Friday, April 17, 2015

Six Days – Chapter Four - Numbers Bamidbar

I looked down at Mary beneath me and being jaded helps in times like these. I didn’t allow myself the luxury of being confused, an obvious reflex action of those that don’t want to believe what is happening to them. I know what is happening to me and even though I hate it happening to me, it is actually happening to me. I also know more about Mary in this time than I had known before I had jumped back in time. My mind was able to process this quickly given the circumstances and I maintained my composure as I looked down at her and adjusted my knees to hold her down to the floor. She seemed none too happy about what was happening and let me tell you she seemed none too frail for a woman her age too.

My mind whirled around in circles as I placed my knees on top of Mary’s arms and she hissed and spit at me. Her snake like qualities didn’t end there either since she was squirming back and forth like one. I finally reached down and grasped her around the throat, which snapped her into a semi catatonic state. I can only assume as I look back on it all that my aggressiveness must have shocked her, since at the beginning of this particular event in my time span she was under the impression that she had the upper hand, or at least the element of surprise. I timidly walked around the subject before I left here and now that I have come back I can only imagine that I am a different person and now she is dealing with that reality. As I looked at her again I realized that she had passed out, but that doesn’t mean I relinquished any of the advantage I had at this point either.

To say that I was confused would be an understatement, even if I was a lot less confused than I should have been. Mary was truly unconscious on the floor so I didn’t exactly have to explain it to her, and there’s a good chance that she didn’t want my explanations anyway. I didn’t know what to do next but I was very happy to have a bit of a break from trying to hold down the angry serpent. For the record I am not merely being metaphoric, I was thinking about snakes and serpents the entire time I was wrestling with her. As biblical a reference as it is my mind was expanding at such a fevered pitch from the moment I had met Lou to the moment I write this book, that along the way I think many would see the growth if they were to be in my presence through it all. This is one of those situations where I look back and see it so clearly, but at the time it was just evolution.

Now where was I? Oh yes I was on the floor sitting on the chest of a woman twice my age who was terrifyingly strong when she wasn’t passed out. I didn’t know the exact circumstances of why I had tackled her but my life was confusing enough now a days. That gap between when I left and when I came back was what I was trying to fill in. She had pushed me over on her way out the door and if I remember it correctly I was on my way to the floor before I wound up in the street out front of the diner where I had gone after Darius. Somehow that had changed to be myself tackling Mary, and this means that somewhere between walking down the road with Lou, and being attacked by Darius, I had changed this scenario around too. That was when my mind wandered to what Lou had said before I taunted Darius to begin with.

Another mind expansion was upon me as I realized that Darius attempting to kill me had set up the jumps in time, and Lou must have realized that before me and Darius. Now that I know it, you would imagine that Darius knows it as well. I am after all the mortal in all of this. I tried desperately to get my mind back into the moment I was in because I didn’t know how much longer of a resting period I was going to get before Mary came back, full force and more than I could deal with. I knew there was a piece of paper involved in all of this, and coincidentally there always seems to be a piece of paper involved in all of this. I looked in both of Mary’s hands since they had both fallen open after she had passed out, and there was no paper to be seen. Another thing that had changed about this scene and unlike the ones that would have been changed by me this one wasn’t.

Now I was trying hard to see what else had changed and if it is relevant to all of this. As I played out the original scene in my mind there was a lot of things that were out of place and I found quite a few unfortunately. One of them completely clashed with my need to be maternal and protect Jake from all of this. Somewhere in the back of my head I must have wanted to just assume that the whole ordeal as it involved Jake scaring the living daylights out of Mary had gone away. I knew this was too easy, and I also had to assume that somehow that piece of paper he was trying to get had more likely than not disappeared by his hand, and not Mary’s. I didn’t want to do it, but I knew that I had to in all practicality I had to yell out, “JAKE!”

The clumsy rumbling upstairs was my first clue that my dear son wasn’t asleep, but he was trying so hard to make me think he was. I didn’t need to be jaded to know this; I had those maternal understandings from watching the boy grow up. Unlike me he is a horrible liar, and I’m pretty sure that I have caught him in every lie he has ever told. I happen to be cunning enough to let him get away with some of the really harmless ones just to keep him off base for those times when I can catch him in a whopper. I yelled up again, “JAKE!” just to allow him to think he had fooled me about whether he was asleep or not and his feet started stumbling around like he was actually on his way downstairs. Then I heard his feet on the stairs and I knew that it was mission accomplished from that point until his feet landed in the hallway.

Amusingly enough despite the whole state I was in and the fact that I knew he was partially full of it, when he rounded the corner and exclaimed, “What happened mom?” while clutching a baseball bat for effect. The casual way he looked down at Mary as if she always comes over to be wrestled to the floor and knocked unconscious made it hard for me not to laugh. The poor boy can’t fake anything, even when he seems to understand more than he is letting on. “What, what is Mary doing here?” and I had to give him style points for the fake stutter at the beginning.

Now it was time for me to teach some classes on lying, “She attacked me and I fell on her. I don’t actually know what happened,” and after I gauged his reaction as pathetic as it was. He looked a bit confused at me as if he comprehended that I was examining him, but we both looked down as Mary started making noises which changed the landscape of the conversation. She was becoming conscious again and I had to brace myself for whatever it was she was going to do.

At first Mary simply let out a weak cough and then looked at me as her whole face turned white. It looked like I was about to get an acting class, and I let the look on my face tell her that I wasn’t going to buy it. She then let out a pathetic scream and started wailing like an old woman in terror while exclaiming, “I came over after she called me,” and for effect through in some stammering tears before continuing, “she attacked me. Jake, I beg you, please call the sheriff!” and then she continued with the desperate wails.”Anna please, I’m old!” but I continued to hold the pressure on her because I wasn’t in the mood for round two of her squirming like a professional wrestler, steroids and all.

It wasn’t easy staying even tempered but while Mary was still pretending to be scared and calling me Anna, which was a taunt of sorts, I looked at Jake, “Where is the piece of paper Mary brought over?” and the look on his face was genuine shock after I said that. Damn that wasn’t the look I was hoping for. “Ok Jake, go back upstairs,” I said while I got up off Mary, and started brushing myself off. She continued her act of acting frail and pitiful. I looked back at Jake who was staring at me still, “Now Jake. Go!” I shot at him as he started off towards the stairs like a boy who just watched his mother get nasty with someone and didn’t want any of it for himself. Walking over to the table I pulled out the chair and looked down at Mary, “You, sit!”

Mary didn’t bother keeping up the act, now that Jake was gone from the room. There’s a switch that goes off in your mind when someone crosses that line from being a trusted friend to a devious adversary. It had never been there with me before but all of a sudden I had it in spades. Every move she made could be calculated in my brain with a speed that I didn’t even know my mind could do, I could practically see her heartbeat when she lied, and now my brain worked like a biological lie detector, so I was just hoping she would try something. Apparently as I think of it my survival instincts hadn’t gotten any better, and she had some sort of insight into the mind of a mother than the Mary I knew just yesterday had. “It’s touching the way you protect him,” she sneered at me, and then sat down.

I walked over to the chair on the opposite side of the table keeping an eye on her while I tried to act casual. I’m sure I failed at it, and I am sure she noticed it. None of that mattered to me at the moment though; I was just doing my best to control my mouth. Let me explain it this way, but Jake has a pretty good collection of comic books, and I have encouraged him to read them so that I could buy him more. Now of course it gave me a chance to read them all, especially the Spider Man comic books. Now there was a hero I could understand. He’d save the day and make smart ass comments the whole time. It was realistic that a teenager would be a smart ass when faced with dire situations, and as I am trying to explain, it is also second nature for me to want to show off my ability to throw around a stinging barb. It’s what I did all day at the diner, and now as I am dealing with this incarnation of Mary it is taking every last inch of my sanity to not do it. Smart ass comments are great when you know who you are dealing with, but in the real world they are simply giving the other person more information then you actually want them to have. I’ll never forgive any of these entities in my life for ruining my innocence of how the world operates.

