique to them.

The presence of the fictitious language also explained why Boomer was so excited while revealing the source of the smells of home suddenly teasing at his senses when moments ago there had just been the smell of a stale motel room and cheap bar soap.

“Damn it, Josette…” Isaac spoke to the empty bathroom and his blurred reflection, the rare usage of profanity indicating just how angry he was. He reread the message on the mirror several times…it had been some time since he’d last seen it. It took him several moments to divine the meaning of each symbol, like staring at the bottom of a pond after a rock‘s been thrown…the ripples doing just enough to obscure the image…Isaac sighed when the particular ripples of that childhood memory finally cleared.

His half-sister was calling him home.

Isaac wiped a hand along the writing on the mirror, smearing his palm across it and erasing it. He leaned against the chipped and worn sink counter, head down as slate gray eyes stared into the sink. The phone suddenly rang…that strident, harsh ring of a metal striker against a bell. Isaac snapped his head to the side as the phone rang again.

His half-sister was calling him home...because bad news waited.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2014 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Written in collaboration with Josette's writer. Many thanks.)

Can’t let go.

The words repeated themselves within Isaac’s head, a chorus of a song that wouldn’t leave no matter where one forced their thoughts.

Can’t let go.

Strong, calloused hands held onto the rope, sinewy muscles pulling against an impossible weight.

Can’t let go.

Isaac dug his heels into the soft mud of the river bank and pulled again on the rope. Wound his hands around the coarse fibers and pulled again. Thunderstorm colored eyes stayed steady on the middle of the river, the place where the rope disappeared beneath the surface. For the life of him he didn’t know what lay beneath the surface…just knew he couldn’t let go.

He wound the rope around his waist and gripped again, leaning his back against the coil for added leverage. He gave a groan as muscled vibrated along the bones and threatened to seize up. He thought he felt a shift, a little bit of give but then suddenly he was jerked forward. He scrambled, off balance as he stumbled nearer to the bank before he could set his heels again. He pulled hard, leaned back against the force even as his feet began to slide inexorably closer to the bank.

He slipped, landed hard on his back and had but a moment to realize his unfortunate turn of events before the weight on the other end began to drag him towards the water. Feet kicked, desperate for purchase but found none in the moss covered mud. Isaac twisted away, a hand leaving the rope in a desperate grab for the knife always on his belt. But it wasn’t there and he hadn’t the time to worry…the water was getting dangerously close.

“No.” The word hissed against gritted teeth as he pulled with his all his might, turned onto his stomach and sank clawed fingers into the soft earth. Futile.

He spun back onto his back, determined to at least meet this terrible fate with eyes open…and then…the rope changed its substance, stopped pulling him towards the river just inches before his feet were to touch. He watched as the rope gave a lazy twist and turn like a leaf caught on a flutter of wind. Watched as it changed from a heavy, coarse thing into a silver ribbon which swirled to his left, slowly unraveling, and spinning around the waist of an alabaster skinned brunette who was twirling upon a bridge in a white dress that had formed over the river. The fabric fluttered around her legs like so many white petals.

“Josie?” Isaac asked, watching as his half-sister twirled along the bridge from the meadow filled with fireflies which she had come from on the other side of the river.

She paused when she heard Isaac say her name, turning towards him with a warm smile and a light, airy laugh. “There you are.” Sounding just like she had when they were younger and she’d found him in a game of hide and go seek. The truth of it was Isaac never really tried too hard. He didn’t like the look on her face when she lost. “Be careful with that ribbon or I might just float away like a balloon.” Her tone was teasing, but her gaze held a touch of weight behind it.

“I will.” Isaac agreed as he found his feet, the weight momentarily forgotten as he watched his sister twirl again, a smile putting a curl to his lips and revealing rarely seen dimples. “Whatcha doin’ here?” Asked as he gave a playful tug on the ribbon to pull her a few steps closer.

“I came to see you. You invited me.” She indicated the bridge beneath her bare feet, and then wrinkled her nose as the ever shifting nebulae of her eyes settled on his side of the river. “Or shall I pull you to this side? The fireflies are telling tales again.” She gently pulled the ribbon that was still around her waist in a teasing game of tug o’ war with him.

Isaac watched as that ribbon gave a flicker and changed into a translucent, shimming cord of silver. He suddenly realized its significance and he froze. “You’re roamin again ain’t ya?” Asked though he still kept hold of the cord, his grip eased to a kind of gentle reverence.

“Mmm…maybe." Answered without a care for the stern look he was giving her. “Don’t look at me like that, Isaac. I missed you.”

“Damn it, Josette.” That smile disappeared, flat lined into a hard stare of disapproving slate. “You know I hate when you do this. In your condition it could...”

“I’m okay Isaac.” She crossed over the bridge to him. Her hand reaching to touch his arm in gentle reassurance. “I get to see so much this way. So much of what I’ll never get to see otherwise.” Josie answered, still seemingly at joy.

“It makes you so tired…you sleep for days afterwards.” Walking towards her, he took her hand to help her over the bridge.

“It makes me happy so I don’t mind.” Josie shrugged with her chin tucking a bit shyly towards her shoulder.

“Josette this ain’t some game we played when we were kids. This is serious…something could happen while you're out…” That dogwood drawl drew his words out as he stood in front of his sister, close enough to see the sea green spread of veins beneath her pale skin. She looked so fragile. As if a hard squeeze would shatter her like porcelain doll cooked too long in the kiln.

“And it will.” Answered all too calmly as she reached out to gently take the cord from his hands and into her own to tie it back round her waist where it shimmered like a celestial tether rather than a simple silk ribbon. “We all have to let go sometime, Isaac.”

Isaac’s face screwed up in defiance, a retort fresh on his lips when the river changed, it’s water beginning to swirl while a harsh scent crept up from its surface. Rot and decay wafted off the river. The sickly, cloying smell burned its way down his throat and into his lungs, caused his eyes to water as it stained and scarred his memory. He smelled it before…he hoped to never smell it again. Death.

Isaac turned to stare at the water. It bubbled and roiled with a muted crimson so dark it seemed black in the moonlight. Isaac watched, horrified as a single deer carcass floated down the river, its body adding to the crimson. Soon after another followed and another until this boiling Phlegethon was choking upon the carcasses.

Isaac watched as they flowed past, rolling over and under the water to occasionally surface and stare at him with milky white, sightless eyes. He recoiled from the image, turned away from so much needless death and found Josie standing behind him.

“C’mon…” Isaac said, placing a soft yet steering hand upon her elbow, meaning to guide her away from the nightmare of a river. “You need ta go. Right now.” Isaac said, looking up and down the river bank and realized the bridge had disappeared. He looked all around him trying to figure out how to get out of this strange place while having no idea how one pushed or guided Josie back to where she belonged.

Josie calmly reached up to take Isaac’s hand from her elbow, holding it within hers for a moment as she placed her other hand upon his shoulder to still his determined quest for escape. “It’s okay, Isaac. I’m safe. I’m with you.”

Isaac glanced across the river, disliking her argument but finding it difficult to counter. Not that it would matter. Gone was the meadow filled with fireflies that Josie had come from. He saw two figures made of smoke and shadow next to one another in front of something which struggled on the ground in front of them. He blinked and tried to look away but couldn’t. “Are you doin this?” Asked to Josie, a grip of fear catching his voice in his throat.

Josie shook her head and took a step back, suddenly uncertain for the first time. “No…I…I am not permitted. There are rules. This is coming from you. I was only able to come because you invited me.” She pointed to the bridge she had crossed over and lowered her arm as she too realized it had disappeared and the meadow she came from had dissolved.

Isaac watched as a small boy and his father stood shoulder to shoulder in front of a dying deer. He recognized the scene at once…he’d lived it. First day deer hunting with his father, a brand new rifle he’d gotten for Christmas…a .270…one of the big boy calibers. Not quite his Daddy’s .30-06 but Isaac was smaller, couldn’t handle as much recoil just yet. None of that really mattered though…Isaac hadn’t wanted a rifle. He’d wanted a sketching book and some new pencils. But Daddy had gotten him a rifle with talk about becoming a man and going hunting together. He remembered he’d idolized his father then, having just turned 13 in the summer and how he’d never wanted to disappoint him or fail him.

The memory flooded over Isaac, overwhelmed and threatened to send him down on uncertain knees.

The morning had been a cold one, the air so cold it made your lungs hurt when you breathed. Isaac hadn’t slept, was wide awake when his father came to get him at four. He’d been dreading this day for months, begged his mother to tell his father that he was sick. But all she’d said was that he’d been expecting Isaac to go…that it was a chance to bond with his son. And so Isaac had waited on the edge of his bed like a death row inmate waiting for a midnight call that never came. They’d gotten breakfast at a greasy spoon and driven to their land, getting out of the truck in silence and loaded their rifles. Isaac would have preferred a blind fold instead of the rifle. His father had talked so much about becoming a man that Isaac felt he had no other choice than to go along…how else would his father continue to love him? That was the house that Isaac had grown up in, the kind of expectations placed upon him by a father who practiced conditional love as well as he practiced law.

