Saturday, July 18, 2015

Six Days – Chapter Nine - Samuel Shemuel

I was waiting there in the street of my destroyed town where all my dead friends and acquaintances littered buildings and establishments. This was the type of carnage I expected from a battle between the evil of immortality. The diner had been leveled by Darius and even after his unexplained disappearance much of the carnage he had left behind was still there. As I stand here with the town that Darius had systematically destroyed to force the hand of Lou and Gabriel, and get at the answers to his entrapment here, I am saddened and wishing that the jump in time that usually comes about now would just happen, but the last one wasn’t all that productive. There was an awful feeling in me that my days of jumping in and out of time have finally ended, probably mercifully despite the murder scene before me.

There was no sign of Lou and no sign of Darius and despite my maternal instincts I wasn’t ready to go running around the streets like a lunatic looking for Jake. For the last day or God knows how long at this point I had been viciously protecting my child like a mother bear just to find out that it was really the devil who didn’t need my protection but wanted my cover, or my ex-husband that had no love for either of us either. Now that I was starting to calm down a little I could feel my mind starting to race because it had to wind up again. This was the cross I had to bear, an overactive mind that just didn’t shut down anymore. At the time I should have been impressed that I didn’t start screaming his name, but it for some reason seemed silly right now, as I tried to rationalize where he would have gone in this entire calamity and survived. There were two places I could think of and that would be home or school. School was still smoking down one fork in the road, and home was down the other fork with no smoke. That settled that.

I realized that I hadn’t actually seen Jake since the day before yesterday since the Jake that Darius had killed and then thrown in my arms in the street was actually Lou. Because of this fact alone I held out the hope that there was no way he was in the school when it went up. I had jumped into this for a second time though and if I had been at the right point when I came back from where I had left then I hadn’t seen Jake because, and that was where it went blank. I couldn’t remember when the last time I had seen him was or even why I hadn’t seen him that morning. He had a baseball game two days before, but I don’t remember the baseball game at all and the many Saturday afternoons and Saturday evenings I had lived through were so amazingly different that they give no clue. As that thought had come to me at the time I finally felt the panic swarm over me, because Ricky was who Jake would have been with if the time shift had gone back to any normalcy, and Ricky was playing baseball again. Then again somehow this was the first jump I had where Darius finally changed the path of time. What the hell happened to Sunday? I didn’t care.

I bolted down my street as fast as I could. Ricky’s house being even further away from this chaos would have been far enough away from the chaos that like I had expected the untouched homes went all the way down his street. I continued to run as out of breath and panicked as I was, the adrenaline kept me going. I passed by my house and tried to hold up, only to start stumbling over my feet and ending up flying head over heels into the furthest edge of my lawn and ending up on my back. I didn’t even bother getting to my feet; I just rolled around onto my elbows and stared at my house. Every window in the place was shattered. Not inward like they almost always are when Darius commits chaos, but every last one was blown outward. I lifted one of my arms where a small shard of glass had broken my skin. No other place in town to the best of my recollection looked like this.

I got to my feet and walked as calmly as I could into the house. Nothing was out of place whatsoever. As a matter of fact as far as my poor house had ended up over and over again in the last five days or however many days it has been replayed consistently, my house had been through it all. There were no walls destroyed, which was a big plus. The chairs were in the right place meaning that I didn’t have any fights in here recently, which also was nice. Stove was in place, phone hung up, walking into the living room I could see no damage, and as I walked to the staircase I could see no damage heading up the stairs. As I said for my life with was quite livable despite all the windows being shattered out onto the various side yards. My mind was telling me that I shouldn’t push my luck, but my limbs weren’t listening to my mind at this point. I was walking up the stairs no matter what I had been thinking.

The top of the stairs was perfectly fine. The door to the small bedroom that we used to store stuff was open. I peeked inside and saw nothing out of place. Years of stuff we probably should have thrown away was still sitting right where we had left it, and of course the one window in this room was blown outward. I stepped out of this room and looked down the hallway, every door was open so I walked down to confirm what I had actually wanted to know, that each room untouched save a window or two blown outward. I was happy to know that something finally didn’t have to add to my stress, and I walked down the stairs, rounded the railing at the bottom, walked through the living room again, and then tripped over the body on the floor.

I looked at Mary’s dead body on the floor after where my feet had stumbled over her. The fact that I had managed to walk past her and not see her and then not see her until I stumbled over her is amazing. She was off to the side, behind the wall to the kitchen on the living room side so it was plausible anyway. She had been dead for hours; I knew that from watching the Crime Drama shows with all the forensics and stuff. This was rigor mortis in its final stage, and you didn’t need a medical degree to recognize this. I hate to admit this after the fact but I looked her over for a while to make sure she was dead. I’m sick of the world I had been given, but there was something that made me wonder.

Mary’s face looked at peace for the first time I had seen her in her life actually. She had been sent to hell in another time line, she had been Darius, or was it Jack? She looked like she was finally happy, and it’s sad how it took her death to do that. I reached into my pocket to see if the parchment could explain any of this to me, and as I often did throughout the days past I was surprised that I just remembered it was there all of a sudden, but my hand found nothing. I frantically checked all of my pockets and found nothing at all. I shook my head as I thought of how I should have taken my tips before the diner tore apart, so how’s that for a kick in the teeth? I’m finally going insane officially.