I casually looked at Mary sitting across the table from me and tried to sound calm when I said, “I don’t know what is going on here Mary, but I do know that something is wrong with you,” and that was mostly true, and definitely true enough to sell it to her. I continued while she looked at me smugly, “I’m sure that your friend is enjoying all of the chaos going on out there, and unlike you I know why that chaos is going on uncontested,” and slowly her face went from smug to concern. It’s amazing how having a little less knowledge than someone else changes your position in it. I said no more I just looked at her with an honest smile after I noted that I had wiped away her smirk.

Now if this were a really bad movie, Mary would simply start babbling on and on about how her evil is beyond my comprehension. This would be when the cavalry would show up and then I would kiss the hero and thank him for saving me by handing over my virginity. Here in Realityville, with a twist she simply started talking lunacy, “He told me that you were in league with the devil Stacy,” and I took a moment to admire her finally getting my name straight, before she spit in my face from across the table.

I shot up out of my chair because that was just disgusting. I almost fell over because when I pushed on the table it didn’t budge when it hit the sturdier than she should have been Mary. Now I was spitting mad, but I slammed myself back in the chair and looked at Mary with what I am sure was venom. She had her smirk back again after having grabbed my emotions away from me again. I looked her dead in the eyes and said, “I am in league with the Devil, but you have given him your soul by accepting the lies of a demon and forming an alliance with him. I leave here with my soul intact,” and with that I slid the table against the wall with Mary pinned to it.

I finally understood what Lou had meant by the limitations of my own mind. Mary only had strength and power to affect me when I allowed her to. The second I took that away from her she was a weak woman in her sixties and I was a young woman that could throw her around like a rag doll. Her eyes were like dinner plates, wide open and terrified and I probably looked like the craven lunatic as I pressed the table against her. She still had a maniacal evil in her voice when she started growling out threats at me, “Your son is every bit as dead as you are. Everyone dies, it’s all in the book of Revelations you foolish little freak.”

I applied the pressure on her chest mercilessly, and even though I could feel her bones creaking from the pressure I didn’t care. “I know that both Walter and Jacob are dead, and nobody is going to show up here and think I’m insane for killing you,” and her face went white, “I know that there was a part of your sickened mind that was looking forward to making me look insane, and it’s gone now.”

The low rumbling laugh that started leaving Mary had every fiber in my being terrified and it was excruciatingly hard to jet go of the table and do something irrational, but my maternal instincts if nothing else kept me holding the table firm, “I never had any intention of letting you live through the night Stacy, so why should I care if anyone thinks you are insane?” came out with a dark and horrifying voice. That would have sold in a B movie, let me tell you. She licked her lips like an animal that is about to eat and then added, “Then I am going upstairs to kill that boy of yours,” and unfortunately for me, her strength that I had thought fake came back as she pushed me and the table away from herself effortlessly.

 The rage started coursing through my body, and my mind was screaming at me to force the table through her and finish this once and for all. With more strength than I even knew I had the table slid firmly back into her chest and smashed her into the wall this time. The plaster around her cracked in all directions, and I was amazed that it hadn’t knocked the wind out of her. Purely out of fear I held her there firm and debated for a moment whether or not I was going to snap her in half with this table and call it a day, or continue this game. I decided she needed to understand one thing, “You’ve all but made up my mind that one of us isn’t leaving this house alive, and I’ve decide that it should be you.”

I could feel my hands coursing the blood necessary to press that last inch necessary to collapse her ribs in on her. The sheer fact that I would not have to worry about her anymore, and could get on with the apocalypse in peace was a factor, but mostly because I don’t have the luxury of leaving loose ends around anymore was feeding that need. She looked at me from across the table as she strained just to get enough air in her lungs to speak and said, “Do it Stacy. The sin of murder would look beautiful on your soul,” and I accidentally let off of the pressure at that thought.

Immediately she made me regret my stupidity by forcing the table forward and sliding out from behind it. I was too stunned to think of the correct thing to do in this instance, and that was all it took for Mary to have an upper hand. Her hands were wrapped around my throat and I was smashed against the wall hard. Unlike Mary a minute ago, I did have the wind knocked out of me, and being spun around and slammed to the floor didn’t help either. No matter how much I thought I knew about limitations and the mind playing tricks I couldn’t do a damn thing about Mary after she had straddled me and started applying more pressure to my throat. My lungs hurt as I couldn’t get any air into them. I was going to die, and I couldn’t do anything but start the process of blacking out.

In an instant of salvation, and a different kind of pain my lungs opened up and I was breathing again. The pain was from Mary’s face smashing into mine. As my lip started expanding the Peter Parker wise ass in me couldn’t help but think that the head butt is the stupidest idea in history because you both get your faces smashed, but I was happy she thought it was smart. The splinters all around my head change my mind about what had actually happened, and after moving Mary from on top of me I saw Jake standing behind where she had been blocking my view, ghost white and holding the handle of what used to be his Louisville Slugger, signed by George Brett. 

With the force of the blow that Jake had used on the back of Mary’s skull, and the force that must have hit the front of her eye socket when it hit my jaw you would have thought she would be out like a broken light bulb. Of course that would be too easy and Jake never took his eyes off of her thank God, because he had his foot on her throat the second she shook off the blow and seemed to be getting up. “We really need to call the State Police or something here mom. I think Mary is completely nuts.”

Mary started exclaiming in a croaky voice “Do that Jake, call the police, you’re mother is going to kill me! Hurry!” and then she started to act like a poor pathetic old woman again. A poor pathetic woman who was strangling a woman half her age and took the entire force of a baseball bat to the back of the head from a young man who bats over three hundred for the high school team. Nothing major really?
Jake looked down with disdain and exclaimed, “I’m not deaf Mary, I was listening to you two from upstairs,” he looked over at me and said, “I think mom knew that I would be sitting by the air vent right above the table listening, so why do you think I knew the sheriff and deputy were dead?” and I was thinking that I need to explain to Jake the dangers of explaining a situation to the bad guy, but who am I to criticize my hero after all? He continued still looking at me, “That doesn’t mean I am not worried about how you both are acting and I don’t know what is going on here.

I didn’t think it was a great idea all together but I also didn’t want my son to have to be involved in all of this any longer so I nodded to him. He plucked the phone off the receiver while continuing to hold Mary on the floor with his foot. The second he placed the phone to his ear his expression changed. He then looked at me strangely and hung the phone up. “There’s a faint dial tone, but some hallowed out voice telling me to hang up the phone,” Jake looked like he was trying to think and then added as though it just hit him, “it sounds like that guy on the radio when he is talking to the devil you know?”

I didn’t really know what to say so I lied, “The phone was acting really funny earlier, so I don’t know what is up with it now,” and hoped he bought it and would try again, since I had reserved myself to the fact that Jake really needed to call whoever is manning the Sherriff’s office now that those two twits that used to are gone. I know what I saw earlier with him, but reality changes so quickly that I don’t know what I think I know half the time, and if he is just an innocent bystander now this whole scenario has got to be pretty troubling for him.

He picked up the receiver and again made some strange faces so I immediately blurted out, “Will you just tell the voice to cut the crap and get over here,” which Jake did looking as confused as he has all along. Jake kept the receiver to his ear for another few moments and then set the receiver back on to its base on the wall. I had to ask “What?” as he stood there looking puzzled.

“I don’t know mom, whoever that was started ranting about Quentin Terantino and those stupid Freddy and Jason movies, and how it makes his life nearly impossible now. It didn’t sound like the guy from the radio though when he did it?” he placed what was left of the bat on the counter and then said, “I’m going back upstairs unless you think I should go to Ricky’s house or something? I don’t even want to know what is going on down here anymore.”