Isaac remembered the weight of the rifle on his shoulder; remembered that it felt like a stone tied to his back…the kind of stone that would surely drag him down and drown him. They’d walked to the blind, Isaac had whispered, “This don’t feel right, Daddy. Us sittin in a blind, hidin our scent and sounds. The deer won’t even know we’re here.” “That’s the point son,” his father had answered. “Makes it easier to get a big buck…like the one in my office.”

His father was all about trophies, as Isaac would realize later. He didn’t need the meat of this deer to feed his family. Did not need its skin to keep himself or his kin warm. It was all about the trophy. Trophy job, trophy car, trophy wife, trophy mistress and so on. He hadn’t even realized that he’d just told his son that fairness didn’t matter in life. To use any advantage you had to get what you wanted.

But that hadn’t washed with the young Isaac. The deer had no chance. They even used a feeder with a timer so they’d hear the sound and associate that with food. Man could be cruel with his cunning. They’d sat in silence for several hours, watched the dawn crest over the horizon and sprinkle down through the trees. “Whoa he’s a big one. Get your gun up son. Remember…easy breaths…don’t miss.” His father had said with a pat to his back.

He’d shouldered the rifle, set it down on the edge of the cut out window and sighted in. He could see the buck’s breath misting in the cold morning air, the twitch of its fine whiskers beneath its mouth as it chewed on some of the corn they’d put out. Daddy hadn’t said a word…he’d been letting his son have his moment.

Isaac flicked the safety off and froze, hoping the sound would scare the buck off. But it didn’t. It gave a lazy flick of its tail as it bent down for more corn. Isaac swung the cross hairs around, thinking for a moment that he could just miss. That his dad would understand it being his first time and all. “Don’t miss now. Nice and easy.” His breath came in a hurry, dread and panic making it impossible to steady the scope even if he wanted to…the trigger was cold on his finger as he pulled it back.

The rifle jerked against him, kicked back with such force and the sound of it too. It left his ears ringing and his nostrils full of the smell of smoke and gunpowder. He looked back through the scope, hoping like anything to see the white rump of the buck, his tail up as he ran away.

“I think ya got em, son…c’mon.” Said as he climbed out of the blind, strong hands lifting Isaac’s slight frame the last few rungs of the ladder.

Isaac heard it before he saw it…a terrible thrashing off to the side. He hadn’t missed at all. He’d hit the deer in the back. That big bullet striking the deer in the spine about half way back. He’d severed the cord, paralyzed the poor thing where its hind legs wouldn’t work. It knew fear, knew it had to get away as it tried to drag its useless hind section behind it.

Isaac watched from the bank as the smoky figure of his father pulled a knife from his belt and pressed it into his son’s hands.

“No.” Isaac muttered as he saw it. He knew what was going to happen.

Isaac had been paralyzed in a way too. He’d never seen what a bullet could do before. And now he’d seen it and it could never be unseen. The pink of ripped meat, the splash of bright red from the blood and the shiny, glistening white of bone.

“Gotta finish it.” His father had said, pressing his knife into Isaac’s small hands. But Isaac didn’t want to. He wanted to take it all back…and couldn’t. “Do it son. Don’t be scared. You're not gonna cry like yer sister are ya, son?” Tears streamed down his cheeks as he shook his head no, his hands shaking around that big knife as he fiercely wiped them away. “Time ta be a man, Isaac…” Said so firmly, just the edge of disappoint hovering around the words. Isaac watched with a heavy heart as the mighty buck lay down…scared and tired…accepting its fate in a way. Isaac looked up at his father, those piercing grey eyes so full of light and blurred my tears which wouldn’t stop. All he’d seen was his father shake his head and point at the buck.

Isaac ended up slitting the throat of the buck that winter morning. Felt its warmth and aliveness before he pulled the blade across its neck. Watched the splash of blood, so hot it steamed when it hit the rocks. He’d watched that steam, slowly pouring out from the wound and thinking it had been its soul. He’d become a man in his father’s eyes even if Isaac would never use such a standard himself. He didn't feel like a man at all. Only that his innocence bled out of him that morning just as the life had bled out of that buck.

Isaac violently turned away as that scene evaporated into so much steam-like mist on the other bank. He didn’t want to see it. He couldn’t see it. It’d been the day he began to walk a different path. Baby steps at first, to be sure, but irrevocably he’d begun to turn away from his father that morning. Began to see him for who he really was. Every day forward in that house he’d have a constant reminder of that morning…his father had the trophy buck mounted and hung its head over the fire place…a monument to the morning his eldest son had become a man.

“I don’t understand.” Josie murmured softly as she came up quietly behind Isaac and slipped her hand within his. Her eyes wet with the same kind of tears Isaac had cried that morning. “This was meant to make you a man? When did savagery become synonymous with strength?”

Her voice sounded older than her years Isaac had always wondered how Josie could know so much when she had lived so little. "It's the way of things Josie. He was always like this. You just refused to see it."

Josie sighed and looked down upon the gruesome scene with a shake of her head. “They beat their chests and call themselves modern day savages in their boardrooms and their bedrooms. Like it’s some badge of honor. What happens when there is nothing left to kill or conquer? What is the appeal of being a ruler of a wasteland?” She gave Isaac’s hand a squeeze, never knowing until now how much weight he carried with him from this memory.

“It’ll never end, Josie.” Isaac said, eyes as dry as tinder. “Always somethin’ else to dominate. World ain’t ever gonna change.” The cynicism spat with a visceral anger upon his tongue.

“I don’t believe that Isaac.” Josie countered, that little smile on her face again. “I can’t believe that. There are other worlds than these. Remember? Like in that book you read me in the hospital. The one with the Gunslinger. There are other worlds than these, Isaac. Kinder and gentler places. I’ve seen them in my roaming.” Her brows drew together before she breathed deeply. “And I’ve also seen places that make me appreciate how beautiful this one is. We fall somewhere in the middle of the balance…our earth. We are struggling, we are sometimes broken, but there is still hope for us yet.”

Isaac listened to her words, not believing a single one but caring far too much for her to try and prove her wrong. She was too young to have his cynicism and he would not rob her of her joys she found in her short time here. “Maybe you’re right.” A disbelieving hedge if there ever was one. Isaac had lived in the world Josie talked about. So much so that if there was a God, Isaac wondered about the point of a second coming. Ain’t nothing worth coming back to anyway.

They’d suddenly arrived at the end of the river, that raging torrent of boiling water all pouring itself down a four by ten hole in the ground. The hole was surrounded by flowers and had a white marble stone at the head; Jonathan Wheeler chiseled neatly into it.

“You have to let it all go, Isaac.” Josie said as she stood alongside him, Josie looking at Isaac as he stared into that bottomless hole. She tried to pull her hand from his, to reinforce her point but Isaac squeezed, refused to let it happen.

Isaac turned to look at his sister, lips pursed in thought before he parted them to speak…

A hard grip on his shoulder squeezed and shook him, jerked him up into the sky like a rocket from the where he had been standing on that river bank. Slate gray eyes snapped open to see a row of bus seats, the big Grey Hound humming down I-75 just south of Atlanta.

“Hey buddy…you okay? You were shaking in your sleep. I think you were having a nightmare or something.” A voice behind Isaac said and he felt that shake to his shoulder again.

Isaac shook with a start and turned back towards the man with his hand on his shoulder. A hand closed in a fist out of sudden surprise for the shocking waking as well as from where he'd just been. It took a moment for him to calm down, to sink back into his seat and recognize Boomer sleeping in the seat next to him. He ran his hands over his face and sighed.

“Somethin’ like that.” Isaac giving an exhale of breath before sending a brief nod of thanks to the man. He glanced out the window to see a ribbon of green racing alongside the bus. There was a layer of dust on the glass and when the mid-morning sun hit it just right Isaac could see another message from Josie. Drawn in that same made up language he’d seen on the mirror half a country and a whole world away. This time it was simple…

Let go
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Man-made light shimmered atop a sea of blackness, unconsciously mirroring the God forged tapestry set above in the heavens. A twisting warren of streets and highways raced out in all directions with such mass that it obfuscated the individual; transformed the singular one into the ubiquitous many. Such sprawl had a tendency to erase the humanity within each and every soul; caused the righteous, what few there were, to ignore the needs and sins of their fellow man. The City of Angels had long ago fallen; willing tore its virtuous halo from a brow and replaced it with the smear of Greed and Lust, with the taint of Envy and Pride.

The Hedonist watched from a balcony in the hills, caliginous gaze stretching out over the light filled valley as it raced towards the black line of the coast in the distance. A city of millions, each soul crying out for salvation and finding that cry falling on deaf ears. He smiled a lascivious smile, the irony not lost upon him; His absence from their lives made it so easy to corrupt and tease, to spill into such pleasurable sin. Such a place had a smell all its own, wearing its wantonness like a rich perfume, it called to him, stirred a certain carnality within him as if all the souls in the valley below beckoned with a single note of need. The Hedonist watched…but he did not see.

His Queen, once so close that he had actually touched her, had scattered herself to the wind, still content to play their ancient game it would seem, to test his patience and see how much longer he could wait. But that touch…it had ignited a burning need within him, a lush oasis in the distance which had, upon arrival, yielded but a drop upon millennia of thirst. And so he had followed her to the fallen city, watched as his once regal consort walked amongst unwashed masses before traveling east again. A glimpse of a hallway, a tightly held knife and then a blinding flash of pure light had sent him recoiling, skulking back to the darkness. Yeshua's divine presence had stymied the pursuit. The Hedonist had lost her in the desert, a terrain where temptation would always fail it seemed. He had taken her into the light of His embrace and in so doing put out the Scorpion’s eyes.