My watch told me that I had wasted almost an hour here and my son was somewhere else, but I still had the overwhelming feeling that he was alive, and that was all that mattered. If my times were correct then Lou had less than seventeen hours before he ceased to exist. With the disappearance of the parchment I had to wonder about my mortality now. Maybe Jack had everything to do with that and his place in hell seals my fate as mortal finally? I walked down the stairs and decided that running towards Ricky’s house was insanity. I walked and paid attention to everything on the way. Nothing was out of place along the roads to Ricky’s house. As a matter of fact this part of town was a perfectly normal day, and the chaos that had taken place on the other side of town was just a war in a far off land to me now. I could see Ricky’s house up ahead and then my feet gave out on me as I was going, but like a foolish adult I stumbled along as best I could I for about fifteen or twenty feet until finally I made a dive into the privet hedge along the path leading to Rickey’s doorway. I hit the ground with a thud and then felt an oddly familiar feeling of something my life was filled with for weeks at the very least, déjà vu.

I was immersed in the one missing piece that I hadn’t materialized in the whole life of Stacy the unexplained. I was finally back in the privet hedge I had jumped into before, and never came back to, never knew how it fit into the whole thing, and never understood aside from the fact that it showed me Ricky’s flirting with a demon. I had specifically tried to do damage to that demon on behalf of Ricky as only a mother wildcat would. Now I knew exactly where it fell into time without the jump. Of course the last time I was down here a far more intelligent almost “demonic” Ricky found me in this hedge with his father and even went about making sure that his father knew nothing of our little “secret” in the form of a maniacal seven foot lunatic. Some secret Darius is now as he annihilated the entire town proper and despite the unharmed status of this part of the town, the noise alone would have alerted each and every survivor down here.

I could feel a hand on my shoulder, and startled I turned to see Ricky crouched next to me. He looked oddly serene, more intelligent than he actually was yet not maniacal, if you understand what I mean. He offered me his hand to steady myself as I got off my hands and knees. For some odd reason my oath to never touch anyone just didn’t seem to apply here. I was in a sort of daze as I was down here in the bushes with Ricky, quite different from what ended up being four days ago when I had jumped here, and it was very different. I hadn’t given much thought to this moment in my timeline as all the other ones kept running over each other. Ricky smiled and said, “You made it here after all,” and I gave him an odd look before he added, “Jake is inside my room, I’m pretty sure he’s still asleep. I gave him some of my dog’s Phenobarbital because I couldn’t trust him to stay put when the town erupted. He’s such a good kid, he never would have stayed out of harm’s way.”

I had to shut him off for a moment and ask, “Wait a minute here. You know what’s going on around here? How do you,” and he held up his hand in a very strange gesture like an adult would a child. I was trying to say more but my mind scrambled about and nothing would come out.

His voice seemed to work just fine as calm and intelligent as it sounded, “I had a job to do Stacy and I had to stay here and finish it, through all of your jumps and all of the chaos, this moment needed to be changed and I was left here to do it. I have done it and now I can move on, but don’t be sad,” he added in the instance he saw my eyes tearing up. His intelligence and understanding of human nature was way beyond his years, and it was just so strange, I was dumbstruck but he continued, “I’m going to a place that is pure happiness, and above all else I earned it. I looked at the abyss for less than a fraction of a fraction of one second and the terror of it was blinding, it was painful and it had already felt like an eternity by the time I was ripped out of it and given my chance to repent and make amends for what I had done. I have and now I am going to be forever in the presence of God and her love.”

Once he had said “her love” I knew exactly who had pulled Ricky from what he had called the abyss, but I still couldn’t for the life of me understand why God was involving herself in the affairs of a boy in a town that was being ripped to shreds from the most evil angel from her most evil angel. It made no sense but there was a small part of me that was terrified to ask the questions. After everything I have seen now I don’t think I could take any more supernatural understanding even if it appeared to be good news for a change. Of course I had come this far I might as well drive through the gates, “Are you repenting for being possessed by Darius?” and then before he could even speak I also asked before I lost my nerve, “How did you die?”

He looked at me with a deep sympathy and he didn’t appear to want to go on, but after clearing his throat he did. “Well that’s a little too simplistic of a way to explain it,” and then he cleared his throat again. He seemed so much less serene and a lot more surreal albeit just as intelligent as he continues, “It was because I wanted Darius to take me. I wanted the easy solutions to problems that are so unimportant that it is an insult to God or anything good. If Darius had wanted to take me and I had refused then he could have killed me and nothing more All souls have to be willingly given to the deity or entity that can carry it over to the afterworld,” he coughed as the pain of what he was saying completely swarmed him. Another cough and he went back into it, “Some people give themselves over to an entity long before they die and others wait around after they die for an entity to offer them passage, but nobody leaves this world without a guide or some place to go. I don’t need to remind you that for all the wrong reasons I made my choice and unfortunately I had no place o actually go but hell, since Darius has no realm of his own, and that is the exact problem. Darius wants to create his own realm, instead of taking over the realm that your friend the Devil there had wanted for him. God wanted me to repent to the person I forced to rip her own soul apart when she killed me,” and I had gasped because the answer to the next question was in what he just said, “I’m only telling you this because you have to kill me, and I don’t want you to fracture your soul over it, I’ll be fine and the moment of hell I endured was well deserved, don’t flinch when you are faced with my death. You owe me now,” and I looked at him as he added one last statement, “This will make it a lot easier on you to kill me,” and I saw his hands lash out and felt them grab onto each side of my face, and then I felt nothing, but was in the exact same location in the bushes alone.

Bob Culvin the stupidest bastard on earth came walking up behind me like he had before, “What are you doing down there?” and of course that voice made me jump up from my crouched position in the hedges even though I should have known better this time around.