The thought of him going over to Ricky’s house would have been a wonderful one had I not figured that Ricky was probably about as trustworthy to be around as Mary right now. “Go upstairs and close that vent,” I said to him. I grabbed Mary from the floor and sat her in the chair, with hardly any effort since my mind was back in tune to reality again. She must have known that because she didn’t give me any resistance. I actually never had thought of him listening in on it all through the vent earlier. It was a complete accident that worked out in my favor, but it’s nice to let your son think you are smarter than you are in any case. He was most of the way up the stairs from what I could tell when the tapping came at the back door just to the left of me. “Just come in Lou, I have my hands full at the moment.”

The second Lou walked in the door he said very plainly, “You can let go of Mary now, I don’t think she’s going to be too much trouble with me here,” and then he looked clearly at Mary and said, “I think you’ve had enough fun for one night and you can just sit there and be a good girl now,” as he pulled the table away from her using two fingers and very easily moving me with the table. He looked at her deadly serious and stated in a very stern tone, “but you do know more about the word of God and the laws of existence then most, so with a snap of my fingers you can be dead and in Hell with the rest of the idiots, and you know it. I suggest you enjoy what’s left of your life and not give me a reason to do it,” and Mary defiantly looked away from him the whole time saying nothing. Lou added, “Now be a good little demented soul and hand me that piece of paper you wanna be master gave you to give to Stacy.”

Mary actually did look scared but tried to be strong and ignore Lou’s commands. Lou apparently wasn’t amused at her willful ignorance and was about to place his hand on her when she became a complete look of panic. Looking at me and not Lou she started quickly saying, “It flew out of my hand and went under the stove I think,” and the second Lou left her side she barked out, “It has a crucifix on it so that you can’t touch it!”

Lou turned around and looked at her with his arms open in supplication, “What is the matter with you?” he said as he stared at her deadly serious, “I’m telling you people, stop watching all of the stupid movies. Hollywood is turning all of your brains into applesauce,” and then he sighed.

I took the opportunity to get down on my hands and knees and look for the paper desperate to get to it before everyone else. I don’t know why I just felt like I had to have it, and as usual it was my wonderful lack of survival instincts getting the best of me I am sure but don’t ask me why I knew I had to get it. Lou walked over and slid the stove away from the wall as if it wasn’t stuck to a layer of grime that I wasn’t so ashamed of until I was starting at it from my hands and knees. The paper was within reach but my reflexes were nothing compared to Lou’s who had snatched it up before I had even moved my hand towards it. I was able to see that the paper was far older looking than when Mary had tried to hand it to me. The seal with a crucifix upon it was still intact, but had taken on more of a bloody red hue than the black it had appeared to be before. The paper was a beige color like old parchment you would see on a History Channel documentary of the middle ages. Lou immediately tried to open it up but the seal would not break for him at all. He looked none too amused when he tossed it to Mary, and demanded of her, “Open that up.”

Mary caught the scrap of parchment and then threw it back at Lou, “You can’t make me do anything Lucifer! I am not afraid of you!” which had Lou shaking his head. He walked over towards her giving her the look of an insane lunatic that could very easily rip her to shreds. Staring at her more intently, but more like the person who had control of her soul now, he threw the slip back at her, and she batted it to the floor.

Lou gave her the most fake smile I had ever seen, and it was almost comical in the way it formed on his face before he said, “Please?” which elicited no response from her again. “So I don’t scare you because you are protected by God and all that yaddita yaddita?” he looked over at me and then started laughing, “Last I checked she didn’t speak Aramaic from the first century and perhaps that part about ‘Lo I walk ye through the valley of death’ crap was really a recipe for cooking pork since it was ok to do that once the Catholics got their hands on the syllabus?”
He was deadly serious again, “I know you got the part of eternal damnation well enough, and as I explained to you earlier that is where you are going. No valley of death. No fearing evil. No go. No two-hundred dollars, just pain. Lots of amazing pain, like having every tooth yanked out over and over again for eternity. Like having the juice squeezed out of your eyeballs. Like having your fingernails and toenails ripped out. Like having your skin ripped from your body with barbed needles. It never ends, It never goes away. It just continues forever!” and even though his voice had been growing far more with every word and I could see him starting to get a bit bigger with each step he took. Nothing could get me prepared for when he was within two inches of her nose and then blared into her face with the voice of a lion on steroids, “WHAT DO YOU THINK NOW?!?!?!?!”

Apparently Mary had not been so acclimated to watching horror movies her whole life because that little trick scared the high holy crap out of her and she immediately started scrambling on the floor like a scared rat to get the parchment. She had it opened and held out in front of her before Lou had even finished roaring. Lou snatched it from her hand and started looking it over. He looked back at Mary with disgust and then looked at the parchment again before handing it to her. “What does it say?”

Mary looked back at Lou in disgust and then down at the parchment, “It’s blank,” and her quivering hands held it up to show Lou that it what she saw, and worse than that she was completely genuine in her terror over the situation. Lou was extremely agitated because there was something on that slip of parchment, and more importantly I could see it from where I was standing off to the side, and was hoping that Lou didn’t look at me or ask me anything about it. Lying to your son is one thing; Lying to the Devil is a scenario I had no interest in trying right now. Lou then had an entirely different look on his face when he looked at Mary, and it was a mass of confusion and fear that hadn’t been plausible on the face of a mortal. It was millions if not billions of years of understanding completely thrown out the window, as he had beaten the ringing phone to the punch. He didn’t take his eyes off of Mary and stayed within two feet of her, within arm’s reach from my vantage point.

The phone rang a second time and Lou very calmly, but still with a twinge of anger in it said to me, “Pick up the phone Stacy,” and I stepped over to the phone avoiding the two of them as best I could.

I timidly grasped the receiver and said nothing; this was one of those moments in my life that simply held fear in my heart, and I didn’t want to hear what was about to come through the phone to me. I knew that it wasn’t good by the way the Devil himself reacted to it in the very instance that I was still confused. The voice on the other end was frantic, and very familiar, “Stacy, please don’t trust anyone! I was attacked by a huge man that told me I was going to kill you, and I couldn’t resist but I did,” and I can’t give the whole frantic drawl from Mary justice because I have never been able to speak as quickly as she was, even when I was a boy crazed teenager, “he changed into me ..” and I dropped the phone before she said another word, as I gazed over at the Mary in my kitchen who was smiling at me and ignoring Lou who was within striking distance of her.

The Mary in my kitchen didn’t look at Lou, and again there was that instance of understanding in my world, because it was so fast the way everything happened you will just have to bear with me as I try to give it a good explanation. In that instant the small piece of parchment that was in Mary’s hand, barely bigger than a chewing gum wrapper or a post-it note shot out of her hand, or I am assuming it did because it was so fast I couldn’t see it. Lou could feel it though as the action hit him like a truck and shot him through the wall. Now of course I didn’t really see that either since it hit him so hard or fast that it was beyond my comprehension. What I could see was the side of the doorway that he hit, shatter into wood and plaster splinters and then careen around in an explosion of dust. Then I could feel the tightening of a hand around my throat. All of this happened in less than the span of a second, and for the most part it was like witnessing it all from my strangling state that I found myself in at the time. It wasn’t a frail old woman holding my throat either, it was a horrifying demon that didn’t even have the common decency to look more intimidating than he usually did, almost like I was unworthy of his effort to kill.

He stared into my eyes and said quite clearly but quickly, “Unlike your creator, he did make a God, and there is nothing you can do to stop me,” and when he vanished the way he always does when he is using the immortal omnipotent speed, I fell to the floor painfully on my knees. It felt like I just hung there for a minute or two first as he simply vanished leaving me there in mid air, and all I could do was throw my face into my hands and start crying pathetically.