“What are you doing out there?” A throaty purr crept from behind him, issued out of the bedroom which opened upon the balcony. “The view is in here.” Spoken as she stepped lightly upon his perch and tainted his solitude with her presence.

He felt her hands slide around his sides, felt the cool drag of nails upon exposed flesh as she pulled at the unbuttoned shirt which hung from his shoulders. The Hedonist could taste her want; smell her desire as she sought to bring him back inside with the siren’s call of her touch.

“I am looking.” Giving voice to his actions, the urbane tenor of the Hedonist’s prurient prose enough to incite arousal in even the most devoutly celibate of Sisters.

“At what?” She asked as fingers smoothed up his chest, the woman vainly attempting to share his gaze and thoughts, misunderstanding that such a thing, were it to happen, would undoubtedly drive her to madness. She resisted the urge to pout, wisely realizing that the Scorpion had little patience for such banality.

“Urbs angelicorum.” Answered in that ancient tongue.

“Orbs what?” Her mispronunciation merely adding to her confusion as she stepped from behind to stand alongside him and followed his gaze towards the city below.

“The City of Angels.” He translated for her while still not gifting her with a look.

“Ahh…” Slightly annoyed that such a mundane thing had pulled his delicious attentions from her. “Am I one of the angels?” She asked coyly…she had been dressed as one, feathered wings and all upon a catwalk just a few hours previous.

“No.” Answered before the breath of her question could die upon the cool breeze which blew between them. He finally turned to face her, the aristocratic planes of his face proving as pleasing to look upon now as when she had first seen them from the stage. “But then…you wouldn’t want to be such a creature.” Using his thumb to trace a single honey colored strand of hair from her face as he placed at the center of a sybaritic stare. “You have a hedonic bent to your soul that no halo can outshine.”

She felt her breath catch in her chest when he pinned her with that stare while his description of her soul sent her mind to primrose places. She would do anything for him; grant innumerable wishes, however impure, so long as he continued to look at her in such a way. “What am I then?" She turned her face into that tracing gesture, sighed when he graced her with his touch.

“A convenient indulgence.” Hypnotic tones lulling her into a place where wickedness and depravity reigned.

“Do you enjoy making me wait?” Whispered as she closed her eyes and bathed within the debauchery of his touch. She didn’t care that he had described her as such. His touch and words created such a profligate need deep within her.

“What do you know of waiting?” Asked as her question sent his mind back to his Queen, the games he’d been forced to play because of His rules. His hand gave a sumptuous caress to her cheek, slid down to hook a thumb beneath her jaw and hold her by the throat. For a moment it was his Queen that he caressed; impossible for the Hedonist to be immune to such temptations himself. He could feel her pulse quicken, hammering against the cage of incontinent fingers, it pulled him from the visions of both past and future.

“It is said that patience is a virtue,” spoken while stroking a thumb along her pulse.

Fingers closed over the tiny golden crucifix which dangled from her throat. A sharp jerk snapped the slender chain and tore it free from her body. She gave a squeak of surprise as he held it between them, the little cross twisting on a breath of air. He’d been of a mind to allow it to stay around her throat, so He could witness the coming corruption. Yet such things were too great a reminder, even to him. The cross was pitched over the rail of the balcony, a singular flash as it caught the light before it disappeared into the darkness below.

“All virtue is vice…and I have waited long enough to claim what is mine.”
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Josette Wheeler
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 11:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

September 2013

“Oui.” The soft, dulcet voice spoke into the phone as Josie’s slight frame propelled itself forward with the rhythmic click of heels upon concrete. A whisper tulle the color of blue smoke fluttered around her legs, as if the fabric itself lived and breathed with her; delighting in the way the fall breeze teased its layers and sent them dancing. The cozy warmth of dove grey cashmere sleeve was twisted within her fingers like a worry stone. "Je suis désolé d'être en retard, Maman.” Apologizing into the phone a moment before she ended the call and sped up her steps.

Josie was late for tea with her mother and the call had come to remind her of that fact. Oh why couldn’t she live in a world where time didn’t matter? Where you could merely transport yourself wherever you wished like in so many of her wanderings?

A slight chill had descended upon the City of Lights just in time for that global bonanza of flashing photogs and couture models. Fashion Week was the biggest week of the year for her Mother and consequently, she was entirely too busy to spend much time with her daughter. Nevertheless, Josie still needed to make a request. She wrapped her slight frame tighter within the warming confines of her sleek trench, the chill affecting her more than others, and increased the rate of those heel clicks.

She crossed one of the countless bridges which spanned the Seine and marveled at how a strip of iron and concrete could beg for midnight strolls and stolen glances amidst the glittering lights. She paused in that distracted way of hers, taken in by the beauty of the city.

Eyes with all the colors of a supernova traveled along with the currents of the water to admire the beauty of it and the way it shimmered. She soaked in the sounds of church bells and traffic. It was always new to her and she reached her senses out to touch the pulse of a living, breathing city of endless intrigue and romance.

And then her phone rang again…and Josie, pulled from her peaceful reverie, hurried forward once more while ignoring her mother’s second phone call.
She passed a series of picturesque cafes, thinking with a small smile upon her lips how her brother Isaac might enjoy the feel of such a place as it harkened back to a slower, sweeter time. One day, she would be able to drag him out for a visit, she hoped, and lure him from his anti-social ways. A moment later, she looked up to spot sign of Ladurée’s famous Salon de Thé. The gilt “L” shone above the door like shining beacon for those seeking the most decadent of distractions. Josie hurried forward and bypassed the growing queue outside, knowing her mother was already well ensconced somewhere within and no doubt holding court.

First opened in 1862, Ladurée had put its stamp on the confectionery realm and had grown globally famous thanks to one of Josie’s favorite desserts, the macaron. She slipped inside with a generous smile for the well coiffed attendant manning the door. Pupils dilated as they raced over all the various delights in a vast array of colors that were a divine palette for the palate. Nutty praline, Madagascar Vanilla, Chantilly cream and raspberry coulis.

Josette frequently cast off that pouting guise of French ennui and often became genuinely excited and enthralled over something at once as simple and wonderfully complex as sweets. Knowing she had a favor to ask, Josie reigned in the desire to pause and admire, but could do nothing to stop that explosion of starlight in her eyes.

She took the stairs to the Louis XIV-styled tea room swathed in velvet curtains and elegant tablecloths. Dark wood panels formed the walls, while feminine statues held aloft their burden of light; a collection of miniature bulbs beneath miniature shades giving the place a cozy sense of intimacy and privacy amidst the clamoring of Parisians and tourists alike, in an equal quest for bonne bouche.

She found her Mother sitting in the back with her lips pursed as she tapped out an e-mail into her phone. A stack of books set beside her with multiple pages marked. Madeline Batiste soon glanced up as if sensing, with a mother’s uncanny intuition, the rhythmic music of her daughter’s heels amidst the hushed murmurs of conversation and the tinkling of fine china.

She gave her daughter a swift up and down to take in her appearance with the appraising eye of a jeweler with Chanel frames serving as dual loops. Assessing the lines for every potential flaw, when she decided her daughter's ensemble passed muster, Madeline offered a pale cheek for a kiss as if it was a reward.

Bypassing the air kisses, Josette threw her arms around her mother in a loving, joy infused hug. Madeline looked momentarily startled at the exuberant show of affection. “For heaven’s sake, Josette,” Hissed as her glasses were jostled. A lancing of cool, blue eyes to glance around to who might be watching.

Madeline had never been able to quell her daughter’s innate ebullience, try as she might. Even when Josette agreed to walk in one of her shows, she would always ask her Mother why the models never smiled. “It is about the fashion, Josette, not the model. The eye should always be drawn to the fashion.”

Josette had taken in her Mother’s words and considered them before answering. It made her sad to see the way certain dresses seemed to hang lifelessly, draped over a starving husk of a woman who had denied herself so many of life’s pleasures. To watch the expression of bored indifference to almost everything around her. Everything had a consciousness of its own to Josette—even clothes.

“But Maman,” she protested. “The woman breathes life into the clothes. You cannot dismiss her any more than you can dismiss the subject of a painting. A dress is all the more beautiful when framing a woman in joy or in love. It moves differently. Don’t you think?”

Madeline had argued, but finally threw up her hands and surrendered when realized her daughter would not be moved. It was impossible to contain Josette’s nature during the show. As effervescent as Champagne, she twirled and beamed her way down the runway like a bursting, unapologetic peony in a sea of lean, austere Calla Lilies. Ironically, Josette had been splashed across the pages of French Vogue and several other fashion magazines and it became one of Madeline Batiste’s most successfully selling lines to date.

Even now, Madeline found herself reluctantly surrendering into her daughter’s hug. Her rigid posture eased and her eyes softened fractionally, before she allowed herself a split second of vulnerability to drift her fingers though her daughter’s soft hair. Josette had lost most of it when she was younger due to her illness and had been ruthlessly teased by her peers for her baldness and scrawny frame. The Wheeler boy had defended Josie, getting suspended more than once for beating a few that were the ringleaders, but she worried about the impact upon her daughter’s psyche and decided that she would finish her schooling in France. Josette had protested, not wanting to be parted from Isaac, but Madeline had insisted and won.