I wasn’t playing games this time around, since this was a little long and my mind was still reeling that Ricky had just killed me and sent me here after sounding like a peaceful friar, “Where’s your little bastard Ricky, Bob,” and there was no sign that Bob was trying to control laughter this time, no he had quite an earnest look on his face.

Bob looked at me quite differently this time around, “He break a window or something?” and I nodded to him with a serious look that read, loud and clear that he should just get the boy and let him deal with this. He yelled into the house, “Ricky! Get your ass out here boy!” and if I didn’t know that Ricky was going to try to kill me and I was actually killed by him to come back here and, well, kill him, I would have felt sorry for him. I can’t believe I just wrote that, because this is a bad cartoon.

The smarmy and clever Ricky came walking out of the house. I didn’t know what to say to be honest with you because unmistakably one of his feet was soaked in a dark red almost blackish stain that my recent experiences unfortunately told me was what blood really looked like. Bob was so stupid that he didn’t see a thing. Ricky looked down the stairs at me and said casually, “You’re early Stacy, I was expecting to find you in the bushes in another twenty minutes or so,” and that was horrifically unexpected. I maintained my calm, and Bob couldn’t.

“What you been up to boy?” he said to his smart mouthed son, and then waited for Ricky to respond much differently than he had. I was a little shocked too. This would be Saturday during the baseball game if my memory served, and Bob at least should have wondered what Ricky was doing home, and now I finally did too. “What’s that all over your shoe?”

Ricky then gave me an amazingly fake look of shock which was so obvious I think he knew something about this scene unfolding before, “Didn’t you ever wonder what it would be like to serve a higher purpose Bob?” and the indignation started building in his father the second Ricky had the nerve to use his real name, “Why don’t you run inside and see if you can stop the bleeding in your wife, you stupid old fool.”

Now this became a real strain on my sensibilities but Bob pushed Ricky out of the way and stumbled up the stairs probably assuming that he would deal with Ricky after he saw what he was off about. I bucked up immediately, “What the hell are you off about Ricky?” and he feigned a shocked expression as if my language was vile. I gave him vile, “Maybe your father will come down here and kill you so that I don’t have to?”

There was genuine shock in his face after that one, but it was replaced quickly with that look of superiority, “Yeah, Bob Culvin won’t be leaving that house again, so don’t worry your pretty little head over that,” and shockingly this Ricky was worse than the Ricky that I had faced and tried to kill me with a rock. He wasn’t done mocking me either, “Your friend isn’t going to show up to save you this time, so you might want to just leave here before something horrible happens. I really could care less about twisting our time lines together.”

I smiled down at him since I was still an inch or two taller than him, “It’s too bad you never get to see what it is like to be taller than me. You’ll never know what it is like to be smarter than me, and more importantly your ability to confuse me doesn’t work,” and that completely whipped the smirk off his face. I walked closer to him and as I did the blood on his shoe completely vanished as I concentrated on it. He looked down and could actually see no blood as I did or at least his changed expression meant he could. When his eyes met mine again I said, “You’re still too dumb to remember to leave footprints with the wet imaginary blood on your shoes.”

Despite Ricky’s indignation I looked up that steep set of stairs that makes up his house, and then pushed him aside as I walked past him. This time was different as there was no Lou, and as I was fumbling through my pockets again I denoted that there was no parchment still. Both of these were integral parts of this story the last time around. Ricky walked cautiously behind me as I peered through the window and the inside of the place was dark. Why do I have to be like this? My own instincts are being butchered by my formative understanding of the unknown. I have to get Jake out of there. I pushed open the door and burst in ready to go flying up the stairs, but instead I tripped and came pretty close to smashing my face on the stairs but my reflexes saved me from that. I looked back and saw the body of Lila Culvin, Ricky’s mother. The blood was drained in a pool by her head and she had been dead for quite a while. She also hadn’t been there when I looked through the door so I knew instinctively that I had jumped again, and this time ahead. My body shivered as the last words of Ricky filled my mind. Of all the worst nightmares I was walking into one right now. I needed a better grip on what I jumped into, and I needed it now.

I wasn’t going to get it before I heard the coughing coming from behind me and up the stairs. Ricky stood at the top of the stairs and was looking down at me. His maniacal gaze was that of someone who had just killed his own mother. He also looked like he would have no problem killing his best friend’s mother. His intentions were ominous from the minute he started walking down the stairs and there was a very strange air to all of this, like he wasn’t really good at being evil. In a way as I have said many times throughout all of this he never really was smart enough to be evil, and even during his transformation periods when he had a certain level of enhanced shrewdness there were times like these when he would try to lie, in a convincing voice, but his mind was still too underdeveloped to take the evil intentions off of his face. With evil glare still on his face he mustered up a scared little boy voice to say, “Oh my God Mrs. Jones my mother fell down the stairs and I didn’t know what to do.”

I stepped back a bit scared as I saw that not only had Ricky wanted to be possessed by Darius he was willing to commit atrocity on him. There are two types of evil in this world that can’t be explained away and can’t be redeemed, in my mind anyway, Lord knows what God is thinking when she does what she does. The first is the easiest one, and that is any woman that could kill their own child. It makes no sense if you have ever been a mother and it makes no sense even if you never have been, and the other is a child that would kill their own mother, especially a son. You can almost be able to explain a daughter doing it because girls are just wired weird when it comes to those things but a son that would kill his mother is demonic to begin with, trust me on that one.