It was almost instantaneously that Jake was in the room and trying to help me to my feet. I threw his arms off of me in shock and my poor son must have been so confused, as he practically fell down but landed clumsily on the chair. He just sat there realizing that I wasn’t one to be touched at that moment. His exclaiming to try to understand what was going on was simply background noise to me as I tried to stem off what should have been the granddaddy of all panic attacks. The panic attack never materialized and I finally heard something that was coming out of Jake’s mouth, “Mom what is going on, are you ok? Do you need a doctor?”

“No!” I shot out far too forcefully and I could tell that Jake was a little scared sitting on the chair. I looked around the room to assess what remained of the confrontation, and unfortunately it all was remaining. The stove was still away from the wall, the chairs and table were still in awkward places in the room, and the shattered doorway still remained. Structurally speaking I was amazed that the ceiling didn’t start falling in at the location the door frame was destroyed but of all the things I know, architecture isn’t one of them. I got up and brushed myself off in a stupor, and then in my shock I walked over to the doorway and tried to pull the bent out wood from the frame back into place like that would fix everything.

Jake again, bless his heart, tried to speak to me and get some sort of answers to what had so obviously and loudly happened down here. I don’t remember hearing him, but I can assume that he didn’t think his hundred and twenty some odd pound mother did all of this damage. He probably didn’t think the even smaller looking Mary did it either, but as his exclaiming continued he was trying to get some sort of answers to all of it. I held up my hand in a gesture to tell Jake to stop babbling, even if under the circumstances, babbling would be a very good reaction to it all. Had I walked into all this I would have been babbling and had I not been a character in all of this mess I might have been babbling far worse. I can’t really stress enough to any of you what it actually feels like to have people just disappear in front of you. Desensitized to horrific things or not by Hollywood and good special effects, when it happens to you in real life you just feel powerless, and want to cry.

I understand that to most people it will be reserved to the movies and I will admit that the whole scenario is growing rather more intimidating to me regardless of my acceptance of it. There really is nothing right now that would make me feel any better but I am starting to believe with every passing moment that there are about a million things that can make me feel worse and that list grows by the minute. I could hear a faint voice that was like a very quiet yelling “Stacy, Stacy!” and after looking around in my confusion I saw my son pointing to a corner of the room and just being quiet otherwise.

I darted to the corner where my telephone hung from its usual perch on the wall and grabbed the receiver “I’m here Mary, I got rather busy there for a moment and then I spaced out a bit,” my mind started reaching for the right words to avoid having to explain to much like I always do, “I’m sorry that I didn’t get back to you …”

She finished my sentence for me, “… but you were sitting there with a seven foot tall freak that looked amazingly similar to me?” and I just stood there looking dumbfounded at my son who was the crowned prince of dumbfounded by this point anyway. Mary started talking again as I tried to continue breathing normally, “I heard my voice arguing with your friend the Devil there and assumed that the other one probably wasn’t me,” she said with about as fake of a laugh as I had ever heard in my life. I was rather curious as to what she knew as she appears to know about Lou’s great secret and must have come to that conclusion before I had.

“Since you seem to know a bit more about this than anyone other than me do you mind telling me how you drew your conclusions?” because in all reality I could use any help I could get at this state of the game. I was still wording things so that my son wouldn’t be involved. I know it sounds silly since he is sitting in a kitchen that has a broken out doorway and a six or seven hundred point stove pushed aside like it was nothing and a lot of other little eccentricities that don’t fit, but I am still in shock here too.

She cleared her throat and started explaining, “Lucifer was easy actually because anyone that has kept up on the ancient writings, which I guess would be about a half dozen of us with no life, would know he was the most beautiful angel,” she paused for a moment to collect her thoughts, “it wasn’t his power that corrupted him it was his vanity. The deadliest of all sins for a reason Stacy,” then she thought for a second and said, “The intoxicating abilities that he had were all too obvious as soon as I could snap out of it. The big freak that showed up around the same time he did was just a good guess,” and again she tried to muster up a weak laugh in what I would assume was a way to make me feel better. It failed as I looked at my son who was scared, very scared. I didn’t know what to do with him while I tried to have this conversation with Mary.

I realized that the best thing for me to do was try to end this conversation and try to deal with the looming insanity that more poor child was facing along with his crazy mother. I decided to end the conversation as best I could, “Mary, I’m going to have to let you go while I straighten things up and get Jake back to bed,” and immediately Jake started making noises as if he was going to have some sort of huge protest in all of this, and I shot him a look that silenced him immediately. Above all else you don’t make a commotion when someone is on the telephone for God’s sake. “I will call you back as soon as I can Mary, thank you for checking up on me,” and with that I hung up while Mary was sting making a bit of a protestation of her own on the other end. I then turned to Jake and said, “Ok mister, you need to get back to bed for school in the morning,” and walked over to begin shooshing him off to bed.

In a very rare act of defiance Jake didn’t even get up from the chair he had fallen into, and just looked at me and said, “You’re kidding right?” and when I stopped short and gave him the look that would usually tell him not to argue with me, he argued with me. “Mom, you had a fight with a sixty something year old woman in the kitchen, threw appliances around and smashed apart the doorway to the living room. Can’t you at least think up a story to tell me and get me to believe that you haven’t lost your mind? I mean seriously this is the type of thing that is going to scar me for life here?” and then he looked around the room studying everything expecting an opportunity to poke holes in whatever it is I came up with to tell him.

I looked at him and said plainly, “How bout, this one? You just watched me beat up a woman older than your grandmother. Do you think that I will have any problem beating you up considering that you don’t have another living relative within two hundred miles of here and the police would simply leave you with me afterwards since it would be a pain in the ass to find your next of kin?” and he did something that looked oddly like a gulp. I cleared my throat and continued, “how about the fact that none of this actually happened since you just saw me talking to Mary on the phone and when they show up they will probably think that I beat your ass because YOU are insane? Think they will take you to a really nice place then? Think your dead father will come and get you out of there?” and that last bit sent him scurrying down the hallway and up the stairs. Lord knows he wasn’t going to get any sleep but perhaps he was out of earshot. My chances were fifty fifty in either direction.

I walked over to the stove after I heard Jakes door slam shut upstairs. For the most part he was going to need a real explanation for all of this sooner or later but I was still holding out hope that one of these freaks was going to kill me and then I wouldn’t have to worry about it. I should be so lucky, but moving that stove back didn’t help me feel any more powerful in this world. I looked at the bashed out doorway, and the scary part was that I was figuring on an insane repair bill which should have been the furthest thing from my mind, but I wasn’t playing with all the cards anymore anyway. The phone ringing almost sent my head through the ceiling, but I scrambled to grab it just so Jake wouldn’t come out of his room, and in a quiet panic managed to say, “Hello?”

The voice on the other end was that of Mary once again, damn that woman really wanted to get involved in all of this and all I wanted to do was hide somewhere and wait for it all to pass over my head, she immediately started in with the questions again, “So tell me about that big scary man that had come after me?” and I wasn’t in my right frame of mind as it was without reliving my new under-worldly nemesis.

I decided it was best to just get it out into the air so that I could get on with the insanity. “The other one is named Darius, and he is an angel created by Lucifer,” and that got a pretty good gasp out of her. I continued along, “I don’t know why but he has to deal with him here on Earth because of some laws and rules that omnipotent beings go through,” and my bored tones as it came out was awkward considering, and on second thought I probably should have watched what I was saying as well. At that point I didn’t care, I was exhausted and I was trying to get out of this with myself and my son intact. My sanity is shot anyway, perhaps I could save his. I added while Mary was doing her Hail Mary’s and other things that the truly religious do during times like these, “Strange things happen whenever he touches me, so I think he’s fascinated with me,” and then I trailed out of what I was thinking because it sounded like I wasn’t thinking.