Though Josette’s hair eventually grew back, the experience had gutted Madeline, for she could not control it. No matter how many beautiful fabrics she draped over her daughter’s petite frame, no matter how many realistic wigs she purchased to give the appearance of “normality,” she could not hide what warred within Josette’s very cells. The terror of potentially losing her daughter had caused her to frequently hold her at an arm’s length. As if she were always protecting herself from the looming trauma of loss, but Josette always found a way in.

Severing the moment, Madeline pulled away first and reclined back into her chair before waving a hand of dismissal and removing the Chanel frames from her face before setting them down next to her. “What is this all about, Josette? I have a meeting with Arnaud this afternoon. Some problem with the fabric of course. He knows this line has to be perfect. I hope he is coming equipped with solutions and not just more problems to lay at my feet. She pressed her fingers against her temple as if to quell the coming onslaught of a tension headache before taking a much needed sip of her tea.

Josie removed her trench, chewing her bottom lip in her anxiety around making her request to her Mother before she caught herself. Madeline was giving her that same moue of distaste that struck fear in the hearts of her entire design team. Although not spoken aloud, she could already hear the tape running in her mind like a loop. “It causes lines, Josette.”

Glancing down to the elegant spread upon the table, she clasped her hands together in sheer delight as she realized her Mother had already taken the liberty of ordering her favorite, the infinitely lovely, religieuse à la rose. A fluffy, cloud like pâte à choux pastry coated with the heavenly essence of a rose petal fondant. Upon taking the first bite, the rose crème melted on the tongue while the treasure of fresh raspberries hidden deep inside offered the contrast of a vibrant, acidic bit of tart to balance all of the sweetness. Like so many other things, food was magical to her.

Detaching the top puff, Josette took a moment to admire the heavenly pastry with the silver dragée placed on top like a tiny star. Savoring the moment of the first bite, she allowed herself to float away on a dream with that little pink cloud before pouring some tea for herself. “Isn’t the food on this planet divine, Maman?”

Madeline arched a meticulously groomed brow at her daughter’s statement before frowning. “Stop your nonsense, Josette. When are you starting at the Sorbonne? I have to make arrangements with the driver.”

Josette swallowed hard as the subject of her schooling came up, the delicate pastry suddenly feeling like a rock in her throat that was difficult to get down. “I…that is what I wanted to discuss with you, Maman. I thought I might…” She took a deep breath to fill her lungs with courage. “Travel for a year before returning to school.”

Madeline had returned to her phone and was only half listening to her daughter while she tapped out yet another e-mail while at the same time taking another distracted sip of her tea. “Mm—yes? Where?”

Josie paused for a long moment before murmuring softly. “I want to return to the States for a while.”

There was a sudden hard clang of the china teacup meeting the plate in response to her request that made Josette wince.

Non." Madeline shook her head. "Josette? I forbid it.”

Ecoutez-moi Maman, please…”

“I know exactly where you want to go. You want to go and see that Wheeler boy.”

“Stop calling him that Wheeler boy. His name is Isaac, Maman and he is my brother.”

Half brother.” Madeline corrected sharply before glancing around to who might be listening. Her indiscretion with a married man with all of the right connections and all of the wrong reasons was still coming back to haunt her. “I don’t understand, Josette. Why would you want to go back there? There is nothing for you there.”

“Isaac is there. Not to mention my father who I have not seen in over a year and you won’t let me—“

“Your Father is ill, Josette.” The words tumbled out of Madeline’s mouth before she could stop them. A stunned silence fell between the two women before Madeline’s phone rang and broke the spell of tension woven with those five simple words.

“Oui? D'accord Arnaud, j'arrive.” Madeline did not meet her daughter’s eyes as she disconnected the call. She could not bear to see the look she knew was coming. So instead she focused on placing her phone back into her purse.

“How ill?” Josette felt her pulse accelerate in her throat like the heartbeat of a frightened bird. “Why wouldn’t you tell me?” Josette whispered in hushed shock. “How long have you known?”

Madeline sighed, the throbbing in her temples beginning to hammer its way into a kind of war drum beat. “Two months now. I was trying to protect you. You have blood work coming up. I didn’t want to upset you. You know how that family is. They don’t need additional reasons to hurt us. I worried you would want to--”

Josie pushed her chair back abruptly and stood up. “Two months? I don’t care about my blood work!” Her petite frame was trembling in rare show of hurt and anger. “You should have told me! He is my father. You had no right to keep this from me. ”

“Josette, sit down.” Madeline was mortified by the scene her daughter was causing, she went to grab for her hand, but Josie snatched it from her grasp as if her Mother had burned her and backed up a few steps.

“I have to see him. I have to talk to Isaac. I have to tell him—“ As if in a daze Josette backed further into the tea room and towards the door before she fled, ignoring her Mother’s pleas behind her for her to return.
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Isaac Wheeler
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2014 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Right this way, Mr. Wheeler.” The soft voice of the legal assistant pulling Isaac from private thoughts as he sat in a comfortable leather chair in the lobby of a law firm.

Slate gray eyes lingered on the gold embossed letters pronouncing the name of the firm. Wheeler, Dixon & Wheeler. “Jus call me Isaac.” Softly spoken as he stood and twisted his flat cap with his hands, a little pent up energy bubbling to the surface. He didn’t like being called Mr. Wheeler. Such a moniker had never fit well on Isaac, like trying to walk in a shoe that was three sizes too small. Uncomfortable. Impractical.

“Very well Isaac.” The woman smiled as she gestured for him to follow her. “You been here before?” She asked while glancing back over a shoulder. He was obviously family but she couldn’t place the face or name.

“Long time ago.” Isaac answered. “My father didn’t have any partners then.” Eyes drifting to the different pictures which hung along the wall.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize Jonathan had another…” Her voice trailed off; the silence beginning to drift and spin into an awkward moment.

“Son?” Isaac asked before offering a defusing half smile. “Like I said…haven’t been home in a long while.” That slow drawl and easy manner smoothing the potentially uncomfortable ripples that might result from her remark. “No need ta be, ma’am. Me and him…” Isaac paused as shoulders lifted in a shrug. “We weren’t real close any more. “I didn’t even know he passed till I got a call from Mr. Dixon.”

“Well…” An awkward pause. “It’s good we found you then. The will is ready to be probated.” She answered with a little smile for his easy going acceptance of her mistake while sidestepping what was obviously a personal matter within the family. She recovered quickly as she wiped away a strand of blonde hair from her fair face.

She cleared her throat when he did not immediately respond, not sure what to entirely make of the man since he was not particularly verbal. This Wheeler was polite enough, but oddly restrained; she was caught somewhere between the lulling cadence of that dogwood drawl and the sharp intensity of that steel gaze; as if he were seeing right through her. She found the contrast a bit confusing and unnerving. He didn’t quite fit in any of the boxes of her mind and so she was itching to move him along. “Mr. Wheeler…Derrick…his office is just down there.” She pointed and quickly excused herself. “He’s just finishing something up. Again, we’re very sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you.” Spoken somewhat woodenly before clearing his throat and bringing the assistant back with a question. “Excuse me…has there been anyone…” Isaac paused and noted that quiet white noise so typical of an office setting. “Nevermind.” With no sounds of yelling or screaming than he was sure Josie had yet to arrive.

The door to Derrick’s office was open and Isaac let himself into a richly ornate environment. It felt foreign, from another time. Bookshelves lined with uniform volumes stood along one wall while several decorations and expensive souvenirs from global travel sat on the shelves in front of them. Isaac noted the desk was massive, forcing whoever sat opposite his brother to sit a distance away while undoubtedly ensconcing his brother in a seat of power.

Isaac got the sense that everything in the room had been purposefully placed to ensure that his brother looked superior in all ways. He ran fingertips along the back of an expensive leather chair, brass rivets holding it together in smart little rows along the seams. He stood for a moment, seeing the various pictures of Derrick’s family, his parents and sister on his desk. He paused as he lifted one silver framed photo from the desk and turned it in his hand to look at it. It was a family picture; Derrick looked about fifteen which would have placed Isaac around seventeen. He wasn’t in the photo…didn’t even know it’d been taken. They looked quite the family…big smiles while his sister had kept her lips closed. She’d had braces then, Isaac remembered…so self-conscious in a family which demanded perfection that she hadn’t even wanted to smile.

“Well color me surprised…I didn’t think you’d show.” Derrick’s voice boomed from the doorway as he strutted into his office. “How was the trip…” Derrick trailed off as he took in Isaac’s appearance, his washed out blue eyes drifting over the wrinkles in his brother’s jacket, the dirt beneath the fingernails “…from wherever it is you came from?”

“Felt wrong not to.” Isaac answered while casting his younger brother beneath the shadow of those thunderstorm grays. He hadn’t changed much since Isaac last saw him…maybe a little pinker around the nose and cheeks, a little fuller in the midsection. Too much hard liquor. Probably had the taste for it just like their father. Isaac’s mind briefly drifted back through time, the night he skipped town and how Derrick had helped Isaac pack up a single bag. Isaac had his little brother swear not to say anything till sunrise by promising he could have his entire baseball card collection. They’d been the best of friends then.