Again the shrewdness fought with the overwhelming stupid in Ricky’s brain as he didn’t really comprehend how I was backing up while maintaining a look of calm. Unlike him, I was jaded all the same but not an idiot from birth. Ricky made it to the bottom of the stairs and aside from the evil look on his face made the only other mistake that a son with a dead mother would make. He casually stepped over her and didn’t give her a second glance. He even stepped in her blood and made no distinction from simply going from a stroll and visiting a really bad death scene. Ricky either didn’t realize or wasn’t concerned that I was buying time to figure out the easiest way to kill him. Again as I have said since page one of this book I am jaded and this is a black and white issue that I will take up with God someday. He casually said, “I’ve waited two days for you to get back here.”

I am totally sick of all this gray area in between. What if Ricky can do things that I don’t expect? I mean up until a while ago or come to think of it sometime in the future, who knows when, my scumbag ex husband is going to turn into an undead doppelganger that will transform and try to kill me too. Great I am running out of ideas and time as Ricky draws closer to me. I’m also running out of hallway in which to sink back into. I don’t even know this house or what I have to deal with. I wish I knew what day this is. I asked Rickey and he stopped. Then he looked at me in all seriousness, “You don’t actually know what day today is?”

I looked at him as he stood about six feet away from me, “You know about the different time lines, so you know that you sent me back here to kill you?” and he didn’t even change his expression. “Today is Monday,” I said just to see if he wanted to play the game still. I didn’t want to kill him, and I didn’t know what he was going to do to get me to kill him and fracture my soul as he had put it to me later on.

The fact that he had stopped his maniacal march towards me, and was now looking as if he was going to make a run for it, had me worried. Did he actually know something that very few of us actually did, or was he just a bit concerned that my brand of insanity could trump his? In either case I decided I should do something to take his mind off of it, and trust me as I look back on this it is almost insane that I courted disaster this way, but I did when I said, “I need you to tell me where Jake is, I don’t care about your foolish pacts, and whatever things you did to damn yourself. Tell me where Jake is and I will let you live,” and that did it as his face went into a form of panic. He knew where Jake was, and he knew I was here to kill him.

He said absolutely nothing as he made a break for the door, but I with the longer legs and greater reflexes was on him faster than he knew what to do. The fact that I caught up to him told my mind that was racing through the scenarios that his only change was the ability to think, as he obviously had to come to the conclusion to get away. My knee hit his back partially by accident by I still had the wherewithal to give it some extra strength and his body collapsed in on itself in absolute agony as he fell on the floor next to his dead mother. I wasted no time in putting my knee on his back and grabbing him by the hair. It was a savage scene but I had no choice but to deal with this. I couldn’t help myself as I asked him again, “Where s Jake?” and all of his squirming made it hard to hold him but not impossible.

He started giving up his struggle a bit as the realization that his master had lied to him or that was at least what it felt like. He fell flat on the floor beneath me as if he was trying to think his way out of this. I am ashamed to admit this but being at wits end and all I tapped into an evil side of myself I didn’t know existed as his eyeball ripped around the nail on my middle finger as I dug it into his eye socket. I wasn’t playing anymore and more over I unfortunately already knew the outcome of this encounter. This was an oddly familiar scene as it was the same way I got under Darius’ skin too.

He screamed out in the most agonizing heart wrenching pain imaginable, and I didn’t care if it made me evil or not I was quite happy inside to know that he could feel this kind of pain. I was still a bit reserved as I realized that revenge is not a good motive and I have no right to deal out painful moral punishment, but I didn’t care. I wanted my son and I realized at this point that Ricky would not treat Jake any differently and while I was at it, the whole “son killing mother” thing removed his humanity anyway. He screeched out, “He’s upstairs, I already killed him like I was commanded to so you can go fu ..” and he never finished what he was trying to say as I found out how easy it was to break a neck. It was vengeful, it was evil, and it was all I could do when faced with the person who just killed my son in cold blood. I started to cry, as I still had his head in my hands. I felt like I had a fractured soul and the first person or entity I blamed this time was God and God alone.

It was very bitter of me as I snapped out of the trance that had me completely outside my body through this whole incident. Well not really but as I look back on it I see it that way. That wasn’t me. That wasn’t the way I was. That wasn’t what I would have wished on anybody. I am ashamed to admit it. I am ashamed to talk about it, but it is part of the story and it is part of what happened in the jading process. The world was collapsing in on me and in the battle of good and evil I had to accept that I was good, surrounded by evil and it was time for me to fight back, and this was the first place I made my stand as I killed the creature that killed my son. No mother would stand there holding a gun on the bear that just killed their child and wait for it to walk away, and unlike this heathen freak the bear doesn’t know any better.

I smashed his head into the floor wishing that it would collapse in on itself and leave no distinguishable trace that a human even existed in that skull. Of course that only happens in the movies as collapsing a skull is NOT as easy as breaking a neck and all I got was a stinging pain in my hand for the effort and it snapped me out of the fury a bit as I resolved myself to the fact that I deserved it. I stood up, back in my daze not careful of where I was or what I stepped on. I stumbled as I stepped awkward on Rickey’s body and then I stumbled a bit on the first few stairs like a drunken woman almost, but proceeded up the stairs to whatever horrific site would befall me. I probably should have taken the time to wonder why Jake’s death was so important to Darius and why he had Ricky do it with all of his own opportunities at hand, but I wasn’t all there at the moment either.

Time had become an intolerable instrument to play around with. Not by myself mind you, because as I write this now I can honestly say that I never had the ability to alter anything much when time shifted. Most of the time I had to get my bearings on what time it really was. I had gotten better at looking at my watch, and spying out what time it is, but even as my watch now tells me that it is ten fifty and I gathered that it was Monday from what Ricky had tried to trick me into, what I remembered doing right now was shuffling my last customers out of the diner, and in fifteen minutes or so dealing with Darius. Now as usual there is an unexplainable jump back, then a walk over here, then a jump forward, while at the same time I need to be over there or else none of this happens. Thank about that for a moment, it just isn’t explainable, but there was “that other Ricky” comment, and he did seem to know a hell of a lot more than I did. Maybe “that other Stacy” is over there right now setting all this in motion so that “this Stacy” can get things done.