It was odd the way Mary seemed to ignore what I just said and went on with what she was thinking, “You do realize that the end of the world is coming, and your friends there are just two of the horsemen of the apocalypse?” and I was a little perplexed over her calling them my friends. I mean perhaps Lou was, and thinking about it I wouldn’t dare say that out loud. How strange to be having this conversation? I think under different circumstances I might have made a joke about the whole thing. I might have wondered who the other two horsemen were and how in the name of God they could compare to these two. I mean realistically they are THE BIG TWO. “I have a feeling that God himself …”

“Herself,” I found myself interrupting out of new habits of enlightenment. It stopped Mary completely short and she seemed to be thinking about what to say next. In my little world it was different to be the one to shut down someone who knew what they were talking about, but then again I never really actively participated in any conversations before that were anything special. How sad is that when you think about where I stand in the world at this point, but I kind of miss the old me from a few days ago at this point in the story too.

Mary had collected herself and started speaking again as if she was “Well perhaps God has forsaken this world then, and it would be best for us to understand what all of this means,” and then she paused in a very odd manner, “perhaps she walks among us too, and we need to find out who she is so that we can help her to solve all of this?” and you’ll have to forgive the way my brain works but there were some strange red flags flying around my head listening to Mary talk now. I couldn’t put my finger on it but the truly zealous never accept so easily the questioning of their faith. I’m sure the mere mention of God being a woman wouldn’t mean much to the average person but to a person like Mary? “Did your fiend mention to you anything about what God might look like, in case she happened around?” and that really made my brain stammer. Mary would be kind enough over my inference that God was a woman but she would never accept the whole fact that she was a woman? Perhaps I was simply being too critical since she had basically accepted that I was an expert on deity and all?

I couldn’t help but be cautious now even if I was trying to be less jaded and accept something could be that easy, “No, come to think of it Lou never brought up her looks at all,” and then I listened to see if there was anything strange in the background on the other end. Nothing was out of place, and I was starting to feel silly now. I was also pretty sure looking back on it that I was not ready to have the conversation that Mary wanted to have over the phone. I was not up on all of my biblical death scenarios, and I also was not really keen on the whole concept of sharing what I know with anyone either as I have figured out that I don’t know who I know anymore. The more I shared with her the less comfortable I felt and not more comfortable. That doesn’t mean I could leave her out of the loop either since she seemed to accept my unholy alliance and all that curtailed.

I really wish I could have fathomed this entire scenario out on the fly, but I couldn’t so don’t take my seemingly growing intelligence to mean I was born with it. It was pounded into me over the last week, and what I wouldn’t have given to be bright enough to see how stupid I was every step of the way. “To be honest with you Mary I don’t quite know what is going on and I am as in the dark as anyone about all of this. I just happen to be the one that they hang around I guess, but I will try to keep you up to date on what is going on if I can,” I finally replied just to see where it would lead us. I can’t even tell you why I couldn’t drop my suspicion I just couldn’t.

Mary said completely out of the blue, “You could always see what that piece of parchment was that is on the floor, I bet it has an answer of some sort,” and I looked around frantically to see where the parchment actually was. It was almost like a gift when I saw the parchment had been left behind and had fallen open on the floor just on the other side of the shattered doorway. I could clearly see the writing on it as I had before, only this time it was darker and bolder, far more inviting. Curiosity was not my friend either as I realized that somehow it must be pretty important. It was only a few steps and a bend over to finally see what that stupid piece of parchment was all about. By the time I was actually standing over it I didn’t think clearly, I just wanted to have answers. By the time I was on my hands and knees and my hand was hovering over I my survival instincts kicked in.

Sitting back on my calves I spoke into the phone while keeping a serious calm over myself. I was acting for an audience that wasn’t even in the room, but the world has become such a smaller place for me as of late, “I can’t understand the language written on the paper or parchment or whatever it happens to be Mary. It doesn’t appear to be any help,” and then I just let the words fade out and listened, while I examined the parchment on the floor. The language on it was strange and indecipherable. The ink was of a strange quality, it bled through and in points it clumped leaving stars that soaked into it. The script was fanciful whatever language it happened to be. The porous nature of the parchment was grainy and definitely older than anything I have ever seen.

Even with my gamesmanship I felt like a total idiot for getting this far into an obvious rouse, but what the hell am I supposed to do? I couldn’t stop leaning over the parchment but I wanted to start crying about my stupidity. I don’t even know why manipulating me is so damn important, or what exactly I have to do with any of this. The small voice in my head wasn’t helping me any either. It was just telling me that I was a dummy, or spelling out horrifying scenarios that would happen now. There was also that voice that wondered whether or not I was becoming equally enlightened to a lot of these things as I was here and I figured out what was going on. There are always two choices when danger is around you, and I chose the slow and less interactive method as I just listened on the phone line to someone I knew wasn’t Mary anymore. As you probably already figured out, she had no reason to know that parchment was involved in this scene too. I still don’t think the frantically freaking out and running around in circles method would have done me any better here.

Now I was given a little hope, as Mary started talking, “You need to pick it up Anna, or else you won’t be able to read it at all,” and I learned two things in that statement. The first being that she or whoever that is could see me, and that’s not great, but secondly I was fooling whoever it was somehow with my behavior. Now I was thinking that there is a real reason behind getting that parchment into my hands. I’m sure it was obvious all along, but now it was more of a strange feeling like that parchment had some sort of meaning that was really important to everyone, and as the last girl to the prom I had been missing out on something. The voice of Mary came over the phone again almost startling me as I had been in my own world for the last minute or so, “You know that … CLICK” and the phone went dead on me.

Immediately I jerked my head to the left and saw that the long cord to the phone was still intact and the phone was still attached to the wall. I looked around quickly in a panic of sorts expecting something really bad to happen, and then jumped to my feet terrified, dropping the phone when the dial tone came on. I sat down in the chair that Jake had occupied less than an hour ago, and the clock on the stove I used everything in me to move said it was only eleven, fifteen. What a long night I thought to myself as I sat and waited for my heart to stop pounding. The parchment was still on the floor a few short feet in front of me.

It was time for the insanity to wash over me again, and with that goes all of the perks of talking to your imaginary friends. In the end they are all you have. I looked down at the parchment and said, “I don’t know what you mean to me but I am sick of letting you just lay around like a sacred object,” and before I had even gotten the word “object” out of my mouth, the words on the parchment dissolved and more words in some strange language I couldn’t read materialized. Demons and Lucifer himself were almost second nature to me at this point, but scraps of old paper that wrote on itself was just about too much to handle as I pushed the chair back until it hit the table and would move no further. “What the hell?” I said perhaps too loudly, and then sat motionless listening for my son. The parchment erased itself and then started writing upon itself again.

It was a great side show the first time, but of course it didn’t affect me as ferociously the second time. The parchment seemed to be answering my questions, but I couldn’t understand what the answers were. I was terrified that something really horrible was going to happen to me the second I grabbed that parchment, but how could I just sit here and accept the ignorance of not grabbing that parchment. I had a distinct feeling of petty drama going on in my head. It was like the way I felt when I was in Junior High School and all the mean girls would pretend that they had a secret just so they could not tell you what it was. The cost of getting that secret out of them was horrible and you knew it, but you just had to fall for it every time. When you were finally able to stop falling for the “I have a secret” game, you were just about to graduate from High School. This is where I miss out on a whole lot of life, regardless of how much I seem to understand now. Lord knows many girls finished High School assuming that the games were over until they find out about Sororities.