“So you hoping to get some money, then?” Derrick asked, a flicker of paranoia flickering within those pale blue eyes.

“Nah.” Isaac drawled. “Your inheritance is safe, Derrick.” Isaac continued as Derrick walked behind the desk, seemingly ignoring Isaac’s answer, to readjust the picture Isaac had picked up. Perfection.

It took a moment for Isaac’s admission to land upon his brother’s ears. “Then…” Derrick gave a forced chuckle as if it were obvious everyone was coming to the reading for the same reason. “Then why the hell are you here?”

“Someone asked me to come.” Isaac spoke while shifting his eyes to the various things which decorated and dominated his brother’s office. He didn’t dare mention Josie’s name and put a match to this powder keg. Isaac didn’t care about the will; he wouldn’t have even been here if not for Josie’s message and he wouldn’t allow her to face the jackals alone.

“Yeah…that must have been Dixon’s sentimentality cause, to be honest, I don’t think you’re mentioned in the will.”

Isaac felt an annoyed tick begin along the line of his jaw as Derrick once again assumed he’d come for the will. “I ain’t here for his damn money, Derrick.” That drawl that was usually slow as molasses taking on the sharpness of one his knives as he hurled the words at his brother.

Derrick chuckled as Isaac’s hackles rose. “If I had a dollar for every time I heard somebody say something like that at a reading I’d be a rich man.” Derrick gave a shake of his head as he adjusted his red and white striped tie. “Go ahead and sit down, Isaac. Mama and Susannah will be here in a little bit.”

“Well hopefully all your dreams’ll be reality after today, Derrick.” Isaac answered smartly as hands squeezed into fists within his pockets. He was already feeling caged in. That low buzz of artificial light already bringing on the dull ache of discomfort behind his eyes.

The uncomfortable silence was punctuated by the ticking of an old stand up grandfather clock in the corner of the office, its metronome tick-tock creating a predictable rhythm to the silence. “Guess you were too busy sword swallowing or whatever with that carnival to come to the funeral?”

“Carnival is shut down for the winter.” Not bothering to correct his brother as to the fact that he threw knives on stage. It wouldn’t have mattered; Derrick had a knack for only remembering things which were important to Derrick. “Sides…I doubt I’d have been invited anyway.” Placing that unsettling gaze of gray on his brother. He could almost hear Derrick’s thoughts swing from one vine of paranoia to the next.

“A little advice?” Rhetorically asked without giving Isaac a chance to answer. It was something their father had done constantly and still grated on Isaac’s nerves; threatened to snuff out that little fraternal ember. “Don’t go round mentioning that to too many people. Folks round here--they never understood why you just took off.”

“Just another Wheeler family secret then.” Isaac answered, his tone as dry as tinder. Truth being that he didn’t really care for the opinion of others. It’d driven his parents crazy. Down here gossip was as strong an export as cotton or peaches and family names and pride still went a long way in the Deep South. Wasn’t too long ago that such things were worth killing and dying for.

“Woulda been nice for Mama.” Derrick answered while still maintaining that relaxed and reclined posture. “Course you’ve never cared much for this family have you?”

“Mm. Lotsa things woulda been nice I’m sure.” Isaac spoke with certain vagueness, leaning forward to move a small model train back and forth with just an index finger along Derrick’s desk. “Far as carin goes…” Isaac paused to lift shoulders in a shrug. “I think even you can admit the compassion trait missed almost all the Wheelers.”

All but one.

For a moment his mind drifted back to the night he’d heard a terrible fight break out between his mother and father. He’d told Derrick to stay put and crept downstairs amidst the singing sounds of cicadas to listen with an ear pressed to the parlor door. He heard his mother ranting at his father about some other woman…about a daughter he had in France. He’d heard the clinking of ice in his father’s scotch glass in the silence of such a revelation and then his father’s booming voice.

He’d been maybe nine or ten that night…the night he’d learned about Josie. He must have made a noise since his father had yanked the door open so fast Isaac fell back on the floor in surprise. He realized later he’d merely been a convenient target to project their emotions upon. Maybe things would’ve been different if he hadn’t told Derrick to stay in his bed. If they’d learned about their father’s weaknesses together. Isaac finally let the train engine come to a stop, ignoring the little tickle to let go. Turning the other cheek just made it easier to get bloody.

The clock continued to tick its way through that silence again. Counting the seconds as years’ worth of dislike and resentment flowed into the gulf between the brothers. Whatever little ember of brotherly love which might have existed between the two had been snuffed out years ago by the pile of ash which was the carefully protected Wheeler family dysfunction.

“Is that it?” Derrick finally spoke, daring to lift his eyes to his older brother’s again. Derrick tried desperately to regain the leading role in the conversation. He’d never divined how easily Isaac could seize that power, how unnerving he really was. “You always were an odd duck Isaac…no one ever understood why you left. Least of all me.” If Derrick caught the veiled reference to Josie as the one Wheeler with compassion he gave no indication. It was always all about Derrick anyway.

And there it was…a certain admission though Derrick would never concede the point. Truth of the matter was that Isaac had agonized about leaving his brother behind. But Derrick was the softer of the two then and he wouldn’t have been able to handle it. The train engine was moving again, pulled off its little track to tap against the picture frame Isaac had been holding earlier, nudging it closer to his brother with each tap. “You wanna know the truth, Derrick? I almost…”

“Well some things never change.” A feminine voice broke through what seemed to be the beginnings of another Wheeler brother brawl. “For a second there I thought the two of you were back in the yard fightin over who was picking a smaller switch.” Susannah Wheeler smiled her mother’s smile at her two brothers, thin and unamused.

“Susannah.” Isaac greeted, grateful for the break in tension while Derrick just shook his head in exasperation. Isaac had never been one for pretense, for saying one thing while meaning another. He’d choked on enough hypocrisy growing up to fill two life times.

“Long time no see big brother.” Susannah answered, a sly look coupled to her Cheshire cat smile. She’d always been the instigator growing up. She had an eye for manipulation and being the only girl and the youngest to boot meant her fingers were crowded with a multitude of people wrapped around them.

“Mama’ll be along in a minute. Feel good to be home again, big brother?” Susannah asked with a knowing look on her face. Thinly veiled amusement at Isaac’s rigid discomfort as she weaved through several chairs set up in Derrick’s office for the reading. A baby viper in training waiting for the right time to strike, she’d learned well at her Mother’s side. She paused to lean up to give Isaac a kiss on the cheek.

“S’just fine Susannah.” Answered as he lowered to receive the kiss. She had never done a thing without clearly defined intent. She’d left not too long after Isaac. Some design school up north though whereas Isaac had wanted out, Susannah had just wanted the checks to come in the mail.

“You were never a good liar, Isaac.” Susannah smiled. “No amount of time’s ever going to change that either.”

“I guess I jus’ never acquired your charm for it, Susannah.” Isaac drawled, negotiating this nest of resentment with a practiced ease. Wasn’t too different at the carnival…everyone with their own loyalties and curiosities, always prying into other people’s lives. But there was a certain sheen of sadness hidden behind that gray curtain. There was a time when Susannah had cared for nothing more than chasing dandelions and drawing out her imagination in Crayola’s waxy rainbows. There’d been a certain kindred quality between the two growing up. Isaac protective of his sister…both of them so clearly needing to find a way out. Isaac’s had been permanent. Susannah had never been able to break free of that finer things kind of need.

“Mm…” Susannah chuckled at her brother’s response. “True. But then again, you never had to. You weren’t around when things got bad.”

“What’s true Susannah?” Caroline Wheeler’s voice sounding from the door as she came into the office.

Isaac turned, those thunderstorm colored eyes roaming across the space to see his mother. She was older, obviously, but still carried herself with the style of a southern matriarch. She’d kept up with the style, fashioned herself into a woman who had managed to hang onto the echoes of youthful beauty.

“Mama.” Isaac answered her question with the name he’d always called her. Old habits.

“So the prodigal son returns. Would've been nice if you had shown for the funeral. What brings you back now?” Caroline spoke without turning to face her eldest son. Her eldest son who’d never quite lived up to lofty standards, and, in failing to do so, made it impossible for her to forgive.

“What’s true Susannah?” His mother asked again as she and Susannah found their place in similar chairs alongside Isaac’s. “That your brother abandoned his family and his place in it for a dirty tent and a rail car carnival?” Such a thing, when she’d heard about it through the rumor mill, had mortified her for days. How could she ever show her face at brunch at the country club again? Reputations had to be kept, couldn’t let the gossip mongers sink their teeth into the family. Pretenses were kept so pride could reign over destroyed hearts.

Isaac remained still, unsure of how the manic-depressive, Jekyll-Hyde cycle of his mother would continue to play itself out. Like a prey animal when it knew a predator was hunting it, Isaac did not move for fear of drawing his mother’s attention. It’d been the same when he was a child…slinking just out of his mother’s view when she was drinking heavily because his father was away on business and the whole house knew what happened when Daddy was away on business.

"Like I was tellin’ Derrick, Mama…I came back cause I was asked to.” Eyes and words leaving a smarting and silent Susannah to move back to his mother. “I said good bye a long time ago.”