I had bolted up the stairs now taking them two at a time, well until I fell up the last two and hit the upper hallway face down as the awkward landing that was two stairs above my feet left me no time to react with my hands. My face was flushed and tears were welling up in me, despite the fact that none of the circumstances that have happened in the last few hours, connect with the dots I have landed on. I opened the door at the top of the stairs not knowing in the least what room was what. The hunched over body of Bob Culvin was in the corner. It was disturbing, at best but disgusting at worst and nothing more. He also smelled like Ricky had killed him days prior, when I first came over, perhaps he had been killed when he walked in, after finding me in the hedge. Time flutters oddly, and now I was about to walk into the room when I realized that I have no use for dead father’s of sons I just killed. I closed the door.

More calmly I walked to the next door and flung it open, closet. The towels in the closet were all strewn about and never appeared to be folded. The mother of the year candidate downstairs neither cared, nor responded to domestication, let me tell you. Fatefully it is a tragedy when anyone dies but this family was nothing more than four generations of selling hardware in a lowly town in the middle of nowhere and there was going to be nobody mourning the end of them, especially considering the last time I saw the town it was destroyed anyway. It needed a lot of hardware but had no people left to use it. The door at the end of the hallway was closed and despite the two doors along the way I knew the one that was the bathroom, as it was wide open and the other one was the narrow type door that inevitably leads to the attic in these old style houses. That door was calling to me, and it felt like something ominous waited for me. It’s how it would have been in the movies.

Now there was another problem at my side as I grasped the handle. The door was quite locked and it didn’t even wiggle slightly. On that note there didn’t appear to be any place for a key though. How could Ricky lock a door and be on this side, when the locking mechanisms must be on the other side. I wasn’t playing as I threw my shoulder into the door and the pain was pretty obvious because that door was solid, and I was barely solid. Again I wanted to figure something out to help me along. I yelled out Jakes name and I heard nothing in reply. There was no reason to assume that Ricky had lied to me, but you can’t blame me for holding out hope. I heard a very loud crash from downstairs, and spun around to look towards the stairs. There wasn’t anything I could do with this door so I might as well go deal with whatever that noise was. Looking back on it I really wish I had a better understanding of how noises work because it had been a long series of days playing bad noise after bad noise over in time, and I have yet to hear a good one. I have yet to have a reaction to a noise that wasn’t idiotic on my behalf either, so here we go again.

I approached the stairs slowly looking down them and seeing nothing but a dead Ricky lying next to a day or so, dead Lila. I crept down the stairs and paid attention to every sound and scanned around everything with my eyes. Ricky remained dead, and so did his mom. I rounded the hallway to head towards the back of the house. The full living room was in front of me and you could see pretty easily that it was empty. The kitchen must be the next step to where I have to be, and it must be down the hall. Walking towards the simple swinging door that separated the end of the hallway to what must be the kitchen I slowly approached it purposefully not getting within reach of it should it swing in on me. Sick of all the surprises by this point I took a deep breath and then kicked the door in towards the kitchen and the second I did I could see a big orange cat go diving through a hole in the screen door. “That explains that,” I was thinking as I cautiously entered the room.

I lost my breath for a moment as I saw the hulking form of Darius as he was sitting at the Culvin breakfast table against the wall, his feet up as if it were any old lazy day. He was staring right at me with one eye so I definitely didn’t surprise him, and I knew it was him and not Jack, who for all I knew was still out there somewhere. I had no idea what he was up on because at last look of my watch and guessing at time, he should have been walking into my diner right now so I didn’t know what state of our relationship we were actually in. I just stared at him knowing that no matter which Darius this was, I couldn’t do a thing to stop him from harming me, but I had to ask him if only to inspire him to think about it, “Where’s Lucifer?”

Darius quickly took one of his feet from the table in an obvious ploy to intimidate me. The look on his face said it all as I hadn’t flinched. Factually speaking I hadn’t flinched because he did it so fast that when I realized he had done it I hadn’t the time to react. That look still told me that I confused him, so it was at prior to the chaos he created in down town, before where I had made it in “real time” without the jumps. He didn’t say anything as he took his other foot from the table and looked at me in a menacing way. Evil always resorts to intimidation, but I was resolved to the fact that it didn’t matter what I did if he wanted me dead, why waste the energy? He stood up and started walking towards me and closed half of the ten or twelve feet between the two of us. I had no time to react when he lunged forward at the invisible speed that Lou and he used when they were using all the speed of infinity. Again I didn’t have the will to resist.

Darius ripped a huge chunk of the plaster out of the wall and ripped it from around his head. I saw this after I turned around and saw that he had somehow gone through me and had lodged himself in the wall. He threw a large chunk of it at me and it exploded in mid air inches in front of me as if it had hit me and shattered, but I assure you it had not. I smiled at his reaction of extreme infuriation. To be honest with you he looked like a child right before a towering tantrum and I knew all too well what one of those looked like. He stomped over to me and thrust his hand through me and clutched thin air behind my head. I would like to explain what it looked like to have a gigantic arm going through my face, but to be honest with you I don’t remember. This was a strange cost to my invulnerability to Darius at the moment. Our contact was my amnesia and his immense anger. Looking back on it all I can say is it was like the two of us had reversed roles somehow. I was invulnerable but at the cost of my memory, and he was invulnerable but at the cost of his time.