In my case I was on the verge of sanity at all times now. What a difference a day makes in the life of a young woman huh? Meeting the devil and an angel of his tends to give you fewer worries about what could happen next. Death is an acceptable alternative to everything, and I know that bucks the trend of living every moment to its fullest that all the cool kids are talking about at the end. I got down again and picked up the piece of parchment without giving it a second thought. No strange feelings, no weird happenings, no doom, no dread, just an odd feeling scrap of parchment. I had never felt actual parchment before, and had done nothing more than read about it in school or seen people playing with it on the History Channel. My fingers rubbed against it giving me a real feel of it, but I turned it over and over in my hands until I saw what I wanted to. It was plain English written on the parchment and not any of those fancy old words that would have confused me easily at this point in the story. The words were scrawled across it in a quickly written but neat enough script, “Trust nobody and no matter what, don’t ever lose me.”

In an instant of terrifying reality I found myself pressed up against the wall again, throttled by a seven foot monster of a man, staring me strait in the eyes. I couldn’t make a sound since the wind wouldn’t come out of my lungs, and Darius speaks, “Now what does that note say?”

If I wasn’t in the most awful pain since childbirth I would have been laughing. Seriously if this was a movie that I was watching I would be that one person in the movie theater laughing like a sick jerk, aggravating everyone else in the theater. What little I knew about the world at this point, and what less I knew a couple of days ago I knew something here that Darius didn’t and it was just the pain that kept me from pointing it out to him. I couldn’t speak so his stupid demands were pointless. I simply struggled until perhaps the change in my color might have made it obvious to him. The second he let go of my neck and dropped me I started coughing curled up on the floor at his feet between him and the wall. His ingenious plan of kicking me while I was down there pushed me beyond the threshold of pain, and I started laughing, between my coughs.

Darius was in a complete fury when he picked me up by my hair and stared me in the face, but he had pushed me past the edge. I cried, I coughed, I laughed but I couldn’t control myself in my hysterics. He banged me against the wall and I saw stars, lots of stars like something had been knocked lose inside my brain. I could feel blood in my mouth coming from somewhere, Lord knows where, but I launched it all into Darius’ face. It wasn’t really spitting but more of a coughing, throwing up, and lunging feeling that I had expelled all of the blood that was filling my mouth so quickly that I had nothing else to do with it. Had I been able to talk blood would have been flying everywhere anyway. The face of Darius had gone so far out of control that he looked like his face could rip open, and in an instant I saw him no further, I just felt a quick motion like when the faster rides at the fair make a quick drop and you lose your stomach, and then I went tumbling to the ground, where I laid sprawled for God knows how long.

Now bear with me as I explain to you all that I hadn’t lost consciousness, but I had my eyes closed. I am sure that it is a reflex action to try not to see the last thing you will ever see alive. Don’t ask me why, I have just become an expert on these things as of late. I could feel a very cool Kansas style breeze on the back of my neck and I wondered to myself if Darius had thrown me through the wall, and now I lay outside my house waiting to die. I was just wanting it to end, I wanted Darius to finish me off, I felt something brush along my back and shoulder and I shot bolt upright not as ready to die as I had thought I was, and my eyes shot open to see I was surrounded by privet hedge. I also didn’t have blood in my mouth, and I was clearly nowhere near my house, since as pretty as this privet hedge was I didn’t have any on my street let alone my house.

Now I was crouched in a very thick bush of privet hedge that was very dense and unkempt, which my mind started thinking was a shame. I always wanted to get around to transplanting some to my walkway after I saw them put it around the school. The sun above me revealed that it was no longer night time as well and what I was doing in these bushes and what I should be doing next are totally lost on myself at the moment. Of course a few minutes ago I was having my body totally shattered by a psychotic angel, I shouldn’t complain about my surroundings or my state of mind. I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, but I knew that Darius loses control around me in the same way that I lose control around Darius. I also seem to have my wonderful time jumps whenever Darius is around. There has got to be something to that but damned if I know what. It’s been a God send to me though. I could feel myself in a looming panic though when I consider the way Darius just appeared out of nowhere and tried to kill me, and that kind of impending doom can really change your attitude. I could be doing anything and then just, BOOM, die. My eyes were getting itchy and watery and I was doing everything I could not to start crying. This was the worst time to start getting emotional and just start crying, but I had no control over that particular emotional release anymore.

The parchment was still in my hand and I could feel tears welling up just behind my eyes, because I was scared. I was more than scared I was trapped and I didn’t want to play this game anymore. My body was fine, and anything and everything Darius had done to me was either in the future or somehow never happened. I would assume it is the latter because I don’t remember hanging out in these bushes. I hate this confusion. I hate the world right now, it is completely unfair, I had done nothing in my life to deserve this. The tears started flowing down my face and I was having trouble breathing. I was choking up and I couldn’t control my emotions. Some good this was going to do me, but something felt really strange in my hand, a burning of sorts, so when I opened it up and the parchment fell open it read, “I’m scared too, but we will be ok.”

I cleared my eyes, but I couldn’t figure what my next move would be because I didn’t have a clue as to where my location was, or what time it was for that matter. It was within an hour or so either way of noon, but what day it was is a total mystery. My life is a total mystery. The parchment was blank in my hand now and I didn’t really know what caused it to write to me. I knew that I wasn’t letting go of it because as far as “weird” goes it has been a more “friendly weird” than all of the “ghastly weird” that goes on around me these days. I imagined that the first thing I should do is look up from this hedge and see where I was, but at the same time I was terrified that something bad was about to happen. It was really hot outside, so at least that hasn’t changed.

I heard a familiar voice say to me, “What are you doing down there?” and of course that voice made me jump up from my crouched position in the hedges. Craning my neck I saw that I was in the bushes of Bob Culvin, since I had alluded to earlier, everyone knows where everyone lives in this town. Of course I knew Bob Culvin, since his son Ricky is Jakes best friend and had already graced this tale before now. I never had gotten along with either of his parents; since they were class A hicks even by the woefully low standards around here. Being caught sitting inside of his bushes was not something I ever wanted to do, but my life was full of that at this point. I didn’t reply, because I really didn’t have anything to say that would sound logical, and of course he didn’t say anything either, so it made for an even more uncomfortable situation.

I decided that it was best to speak since I was on his property, “I twisted my ankle while walking, and dragged myself behind your bushes to whine about it without being embarrassed,” but I did see Bob trying not to laugh, so perhaps it worked. He was without a doubt one of the stupidest people in this town so I knew it would be easy to lie to him and at the same time give him something to be amused about, especially if it was at my expense. Jumping through time was great considering the situations I left at times, but I almost always ended up in a confusing situation at the other end. I was starting to think that every time I ended up in a situation it was something I need to know about though, so as uncomfortable as this was I needed to get through it. Perhaps that is just myself, now looking back on it, but I am pretty sure I had grasped this at the time.

Bob looked at me, long and hard, and his accusatory stare came back, but it wasn’t his voice that broke the silence. Ricky had strayed out behind him and was walking towards us when he said, “I’m sure that she came here to see me,” and if my brain had actually worked then I probably could have worked with that. It took me completely off guard though, and I was happy in the back of my mind that I had such idiots to work with. On most of the other occasions I was stuck in a new situation I didn’t remember putting myself in, the characters were far brighter. Fortunately still I didn’t have to say anything since Ricky continued, “I’m sorry about the window, but Jake told me that he would grab a spare out of the basement.”