“Oh I know you did. With all the bluster of a buck with his first set of horns.” Caroline spoke with such venom, took pleasure in seeing Isaac wince at the mention of the buck. He’d been a constant source of embarrassment for the family. Working in some carnival, wasting the potential that she had tried to mold and forcing her to come up with story after story to explain his absence while at brunch with her society friends or at church.

“Mrs. Wheeler--so good to see you.” Royce Dixon’s gravelly voice sounded from behind as he walked in with a stack of paper tucked beneath one arm and unknowingly kept Isaac from the wolves. “Susannah…Derrick…” Making the rounds of greetings until his eyes fell upon Isaac. “Hello son…it’s been a long time. Too long.” A certain gentleness there that spoke of many known secrets.

“Mr. Dixon.” Isaac said, partially standing to shake the elderly man’s hand while gently clutching his wrist with the other. “It has been. How’s Sophia?” Inquiring about his daughter. Isaac had taken her to the senior prom years ago.

“She’s good…she’s very good. Married and living up in Atlanta.” Royce answered with a grandfatherly smile for Isaac. “Shall we?” Turning to the rest of the family.

“Yes.” Caroline said curtly while tugging down at her skirt. She was still rankled by Isaac’s words for when he had left it meant that her influence had lessened on her other two children and that was something she’d never forgive her eldest for.

Royce gladly took Derrick’s offered chair as the second born son moved around the desk to sit on Isaac’s other side, placing him in the middle. It took a moment for the elder Royce to settle himself, spotted fingers tugged at the edges of his tweed coat before moving to adjust the glasses which covered cloudy eyes though they still carried a spark of keen intelligence despite their advanced age.

“Well…we all know why we’re here. Jonathan was a good friend and partner. I remember like yesterday when we began this firm out of nothing but a few boxes and an office in a strip mall. Jonathan’s passing was as sudden as it was sad. I think it should remind us all how precious life is…and how suddenly it can be taken away.” Royce’s eyes lingered on Isaac for a moment longer.

“The last will and testimony of Jonathan Wheeler.” Royce began; he read the words slowly while holding the paper with both hands. “This was recently redone…dated and notarized just last week.”

“What?” Susannah and Derrick asked simultaneously.

“There must be some mistake.” Caroline said as Royce looked up from the paper, bald pate shining as the sun slowly set behind him. “Jonathan and I last discussed our wills several years ago.”

“It would seem he had other plans, Caroline. I’ve always been his executor, but this is just as surprising to me as you, I assure you.” An easy lie as his eyes briefly flicked to Isaac again. “It was properly notarized and signed, lodged with the court and everything. He must have done this alone.”

“Whatever.” A wave of Caroline’s heavily ringed hand. “Go on, please.”

Royce cleared his throat and adjusted his bow tie before he found his place in the will. “I, Jonathan Wheeler, of sound body and mind, do hereby establish my last will and testament. To my beloved wife whom I have forever loved, honored and cherished, I leave our family home, its contents and the family lands to be cared for by her until a time of her choosing.”

Caroline nodded regally as Royce read her part of the will. Isaac noted she even took the part about being beloved and cherished in stride. Maybe all the affairs didn’t matter as long as she was number one, his wife in public if not in private?

“To my daughter, Susannah, I leave enough funds, to be supervised by the executor, to finish her schooling in New York and then establish a two year account not to exceed one hundred thousand dollars a year. After said two years, I give Susannah full rights and ownership of the apartment in Atlanta, Georgia.”

“To my son, Derrick, I gladly leave you the firm, to be supervised by Royce Dixon as senior partner until he or other such qualified individuals deem you ready to take full, senior partnership rights. In addition I also leave the beach house on Tybee Island and its contents to Derrick.”

Isaac silently watched as the will was read, his father’s ill-gotten gains divvied up between wife and children. Watched as Derrick’s face split into a proud grin at hearing he would someday get the firm and the beach house, watched as his sister’s face hardened at only being given free schooling and a total of two hundred thousand dollars along with a downtown apartment.

“To my first born and treasured son, Isaac.” Royce read while opening a second folder. “I leave to you and you alone, my legacy so that it might become your future. The future you were always meant, but never knew, to have.” Royce paused as he pulled a sealed envelope from the folder and leaned across the desk to hand it to Isaac. “I also leave the contents of this sealed envelope to you as well. Gone may you have been, but you were never forgotten.”

Isaac pushed back into his chair, a grip so strong upon the arms that knuckles flashed with bone whiteness. He recoiled from that offered letter as if the envelope was poisoned, so much so that he forced Royce to set it down on the edge of the desk. Just when he had felt so much relief…so much freedom. How like his father to play one last trick on him. And to do it from the grave where it would be permanent, impossible to undo or forget. His legacy? That was the last thing Isaac could ever want in a hundred lifetimes. It threatened to swallow him, to drag him down to the deepest blackness of despair and loathing. He finally grabbed at the envelope, shoved it in a pocket so it would be out of sight. He would burn it.

Let go.

“What’s in the letter?” Derrick asked, as shocked as the rest at his father’s kind words for Isaac. He had been acutely aware his father had said no such things about him.

“That is for Isaac to disclose, if he wishes.” Royce said, a certain sadness tinging his words as he watched Isaac’s reactions. He of all people knew the burden that had been placed on Isaac both before and now. Knew of his relationship with his father…had seen the elder Wheeler struggle with it for years. But Royce also knew better than anyone save Jonathan the importance of Isaac taking up that legacy.

“And…” Royce paused as he turned back to the will. “Hmm…” He glanced up and looked around the room. “The will mentions a Josette Wheeler. Is she a family member as well?” Royce expressed genuine ignorance as to the identity of Josie. Some secrets were kept even from him and the others.

“Excuse me?” Caroline asked, her voice frosted with the iciest of chills.

“You’re kidding?” Derrick asked with a disbelieving look across Isaac to his mother and sister.

“Or lying.” Susannah added, still smarting over the smallest share of the will. She hadn’t even stopped to think about what Isaac had gotten. Not to mention that Josie had been a threat to the carefully constructed world of Princess Susannah.

“Yes…” Royce said, taken aback by the reaction. “It says here, to Josette Wheeler, my Josie...a man may seek absolution for many sins, however when it came time to confess mine, I would apologize for all of them save one. I have loved you from the moment you entered this world and it is to you who I leave the remainder of my estate to.”

“Oh I do not think so. She is not part of this family Royce. Erase that…tear it up. I don’t care what you have to do but that little bastard will not inherit from my family.” His mother hissed, fists threatening to rip her designer purse in two as those words stabbed at her.

There was a quiet clearing of one’s throat behind them, everyone turning around while Royce looked up from the desk to see an alabaster skinned brunette standing nervously in the door. Before she could say anything Caroline Wheeler was screeching like a banshee let loose within the office.

“No…no…NO! How dare you. How dare you come here. You product of a *** whore. How dare you call yourself a Wheeler?”

“Mrs. Wheeler…” Royce said, flabbergasted as he stood behind the desk.

“Oh you played him just right didn’t you? Got all of our money because he ****** your little whore of a mother! Oh how like you Jonathan…one last joke from beyond the grave and it’s in the form of this little strumpet…”

Isaac was shocked by his mother’s sudden outburst, the echoes of it spilling down the halls to make a very private matter a very public disaster. Already heads were lifting from desks and turning in the direction of the office. Isaac tried to reach out to grab his mother, the southern matriarch transforming like some monster at the end of a fairy tale. Caroline wrenched herself free to stand up and wheel around on Josie.

“You will get nothing. Do you hear me? Noth…ing!”

Everyone was standing now, Susannah and Derrick coalescing behind their mother, their faces displaying the rage and shame their mother’s words gave voice to.

“You got some nerve showing up here.” Derrick said with an almost lethal calm as he stepped towards Josie.

Josie recoiled back into the hall, flushed and embarrassed and repelled by the tone in Derrick’s voice. The cold hatred washed over her like ice water and she soon bumped into the wall behind her, sending a picture frame askew before she looked left and right as she noticed the eyes of the entire firm on her.
“Please…I…I…” Josie stammered. “I was just told to be here…I didn’t mean to. He was my Father.” Spoken through a sheen of tears before they were wiped away abruptly.

Caroline laughed and practically spit out her next words. "He was you and your Mother's meal ticket. Nothing more. You are a blight on this family’s name. That’s all you are. You’re a ******* cancer…”
Caroline screamed.

“And like a cancer, you need to be cut out.” Derrick’s voice was dangerously low as he closed his hand around Josette’s arm hard enough to bruise, wanting nothing more but to quite literally throw her out of his Father’s firm onto the street where her kind of trash belonged.

Isaac reacted then, hearing his mother call her a cancer and then his brother saying so callously that she should be cut out. He didn’t know if they knew about her condition…he didn’t care. Something just broke within him at hearing them talk about her like that. And when asked about it later he’d honestly say he had no memory. Isaac surged forward, collided into his brother while the momentum sent both Wheeler brothers crashing into the book shelves.

Derrick was bigger, thicker than Isaac but he had no chance against the decade plus rage which fueled Isaac in that particular moment. Isaac grabbed him by that four hundred dollar tie and broke his jaw with a single closed fisted slug. They’d gotten into rows in the past but nothing could compare to the amount of violence Isaac was bent on delivering.