Darius stepped back and looked me up and down, his face contorted a lot less and he stared at me and then said, “Who are you?” in a slightly echoed voice, far less calm and eastern European then when Jack morphed into Darius spoke. I didn’t answer him because as far as I was concerned I had asked him a question first and he hadn’t answered it either. When someone can’t harm you they should play nice after all. Why he was sitting here when I came down the stairs had less value to me than why I was here. I could actually feel myself more anxious about what Jake’s state was at the moment than the obvious state of my life, but there was a calm over me as I accepted the fact that I could change nothing here right now in my own life. Darius was about to enter rage, but he held himself in to ask me, “Why do you interfere with me as often as you do?” and to be honest with you, this was an interesting question, all things considered.

The answer to it was pretty simple, “I have no idea, I just seem to don’t I?” and he exploded outward growing to double his own size with the rage and fury of an immortal, omnipotent being who didn’t like the answer, didn’t respect the person who gave it to him, and as he launched himself through me and crashed through the wall this time into what I can only assume is the living room. It is hard to see through all of the falling rubble, but he roared in a frustration that could only describe his fury that an omnipotent being that can’t affect the woman he doesn’t like and doesn’t respect could have. I started laughing because he seemed so silly in all of this. “You’d think omnipotence would give you the brains to know that doesn’t work the first time?” which at any other time would have been foolhardy but right now seemed to be the only logical solution to all of it.

He stood up and smiled at me, which was probably the strangest thing he has done yet all things considered. His closed eye never moved but his one eye that remained seemed to lighten up, as if he had a very happy thought. I don’t think the world would have ever been the same if Darius’ dreams came true, but here something made him very happy. He started walking away from me, and started talking in a voice that was far less dull and eastern European, “I should have known,” and then without any warning he launched his huge fist right through the support beam that held the corner of the house in place. The house in that instance started to buckle that direction and lean in on it while he turned to look at me. The other three support posts strained to hold the creaking mass of house up behind me, and Darius took a few steps forward and was within two feet of me thanks to his huge legs, “I don’t have to learn from anything. I can change any circumstance that I desire, and even if I can’t harm you, you can’t stop me from doing what I have to do,” and then he disappeared and reappeared instantly but closer to the wall. He turned and looked at me, but when he talked his voice was almost completely Americanized, the way Jack’s voice sounded when he was pretending to be Darius, “I know what makes you tick Anna,” and then he exploded through the wall, making the house start tilting even more.

In theory I guess I was going to have to live with the rampage that Darius was about to launch himself into on the town. As I looked at my watch I could see that it is within five minutes either side of when Darius had started destroying the gas station. I had more important things to do like get Jake’s body, living or dead out of this house that is about to collapse in on itself, but I was still concerned about the town and the destruction that Darius was in the process of unleashing most likely. I ran over to the hole in the wall to see what I was missing down on the ground four feet below where I stood. There was a large swatch of earth that was disturbed, grass torn up and a trench going about ten feet from the point of impact towards the sidewalk, but there was no Darius. I wish I still had that odd piece of parchment that used to write me out some sort of guidance. I heard the explosion that would have at one time been Halloran’s Texaco, and the cloud of it over the trees was a good indicator that times were about to get nasty down town.

Of course I was down there watching the whole ordeal as if Darius had been doing it for my own personal viewing. There was something that he had to get across to me, or to my son. That’s when I saw something in the actions of Darius that I hadn’t really noticed before. It also showed me something that Lou must have known and didn’t share with me. All four times, and I mean four if you assume that the same incident had happened more than once with the same factor involved, I was not completely alone, and even in this instance there was one other person who was there and for a moment I stopped dead to remember that in this case Jake, the other person was supposed to be upstairs but deceased. Now I really needed to get up those stairs and drag Jake out of this house before it becomes an immovable coffin. The hole in the wall that was Darius was making the house buckle and make some seriously ominous noises as it slowly started bending in on itself. I made a break for the stairs without thinking about why I came down the stairs to begin with. I know now that I needed something to get that door open, but at the time I was in a full bore panic as I ran up the stairs and rounded the corner into the hallway and started charging towards the door at the end of the hallway.

I remember so clearly the way I launched myself into the door like a linebacker for the Chiefs. My shoulder hit that door in midair and I could feel something give way around me. I could see the splintering of door and I could see the other side of it as I went smashing through the door and then hit the floor, being showered with the splinters of the door. I held myself tight on the floor to wait for whatever else might happen as at this time I was now weighting the art of the house that wasn’t supported by a support beam. I didn’t feel or hear the house collapse so I slowly lifted my head to see what I was missing around me. The house under me appeared far more stable than it did a few seconds ago, and the young man on the bed appeared to be breathing although not awake. Despite my first instincts to go over to the bed and start shaking Jake into consciousness I just walked over and sat on the bed next to him. That was all it took for him to wake up, and give me a little snort before he said, “What are you doing here?”

Much of my life is far too crazy to even start blubbering at my own son, he could see how out of sorts I was, and he didn’t even seem to need an answer to what was wrong with his mother. I thank God for that because I couldn’t even muster up the strength to come up with a good lie at the moment. I didn’t even know if what I wanted was a good lie or an extension of half truth. I got up and walked over to the window to see what I could see of the street that used to make up the little town. There was a strange peace that went through me when I saw the town still burning down the road a ways. I opened the window, actually happy that the Cullen residence had since been equipped with the really easy replacement windows they advertise on television. The ones in my house would have been a bear to get open especially in the state I was in, but there was a mystery below me, as I saw the house was undamaged as when I had run into Ricky out front before.