“He did!” I exclaimed a little too forcefully, and then tried desperately to cover my tracks, “I was checking to make sure that you were ok?” just fumbled out before I could stop myself. Of course I would be acting down to my audience. It was very lame but it was all I could think of. Bob looked at his son as if he had fallen through the window, which of course he was nowhere near the window when it happened. I started thinking about what we were saying, because something didn’t fit, but the conversation was moving too quickly for me to get a handle on it

Ricky then gave me an amazingly fake look of shock which was so obvious I think he wanted me to see it, “Oh really?” I can actually remember the shiver he sent down my spine when he looked at me. He was sly, and there was a cleverness that Ricky Culvin couldn’t have bought at a grocery store that all of a sudden he had. If it weren’t for the fact that Bob Culvin was the dumbest man in town he might have noticed that his son, the second dumbest, was having a moment of shrewdness that didn’t belong when he said, “Well I didn’t throw my arm out, if that was what you were worried about.”

The only thing I could think of was “oh boy,” and that didn’t come out, but it was all my mind had to say. I was really starting to hate the mental games that the world was playing on me. I was definitely being bounced around time to make mental notes about things, but for what reason I didn’t have a clue at the time. I might not have gotten the opportunity to see this Ricky that was already scaring me around my son, but has instantly terrified me, if he is going to be around my son. The old Ricky that would be staring vacantly out in space was no longer with us, and I doubt any Jedi mind trick I would have usually used on such an idiot would work here. I was scared as well as at a loss for words. I went with the concerned mother approach, “I just didn’t want you upset about the window is all, it happens to everyone,” and I stopped myself before I mentioned concern about “the stranger” he talked to. My mind told me that his father is too stupid to be concerned and Ricky is now too shrewd to tip my hand to.

Ricky went straight under my skin by saying, “Oh really?” again which I personally thought at that time was tipping his hand. I just now decided it was time for me to step out of the bushes. My mind was also telling me that I should under no circumstances “touch” Ricky, but fortunately he wasn’t getting any nearer to me. “I’m fine,” he then added but quickly asked, “So how’s Jake?” and it was a strange little change in his voice as if he started realizing that as stupid as his father truly is, he isn’t deaf.

It seemed to work since Bob walked away as it seemed that Ricky and I were having the conversation now, which was a good thing in my opinion. If I was to talk to Ricky then it would be better to do it without someone else there, or was it? I could bungle my way around the conversation easier without an audience since Ricky seems to have an advantage, and I never thought I would say that before that day. I decided to play casual, “Jakes doing ok, he replaced the window, and told me about your pitching,” or at least I thought I sounded casual, but perhaps I wasn’t so smart. I was getting used to that. It’s hard looking back on it all to see what exactly was going on. Sometimes it’s a blur, but I remember asking, “Are you getting any help?” and thinking I scored one there.

Ricky looked me over pretty thoroughly at this point, and at best I can say that he gave me a little smirk, and nothing more. I chose to leave the question open and wait for him to say something. I have learned over the last few days, or whatever it has been to offer little and wait for answers. It wasn’t Ricky that ended the silence, but Lou who had walked up behind me, I think, and said “He’s just a pawn, and the only real thing he’s been given is the ability to confuse you,” and that changed the look on Ricky’s face instantly. I could see his lips curl into definite anger, but his resolve to do anything more wasn’t there. “He can’t bend my thoughts, or get me to reveal things, so he’s going to be perfectly silent until I leave,” he added and then he smiled at Ricky, but talked to me, “I would suggest you leave with me, because nothing good is going to come of this.”

This was another one of those times when I just assumed that Lou was reading my mind and started along towards the sidewalk, but for some strange reason so much had gone on I really didn’t want to leave with him either. Logic took over and reminded me that known evil always trumps unknown evil. At least I knew that Lou had rules he followed for whatever reason he did. Ricky was acting strange and I didn’t quite know how to deal with him, and Lou was acting exactly like I had come to expect. This isn’t exactly an educated decision coming from me at that time, it was the formation of survival instincts, and nobody had to come along and tell me that I knew nothing about survival instincts as brilliant as I always proclaimed myself to be. Of course I had a piece of parchment in my pocket that writes on itself and Lord knows that’s what everyone is missing during times like these.

The sad part of the whole exchange came when I made it to the end of the walkway and I heard poor stupid Ricky come back in full force but through the beguiling mind of what I had been dealing with. I don’t even know what had prompted him to blurt out, “You don’t scare me! I know everything about you and I don’t have to fear you!”

An educated person in this situation I assume would simply be quiet and wait for the danger to pass. Actually I think anyone who understood what dire situations are, would have simply shut up and waited for the worst of this storm to go over head, but I had heard once, “If you give a monkey a brain he will rule the world,” and I think the monkey that recently received a brain in this scenario is about to learn something about ruling. Lou stopped and let out a sigh before he turned around and walked back to Ricky. Ricky stood there trying to puff himself up for God only knows what, but Lou obviously didn’t fear the monkey. He looked Ricky clear in the face and replied to his boldness, “You’re too stupid to be afraid of anything,” and then he started slowly as if Ricky’s ability to comprehend was draining away with every word, “Everything that was promised to you was a lie, and in the end there are only two places that your soul can end up. I wouldn’t bet money on going to the happy place if I were you. This is a very short part of eternity kid, and you lost,” and then unceremoniously Lou turned on his heel and walked away, talking to the sky, “Once again I am stuck with something I never wanted to begin with, and you should blame yourself, like I do.”

This was a rather telling moment for me, as I watched Lou walk away. Ricky looked at me and smiled again in that sickening manner that he had adopted since yesterday. I wasn’t really sure of what dynamic the two of them had at this point, but I did have the wherewithal to understand Lou’s premise even if he didn’t make it too obvious. Darius had recruited a soldier that can only serve two entities, and Darius isn’t one of them. I chose to walk away at this point and once my back was turned I slipped the parchment out of my pocket to see if it has anything new on it, and it was blank. I wished my mind was blank but it was racing. Lou was walking a different direction than I would to get home but something told me that I should follow along after him. My world wasn’t a very safe place, and a longer walk home isn’t too much of a price to pay. For all I know my house was burned to the ground considering the amount of hours that had passed since I had leapt here to this time. That sick smile of Ricky’s got under my skin, like the creepy kid in a horror movie.

Being confused is no fun, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain it to everyone. Being confused on two fronts is far worse, as I don’t have a clue what any of these immortal characters are doing, and I don’t know what I had done for the last twelve hours. It always seems to be in twelve hour leaps so there is a new clue, to go with the Darius clue. I was completely out of sorts but I was starting to accumulate the data necessary to get something sorted out. I was pondering so hard about myself I barely noticed Lou vanish in front of me, and it’s sad that I don’t even find it shocking anymore. I started assuming I could just turn around and enjoy a quicker walk home alone. I need some alone time anyway, but I had one last piece of information I needed before I was totally alone. I slipped the piece of parchment out of my pocket and whispered to it, “Do you know why I keep jumping in and out of time the way I do?”

The piece of parchment got that familiar warmness that it gets when it is starting to write and I saw the word “Yes” spell out quickly and concisely, but nothing more. I still had my back towards the direction I wanted to go but there was part of me that didn’t want to have Ricky watching me talking to a piece of paper. Of course I really shouldn’t have had such vanity considering that he knew I was hanging out with the Devil, but what did I know anyway. I whispered into the parchment again, “Well can you explain it to me please?” and I was slightly elated that I had discovered the parchment was at least bidirectional in its communication.

My elation was barely in me when it turned to a temper from the scrawling word “No” that had formed with no explanation to follow it. Fortunately I didn’t have to get indignant with a piece of paper yet because it started disappearing and new words were forming. “I can’t reveal that to you because you can’t interfere with it,” and I was shocked more than angry when I saw that. In an instant my brain wrapped around that and knew that I would, because that is just the way I am. Damn it. Then the next thing that formed on the parchment totally threw me for a loop, “Turn around and don’t move, no matter what happens!” and I couldn’t ignore the parchments use of an exclamation point. I always favored good punctuation.