Derrick slumped down to the ground as Isaac hit him again for good measure. Josie screamed Isaac’s name and Caroline screamed for Derrick’s safety while Susannah, the closest, stood in detached, numbed silence.

Isaac pulled the switchblade he always carried from a pocket. “Those’ll be the last words spilled from your lyin’, lawyer mouth.” Isaac squeezed Derrick’s jaw that he had broken so hard if only to be able to make it easier for him to cut out the tongue out.

Josie moved forward as if approaching a wounded animal in a rage and closed her hand around Isaac’s arm, her tone eerily calm though she was still trembling and clearly shaken. “Isaac don’t. I couldn’t bear it if they locked you up again. Please. For me?”

Isaac was still in a haze of rage, but Josie’s hand seemed to pierce through the worst of it enough to clear his vision. He breathed deeply, the blade held inches from his brother’s face before he squeezed his jaw painfully to wrench it to the side so he faced Josie. “Take a good long look Derrick. I want you to remember that face. Because the only reason you’re still breathin’ is because our sister asked me to stop.”

He folded the blade closed and dropped it in his pocket as he righted himself again. He looked around at the aftermath of the brawl. Royce stood in silent shock as he stared back at Isaac,

“Are you happy now Isaac? Are you happy that you came back to ruin us just one more time?” Caroline asked as Isaac unclenched his fist…it ached with the pain of several broken bones.

Isaac ignored his mother’s taunts. He’d grown immune to them over the years. He brushed by her, instead, to gently collect Josie with surprising tenderness.

“C’mon now…” Taking her and holding her against him. “Ain’t nothin’ worth stayin’ here for.”
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Unintended Consequences
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 25, 2014 11:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“We are all born believing. A man bears beliefs as a tree bears apples.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


New Orleans, The City That Care Forgot, teemed with a plethora of debauched possibilities. Long a den of vice and iniquity, the city had a charm all its own if one would but pull back the veneer of beads and parades. Owning a long and storied history of loose morals, the beating heart of this place was undoubtedly the Vieux Carré, the French Quarter.

The Hedonist languidly strolled along one of the narrow streets within the Quarter, undoubtedly attracted to the place for its open and uncaring embrace of miscreants and licentiousness. Desires blunted ever since He took her into his light, the Hedonist had sought distraction while he worked out how to find her once more. He knew the carnival would make its swing to the south soon. He would wait like a crocodile in the Nile just beneath the surface for her to come to him.

Teems of humanity flowed like a river on either side of the centuries old cobble-stoned street seeking to purposefully lower their inhibitions through drink and drug. Such a place practically did his work for him. The rhythmic tapping of his cane kept the beat like a metronome, deciphering the Morse code messages of desire and lusts such a place barely contained. The raucous sound of a live jazz band spilled out from a nearby bar, its improvised notes shooting its own rhythmic beat into the veins of those who listened…the Quarter’s very own drug of choice.

That leonine gaze prowled about, lazy like a great cat in afternoon heat, for amusement. Unlike the multitudes around him, the Hedonist was not in search of alcoholic distraction. His drink of choice was far superior to anything which came from grain or barley, his preferred intoxicant was temptation. The night was sweltering, humid and swollen with unrestrained wantonness; just begging for a pin prick to unleash all its energy like a sudden and powerful storm of salacity.

The Scorpion slowed his leisurely stroll to a stop at an intersection, chartreuse colored eyes glancing to and fro…each direction pregnant with opportunity and desire. The flood of flesh continued unabated around him, the dizzying attractions and colors an opiate for those seeking distractions from the mundane.

“We should go to this bar down here...”

“Did you see that girl? I’d have given her all my beads just for another..."

"I have the answer you seek. I see it here in the bones.”

The passing snippets of conversation added to the buzz, to the vibration of possibility all about him. He watched as two law officials on horseback played Little Dutch Boy, a smooth lined sneer for their vain attempt to hold back the spate of desires. Dismissing them, his attentions finally settled on an uneven line of street vendors and would be soothsayers. Each had set up shop for the night, preying on the desire to know the future, the need to know if he or she truly loved them.

The Hedonist crossed the street in their direction, intrigued by those who offered a definite snapshot of an indefinite world. Various groups clustered around these men and women like moths to a flame. One table was occupied by a woman, a snow globe ornament containing a wolf whom she kept indicating as her special friend. Another, a dark skinned man claiming island heritage, was intimating secrets of coming sickness to a worried looking elderly woman. Each table had gathered a crowd of onlookers and participants…all but one.

That golden green smear of color settled on the one with no crowd interest, the lack there of drawing the Hedonist’s. He sat at the end of the line, the slender figure reclining with no potential customers in sight. The man’s face had been meticulously covered with a mask in the shape of a skull, the jaw and teeth exposed in a glistening white which had the sheen of wetness about it, the eye sockets empty and black as they hid the true eyes behind, the temple and brow decorative with gold and artistic swirls of silvery filigree.

He stopped opposite the seated man, the two merely staring at one another for a long moment before the masked figure broke the silence and spoke first,

“Do you wish to know?” The baritone voice a cocktail of rich tones spiked with just a hint of Creole patois.

“What knowledge do you offer?” Sensing that the masked figure was no mere street vendor, the Hedonist canted his head to the side, clearly amused by the man’s opening salvo.

“Everything.” The answer came as the figure leaned forward to rest his elbows on the table before him, his right hand twisting at the wrist to present his palm facing upwards. “Nothing.” The gesture was mirrored with his left hand.

“What do you call yourself Soothsayer? And why wear the mask?” The Hedonist’s gaze shifted away from the skull like mask to the various trinkets and items which decorated the table, which hung from its edges. A ubiquitous voodoo doll hung directly next to a silver Christian crucifix, a Muslim crescent turned on its golden chain in a slow breeze to clink against a Star of David and so on; the man seemingly having every religious icon on display.

“You seek a way in.” The figure answered, easing a wooden bowl towards him, a clear indication that knowledge towards such a path would come at a price.

The Scorpion gave a slow forming smile, generous lips curving upwards to cleave proud lines through aristocratic features. Where there was esurience there was also avarice. “So I see. Everything has its price, no?" Dropping several coins into the bowl.

“No, the trouble is you don't see and that is what is disturbing you. For our purposes here, you may call me La Roque.” The masked figure rumbled. “We all have masks do we not? Not merely the physical such as this.” Lifting a hand to lightly touch the cheek of the skull with a certain reverence, but refusing to elaborate further at the moment.

“A contradictory collection, La Roque.” The Hedonist observed, his words in reference to the eclectic assortment of iconography, willing to believe the reason for the mask was nothing more than street vendor style. “Which do you think has the true power?” A far more important matter.

“All.” La Roque seemed to smile beneath his mask, the muscles of his tattooed neck shifting as he lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “...And None. They are as contradictory as they are complimentary." A pause as he gave a distracted wave behind him. "They are, for all intents and purposes, merely ornaments and symbols for those who wish to pick their particular poison. For that is what all beliefs are. At once poison and panacea." He raised his palms, alternating them up and down as if they were balancing scales. "A lovely paradox, no?"

The Hedonist’s fingers were drawn to the crucifix, lightly lifting it to inspect its craftsman ship, noting the small details of the nailed figure upon it. “Is that so?” Releasing the cross from his touch, he returned that leonine gaze to the seated man.

“The power comes not from the icons, not from the stories, but from the belief in them. ” The answer coming only after the cross had been released. “Take the doll for instance.” The figure reached forward to pluck the voodoo doll up from the table. “Tell me. Do you feel pain when I stick it?” A hand took a long, slender needle, a crimson feather on its end, and struck the doll in the midsection.

The Hedonist wore a smirk as La Roque twisted the needle through the doll’s midsection until its gleaming point erupted from its back. A chartreuse glance down his chest and abdomen before looking back into the hollow eyes of the mask. “No.”

“No. Because you choose not to believe. And yet so many minds across the world, more than you might imagine, believe that a simple woven doll of burlap and buttons can inflict pain and suffering to another. Another soul who has bought into a belief that such a thing is possible might crumple up in agony simply for believing they are vulnerable to such an attack, and so they pay for protection. It is the same with voodoo kings and queens, acolytes and priests with their rituals, sacrifices, blood magic, black magic, and every other type of magic they've conjured up to create the ultimate illusion for control; Fear. It is a worthless paradigm until it is given power through belief. But..." A raise of a shoulder.

"They choose to believe the illusion." A soft chuckle. "They literally create their own demons and then seek me for protection and wards from them. It is an amusing sort of irony, I suppose. The trick and the challenge is to get them to buy in."

The Scorpion gave a nod towards the more crowded tables. “Perhaps that is why you are vacant with an empty bowl, La Roque.” The Hedonist smiled a lascivious smile. “Because you merely offer an illusion, when they seek the real thing.” Prurient prose offering a contradiction to the street vendor’s words; a contradiction far more in line with his own view.

La Roque sat in silence for a long moment, those black vacant eyes studied the Scorpion. There was great energy roiling from this one’s frame, he could almost see it like heat wafting upwards off asphalt. Such power was tempting. Especially to one such as La Roque. This piper had many mice trailing behind him with his tune. “My table is vacant because I have been waiting for you. You can't get someone to buy in, can you? Well, I will help you weave the illusion you seek. And then we will see if you still seek your—distractions.”
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Isaac Wheeler
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 9:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There was a belch of black smoke as the flatbed truck found its gear and lurched forward. The driver had one hand out the window, waving it in a circle as if urging the big rig on with sheer willpower. After a moment or two of indecision the engine give a growl and sent up another plume of smoke and the truck lumbered forward, its precious cargo, the Gravitron, tied securely down on the bed.