My son was so groggy on the bed and I was pretty sure that he didn’t even know why. Of course while I am on the subject, I could add all of this to the list of “why” that I was piling up, but at the moment the most important why, was upon me. Why did I jump back into the past and watch this house be destroyed, and come back to it perfectly fine while everything else is being destroyed all the same? Bet none of you get to ask yourself that question very often do you? Then we can get to the whole question of why Jake is being protected by an evil little creep who made a deal with God to stay and protect him? Seriously these questions were starting to pile up and I couldn’t for the life of me get around the last one that either happened or didn’t happen based on the timeline at hand. Why did Darius go flying through me several times after I had spent several days repeatedly getting killed by him? It get really odd when you put it all together, but then again I am a woman who is playing around with angels so what do I expect? Don’t answer that!

Jake stumbled to his feet and in a very weak voice said, “Ricky’s mom is dead isn’t she?” He stumbled back and sat on the bed. I was about to respond when Jake lifted his hand in a gesture to give him a second to collect his thoughts. He carefully started talking in a clear and concise manner as if he was trying to assess a situation that wasn’t all that easy to explain. I know exactly what he is going through so I let him think as he spoke, “Ricky did everything he could to get me to come home with him,” and he paused for a moment to think about what he was saying. He started again as he figured out a new piece, “I came with him because he was acting pretty messed up, and I was worried about him,” and then tears started falling down his cheeks, “I remember seeing his mom and that was it, the smell, I couldn’t ..”

I gave him a hug and he hugged me back. I should have done this earlier just so I could get his reaction and make sure it was really him. Thankfully it is, and after I looked him over for any damage I realized something very strange. His shirt was completely matted with drying blood under him. I turned him around really quickly almost in a manner that might have hurt him had his body not been loose from the shock of everything already. As I ripped his shirt up I saw that his back was perfectly fine. I looked at him in a manner that I would have thought would terrify him as I look back on it and now that I think of it again I get the shivers thinking about how it didn’t. I was in shock as I asked Jake, “What happened to your shirt? Why are you covered in blood?”

Jakes eyes quivered a bit but he didn’t change all that much as he started reliving more of what he was talking about, “There was a stabbing pain in my back when I saw Ricky’s mom,” and then he looked at me deadly serious, almost like he was saying something that was common knowledge and was a little shocked that I didn’t realize it myself. He didn’t even act like the blood was shocking or that there should have been a better explanation than the one he gave, and I don’t think my heart was ready for it, “Because that was where Ricky stabbed me, I think we’re both dead mom.”
In an instant any form of calm that I had went straight out the window as I was going crazy trying to figure out where Ricky could have stabbed him but there were no markings on his back. In theory if we were dead that could explain it and a host of other issues going on right now, but the evidence, like a lack of a hole in his back wasn’t quite there yet. I pinched Jake on his leg really hard, and he yelled out and then started scolding me, “What did you go and do that for?”

I stood up and walked over to the window again to see the fires growing in the town. Darius has now blown up the gas station, and obviously taken out the buildings across the street. I could hear the faint crashing of him and that pole attacking the helpless bank, and perhaps the people trying to escape it. I turned back to Jake and said frankly, “I have been pinching myself repeatedly for days and it hasn’t done me a bit of good so I was hoping I would wake up by pinching you,” and after I looked out the window again I decided it was just time to level with him. I decided to be blunt, “As bad as you feel right now and all the confusion, I am pretty sure that you and I are two of the only people in this town that actually are alive.”

I guess it’s important for me to remind any other parents out there reading this that my son, like any other teenager, already thought I was strange. Nothing I had done to this point really fazed him. No he’s here laying in blood seemingly dead but not and talking about how he thinks we are both dead, so I just didn’t have it in me to change the subject or attempt to make light of it all. “Jake, you need to go home and get cleaned up, and I’ll ..”

Looking back on that day, I have to say that I’m not only sick of how the world keeps churning but the way that everyone else seems to know things that I don’t. Sure I happen to have some intimate knowledge of the angels and all that, the cosmic rules, or whatever else is out there that the average human doesn’t have but unfortunately I can’t tell you what happened a few hours ago. My son apparently knows because he had cut me off by saying, “With the windows all smashed out and Mary dead in the living room, are you nuts?”

Now that was a question I had been asking myself for a while now, but it was nice to see someone else had caught on, “Why are the windows blown out on the house?” I asked him assuming that the second part might not go over so easily, but what the hell? “Then you can tell me why is Mary dead on the floor in the living room?”

Jake didn’t say a word; he just started shaking his head and got up off the bed. I guess this type of behavior runs in the family? He took off his shirt and started walking towards the window and opened it up. “The town is on fire mom?” came out of his mouth and it was just a simple expression of fact. He looked back at me and I nodded at him a bit impotent as to what to say next. Jake made what I said next very easy on me by saying it himself, “I bet you wonder what is going on don’t you?” and of course I just nodded at him, since he appeared to have the expertise in all of this now. He looked back out of the window again and then said, “You think humanity is bad, I mean you’ve been told that your whole life in one form or another from some brilliant high school teacher, to Oprah, to Presidents of various countries, that’s all you get battered with your whole life.”

He said nothing more and continued to look out the window. I didn’t really know what to say, and I was just tired and ready to let someone else take over my responsibilities in all of this. I decided that I had one more question to ask, and hopefully I would get a good answer, “Why do I have to go through all these tests?” and even though it wasn’t a very impressive question it spelled it out pretty well, and without too much fanfare.