The second I turned around I saw Ricky standing on the sidewalk tossing a god sized rock up in the air and catching it. Again he threw it up and caught it, and I wondered what the little creep thought he was going to do with that rock. I was actually more angry than scared and I should have been a little of both. How easily I had forgotten how hard he threw that baseball that shattered my window and more importantly how far. As far as the “don’t move” part of the note, I didn’t really have much of a choice because his arm hurled over itself so fast, and the rock was streaking at me like a bolt of lightning. It made a noise in the two seconds at best it went a hundred and fifty or so yards. It seriously looked like light and I was only able to comprehend that it had been thrown the second it hit me square in the stomach only an inch at best above my belly button.

The impact of the rock hurt. Actually the impact of the rock just hurt, and nothing more. The fact that it looked like a bullet while it was screaming at my stomach, but felt more like a sharp rock being thrown from a long distance, barely reaching its target, as it should have made me intensely angry. Totally enraged would be a more suitable description of it, because like it was purely instinctive I started running towards Ricky like I was shot from a gun myself. As I look back on it all I can remember is that I was going to kill him. I think about it and I don’t even know how I was going to do it, I was just going to kill him and it was all I could think of. The look of horror on his face as I was running down the street would have told me that he knew I was going to kill him, and he couldn’t stop me from doing it.

The indignation that he “thought” he was going to kill me, or disable me with that rock must have been the factor that was flooding my brain. The fact that he couldn’t do it, or had made it look like he could was the furthest thing from my mind. I had no pity. I had no mercy. I had no insufferable maternal need to care for a boy that had been my son’s best friend. I had intense fury and a need to kill that very boy. He dropped to the ground in the fetal position as I was bearing down to start striking him, inflicting pain, killing that little bastard who so easily allowed himself the belief that he deserved to kill me. My mind was flooded with the most horrific images of slaughtering him, and I might have anyway if it wasn’t for the arm that grabbed me and threw me into the lawn before I reached him.

Lou was standing over him and his body was quaking on the ground. He turned to look at me as I was sitting up from where he had thrown me. When he turned to look at Ricky he started muttering in a language that I couldn’t understand at all, and Ricky’s body shook even more before he started wailing loudly. It sounded like he was crying like he had never cried before, and was now making up for all of the years that he should of. It was sickening to me actually, and my heart was practically falling out of its place within my chest as I heard it. Lou walked away from him and over to me, but shocked and horrified by the scene I started crawling away from him.

“You shouldn’t fear me Stacy,” he said as he held out his hand. “That’s the secret to all of it,” he then added as he walked towards me, and the curiosity of it caused me to stop crawling. Looking up at him, I think I understood what he had said from my years of being trapped in Sunday school. “Ricky is terrified because he finally realized that he has nothing aside from the knowledge that he will have to face my world in the afterlife.”

I didn’t take his hand, but I did get to my feet and looked him in the eyes. Don’t get me wrong, it is still terrifying looking at the most beautiful man that ever crossed my path, and have to remember that he isn’t. I remembered that I wasn’t afraid of him though because that is the first sign of subservience. “What the hell did you do to him?” I demanded in a hiss as I continued to look strait at him. It must have been funny under the circumstances so being angry at Lou for laughing when I asked was disingenuous at best. I was after all going to kill the little bastard myself before he interfered.

Lou started walking away, and I was again in the position of being furious at him. This was old hat by this point of the tale, but for some unspeakable reason I got control of it and calmly asked him, “Ok why do you care if I had killed him or not?”

Lou stopped walking and looked straight into my eyes from the fifteen or so feet that separated us. He was probably trying to test my resolve but it was pretty weak in my mind. “That’s the first sign that you aren’t corrupted. You care about someone who had almost hijacked your emotions into committing the type of evil that would have fractured your soul beyond repair,” and I didn’t follow him, and I didn’t reply. Part of me thinks that this drives him crazy when I do this, and the fact that he turned around and started talking again as he walked rather proved it. “As I said before, all he has is the ability to deceive others. He hasn’t gotten any real advantage from the pact he made with an angel. Her angels wouldn’t make such pacts, or I should say that none of them have since I was foolish enough to do it,” as always when he talks of God the anger is obvious in his voice when he finished his thought, “I made a wonderful example to any of the other angels, and giving your soul to anyone other than God means you get a one way ticket to Hell, whether I want the soul or not. He and I have both have made a bad decision and it is ruining eternity for us, but that doesn’t mean either of us deserve pity.”

I started walking again mostly so I could get away from the pathetic wailing of Ricky as he lay on the ground. Little jerk deserves his agony, my self-righteous half told me as I walked. A part of me wanted to tell him that he was heartless and deserved his agony, but it didn’t feel right to spit on someone in turmoil. I certainly wanted to though. I was still wondering why Lou knocked me out of the way, but the wailing coming from Ricky even as the distance between myself and him was accumulating was drowning out all of my sensible thought. My anger was completely gone, but unfortunately without it the confusion came back. Anger must be something that is clarifying, but then again it wasn’t properly displayed at the time either, so I asked, “Why did you stop me from attacking him?”

Lou didn’t even hesitate to answer that, “I felt responsible for it,” but he left it at that as we continued to walk away. I looked over my shoulder to see if Ricky had gotten up because I couldn’t hear his wailing anymore. He was still laying there but had apparently just stopped. “He’ll probably live a long life if he cherishes it. I told him that if he gets in my way, I can strike him dead,” he paused for a few seconds because I had gasped, “I already explained to you that I can take the souls that are going to me whenever I want to, but I didn’t explain that to him. How he lives the rest of his life, and the longevity of it is all his choice, but he will be looking at me someday if I make it out of all this,” and until he pointed that out I had completely forgotten that that was another possible end game for Lou. It never felt right all the same.

“Why do you feel responsible for my wanting to kill him?” I asked because if anything I have learned to stay focused on my questions and not let him lead me off in other directions. I was starting to feel at that point he may have been incapable of outright lying himself, but completely capable of deception like his minion. He didn’t respond to my question this time at all and just kept walking. I was following along beside him for the time being, and even repeated my question, but again he gave me no response. “Why don’t you just lie to me then instead of giving me the silent treatment?”

“Lying is a waste of breath,” he said again sounding almost bored. “While I walk on this world with you, I breathe, I eat, and I have to maintain most of the physical laws that mortals cling to,” he stopped and looked quizzically at the fork in the road. “I have many things as you have seen that remain omnipotent as well like knowledge, strength, and other things that aren’t really important. Unlike yourself, I cannot defy time, and space, and because of that I have determined that it is a bad idea to lie to you because I can’t stay a step ahead of you like I can every other mortal,” he acknowledged the puzzled look on my face with a smile and then added, “Think about it for a while, but as a gift I will tell you that my charm and extreme beauty come at a cost to those around me. It creates instant insane need for those around me to cross into the realms of the deadly sins. You appear to be prone to wrath and invidia, and I didn’t think it was fair to you that I intensify those things to your cost.”

Again I was at a loss for words, and started walking ahead of Lou. I could hear his footsteps behind me, but I didn’t want to look over my shoulder to see him. Most of this was because I didn’t actually know what invidia meant. A little further down the dirt road I stopped hearing the crunching of his footsteps, but continued to walk along without looking back, until I couldn’t take it anymore. I turned around really quickly to see Lou standing there about the same distance that he was when I stopped hearing his footsteps. He actually looked shocked as I asked him “I imagine this is an example of other things?”

His face broke into a smile before he said to me, “It is and it isn’t. I can mask my footsteps with your own like I can anyone else, but I can’t get away before you see me,” he licked his lips and said, “I can’t read your mind to know when you are going to whip around and catch me here while I am concentrating on masking my sounds with yours.”
I had to ask, “You can read minds?”

He looked at me and said, “It might be worth my breath to lie to you at this point, but I have other tools at my disposal,” and he vanished while “disposal” was still wafting in the air.