Isaac strolled alongside Boomer as the Carnival slowly came to life around him. Every now and then Benny would get an idea stuck in his craw about a winter swing through some of the southern states to try and squeeze a few more bucks out of the rubes. Ordinarily a lot of the Carnies bitched and moaned about such a trip…the money was rarely good, the nights were cold and slow, but this was one trip Isaac didn’t mind.

He and Boomer walked alongside the convoy of trucks stuck in idle, each one waiting for their assigned load. The riders were all contract guys…hired to load and move the Crossroads to their next intersection but weren’t a part of the Carnival and so Isaac paid them little attention.

“Easy now Boz mon…” Isaac heard the familiar island breeze of an accent as he came around the back of one of the trucks, ignoring the hot beat of exhaust as it pumped across his legs. “Be careful wit ma baybee now…” Andre was upon the side of the crane, dreadlocks held in place by a sweat stained bandana.

“I hear ya... I hear ya. Keep yer hair on.” Grizzled and scarred, Boz clenched a cigar between his teeth as he worked the multiple handles of the cane, swung it out to the side where a team of roughies waited to catch the hook and tie it off so Andre’s baby, also known as the Zipper, could be lifted and placed on the next waiting truck.

“You boys on schedule?” Isaac nearly shouted over the din of the crane, that antebellum accent pulling at the words, stretching out the syllables. Thunderstorm of gray took a quick note of the bustling activity all around. Trucks moved about the grassy lot, teams of men and women moved like ants in a kicked over mound as they all worked to get their things packed and ready. The Carnival stored all its big items (rides, tents, attractions and the like) in several large warehouses during the off season. It meant a little more rent but protected everything from the weather and, in the long run, saved money.

“Isaac mon,” Andre answered with a flash of pearly white as he glanced over his shoulder and down at the slender knife thrower. “Whad you be doin out 'ere wit us ride jocks, eh?” Andre turning back to ensure Boz was indeed being careful with his baby before turning back to Isaac.

“Benny.” Isaac answered in a flat tone while watching the roughies loop several strands of cable around the massive crane hook. It was clear that Isaac was annoyed for a variety of reasons which merely had Andre nodding and laughing.

“You don need ta be sayin anymore Isaac mon. Me knownin all wit dat one word. You tell da boss mon dat me an' Boz be right on schedule.” Andre assured Isaac, knowing Benny had stuck Isaac with the job because the knife thrower had been tardy in showing up for the pack up.

Isaac gave a two fingered salute before lifting the clipboard he’d been carrying to scribble down which ride Boz and Andre were loading and the time. Truth be told Isaac didn’t care one way or another; he’d have pencil whipped the time just to keep Benny off everyone’s back. Isaac might struggle to play nice with others,but he definitely knew which side of the management line he was on.

“C’mon boy.” Isaac drawled, drawing Boomer’s attention away from the group working on the Zipper. Isaac steered them both away from the crane, the grind of the engine rising as Isaac turned away. Inwardly, the showman would be glad to get on the road and get to their destination. Sounds of feminine protest and tears still echoed around his ears when he paused to give it thought. Putting Josie on that flight back to France had been the second hardest thing he’d ever done but it had been silly to think that she would have enjoyed herself out here on the road. Sleeping in a new place every few nights, up at dawn, late nights, the works. She belonged back in France with her mother and her doctors. Not out roughing it with a bunch of showmen and carnies. Sooner they got on the road, sooner he could put some real distance between that and that acrid taste he got in his mouth whenever he thought about how his sister’s face had look when he flat out refused her.

“What you lookin at?” Spoken for Boomer as the mutt just stared up at Isaac and gave a low woof of diapproval. “What? You too?” Feeling that Boomer’s look was more than a little accusatory. “It ain’t a good place for her.” Isaac fell short, not wanting to speak about her condition aloud. It’d been a good visit despite how it had started. The two of them just walking around old Savannah like old times. The world had a rare way of feeling right when he and Josie were together, but Isaac wouldn’t put that selfish desire ahead of her well-being--so it’d been a plane back to France.

“Hey Isaac!” The shout coming from behind the knife thrower had the slender showman tensing. “Hey Isaac…wait up man.” Mouse shouted again as he hurried to catch up. “Didn’t think we’d see you man. Last we heard you were up on Idaho or something.” Mouse said breathlessly as he caught up with Isaac amidst a maze of crates stacked taller than both men combined.

“Montana.” Isaac corrected as he tucked his pencil behind an ear and glanced down at his wristwatch. He settled that cool thunderstorm of a gaze on Mouse and waited in silence for the loquacious dunk bozo to keep rattling out words like a slot machine does coins.

“Huh. That’s cool. Say, you seen Fia anywhere?” Mouse asked with a fearful look on his face…as if he was hoping Isaac hadn’t seen her.

“Not since Savannah.” Isaac drawled, fair brow arching in question for the look Mouse had. “Why you lookin for her?” Aware of the sweet scent of pine and sawdust on the air as a breeze picked up upwind of all the crates.

“Savannah?” Confused, Mouse grabbed at the back of his neck as Isaac settled those heavy eyes on him. “You two ah..."Mouse scissored his two index and middle fingers back and forth.

Isaac crossed his arms over his chest as Mouse began to insinuate.
“Right. Not my business." Didn't matter anyway. Dixie would dig up that bit of dirt in no time. " I was looking for her cause some of the boys wanna start loading her carousel onto the flatbeds and I know how she is about anyone touching her ride so I just wanted to clear it from her before anyone starts loading the crates because you know how she can get. I mean if there’s one scratch anywhere, she’d probably burn the whole place down and I…”

Isaac exhaled slowly as Mouse’s mouth ran without interruption. He actually found himself watching how Mouse talked, curious to see if the champion of the dunk tank ever took a breath.

“You know how she can be. Just Whooof…up in flames. Crazy right? Isaac?”

“No.” Isaack answered as Mouse began to realize Isaac had switched off whatever channel he’d been broadcasting nonstop on. “I haven’t seen her. Though I’d tell the roughies ta jus leave her ride alone. We ain’t got the time to be packin' rides and diggin' graves at the same time.”

“Right…right…totally…totally my thoughts too.” Mouse replied as he unclipped a walkie talkie from a pocket of his cargo pants. “Hey uh…let’s just leave the carousel as is boys. Switch over to swings alright?”

”But you said to start on the carousel, I thought we were…” Came the crackling reply over the walkie before Mouse quickly switched off the radio and prevented the roughies from further confirming they were already working on the carousel.

“Our secret?” Mouse hedged.

“Your funeral.” Isaac answered and began to turn away from the soon to be retired dunk bozo.

He’d spoken the truth about not seeing Fia since Savannah. She’d shown up after talking to him on the phone. That distant voice sounding at once so close and so far away. She’d gone with him and Josie to Bonaventure cemetery to visit Jonathan Wheeler’s grave. Josie had wanted to go to pay her last respects. Isaac had gone because he couldn’t tell her no…not about that.

The letter--his father’s letter--had felt like lead in his pocket. Pulling him down like in his dreams so he’d given it to Fia when his lighter refused to spark. Gave her the letter with a gesture that said do your thing.

And just like that, he’d let go.

She’d been at the airport with him as well and bore witness to that heart wrenching argument of tears versus stoicism. Isaac wasn’t sure how Fia had felt about the whole thing--course he hadn’t asked either. Maybe he didn't want to know what she thought. She’d have her opinions no doubt, but what she’d witnessed was family--something Isaac was mighty private about. Didn’t matter that it had gone down in a crowded airport terminal. Even if Isaac was sure some the TSA boys were on the verge of breaking it up. Didn’t matter. They’d agreed to meet back up at the Carnival and that had been it.

“You hear about the new guy Benny hired?” Mouse was asking, falling into step alongside Isaac and Boomer as the three negotiated the crate maze.

Nah.” Isaac answered, aware Mouse was trying to wiggle himself out of his troubles by trying to get in good with him, trying to share some gossip in hopes he’d put in a word for him with Fia.

“Some guy he met down in New Orleans. Supposed to meet us in Mobile. Said he’s some kind of illusionist or something.” Mouse continued on, the two of them approaching a four way path amidst the crates which ran towards several of the warehouses. “

“Not sure I really care,” Isaac turning and interrupting Mouse for the last time. He’d been through a lot in the last few days and was quickly red lining the extreme edge of his patience. As he spoke, Boomer lifted his head and trotted off behind Isaac, stump of a tail wagging happily.

“Wow." Mouse whistled. "Who’s the skirt eh? This one of your new assistants? Is it just me or are they gettin' younger?” Mouse interrupted, mouth hanging open just a bit as he stared behind Isaac.

“What?” Isaac turned to glance over his shoulder to see his sister standing there, multiple bags of luggage stacked around her with Boomer running excitedly around her feet. She was supposed to be on a plane. She was supposed to be halfway over the god damn Atlantic right now.

“Aw hell…”
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