Whoever was using the form of Jake turned around and walked over to me, placing himself on the bed next to me, and had a real fifties television voice when he talked, “Why not you?” and I didn’t even look at him when he said it and I didn’t look at him afterwards. He put his hand on mine and for some strange reason it felt amazingly comforting, even if I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and a small voice in my head was praying that Jake wasn’t dead. The Jake sitting next to me said, “I can feel everything you think Stacy, and I have to say that you are the most difficult person I have ever been able to reach,” and at this time I did look at him before he continued along, “There was no real reasoning behind why you ended up being stuck in the middle of all this, you were just the first woman to ever resist Lucifer on her own accord, and then it snowballed from there. When you became the second entity in the known spaces of existence to show no fear in Darius, then we had something, and you were recruited and there are none of us up there that understand you in the least.”

“Great!” came out of my mouth in a long loud sigh when whoever this was finished explaining my credentials. “Can I at least assume that one of you took reasonable precautions with the life of my son while you were screwing around with his body this whole time?” and he gave me a curious look. I started again, “I may only be mortal but by the time I had looked for the stab mark that wasn’t there I finally got the fact that Jake hasn’t been here since the very beginning of all of this.”

The Jake posing as my Jake smile, “That whole thing where I had said I think we were both dead?”

“Totally over the top, I was ready to call the Academy and get them to take your name off the Oscar,” and that managed to get a very Jake like laugh out of the young man posing as my son. He got up again and said nothing. He just paced back and forth as if he were pondering something really important, so I figured I should press the issue, “My son?”

He looked at me and said, “Oh I assure you, he’s in here with me. He has been all along, but I haven’t been able to release him for his own safety,” and then he paced some more before saying, “You’ll be happy to know that he’s seen far stranger things than even you have, so the two of you will have to sit down and try to figure out how you are going to deal with what you know and what you think others should know,” and then after a strange chuckle, “I don’t envy either of you,” I just started shaking my head and holding my hands over my head in a gesture of stunned disbelief. Before I could think of anything constructive to say I stood up and started walking towards the door. My son or whoever that is watched me walk past and was visibly stunned even out of the corner of my eye. Even as I started walking down the hall I heard the voice behind me say, “Where are you going?” and I said nothing.

Even as I walked down the stairs and observed that there was no Lila Culvin or Rickey Culvin lying in a pool of Lila’s blood, I was less than amused by the whole situation. There appeared to be no structural damage to the house from the fit Darius had put on, no need to worry about much of anything. All I needed to do was walk outside of this house and finally go about my business. My mind was thinking of all the things I would rather be doing right now when I bumped into Jake, who had gone from upstairs to now being in front of me. I asked, “So if Ricky was gaining redemption by protecting my son then why did he need you to protect him for?”

My son’s form looked at me and said quite plainly, “I’d call Ricky an idiot, but there would be a lot of idiots out there offended,” and even though it would have been the type of thing that would have made me laugh or agree, or whatever it was meant to do say yesterday, today it just doesn’t work. I think I explained pretty well how different Ricky was after his, whatever it was called. His “Get out of Hell Free” card also came with a cleverness on both ends that didn’t equate to whomever this was telling me he was a dummy. He saw this and decided to either use honesty, or his lying skills put mine to shame, “God, or who you would call God put him up to his task to save Ricky. He told you that much and what he said was completely true. I don’t work with or represent God, and I don’t trust her all that much,” and the honesty or good lying was refreshing in any account. What he said next made me feel even better, “I’m pretty comfortable with your intelligence, if I just say that you know why I don’t, and I think you know that regardless of whether your son is safe or not that you might as well just trust me. I have after all been your friend through all this, and I think you know that.”

I actually did know. For some reason the whole exchange here at Ricky’s house was the strangest of it all yet the most comforting. The town was going all to hell, all of my neighbors were dying, and at least as I was here, I didn’t have any fear from whoever this was. It was the same feeling I had when whoever this was spoke to me through the parchment. Yeah I realize I didn’t have any reason to know that this was the parchment as I laid it out so far to you, but you have to trust me on this one. At this moment in time I knew that it was the parchment. Now of course what I said next confirmed it a bit, “Why are you involved in all of this? I mean you obviously have power that the rest of the angels and God herself for all I know don’t have. How come you care so much?”

Jake started laughing and it was a hysterical laugh like when I had seen him watch an old movie called “Ghostbusters” on one of the comedy channels. I mean this laugh was simply ludicrous, but infectious at the same time. He put his hand on my shoulder and he said, “Can I call you Anna? I always liked the name Anna ever since your father named you Anastasia. He was a really smart man your dad and I always took a liking to him,”

I lost myself for a moment, “You knew my dad?” I piped up; trying to see if I could get anything I could out of this exchange. Jake stopped laughing immediately.

The look of all seriousness took over and he said earnestly, “Actually no, not in the sense of what you think of as ‘know’ you see I know everything, and I know everyone,” and then he looked me up and down. I must have looked like I bought it because actually I did. The story made perfect sense to me at the time and it does now. He still elaborated, “I know every conversation that you have had with Lucifer, and Gabriel and everyone else you ever have for that matter. It’s not easy sitting back and watching people who call themselves ‘omnipotent’ do things so obviously ‘not omnipotent’ and then try to change the word around. I’m not even omnipotent and I understand everything they say and do and they have to figure me out as they go along,” he then laughed again but not as maniacally as before, “Humans do this too, as they simply ‘assume’ that they are the top of the ladder in life and existence a lot of the time. It makes absolutely no sense to do so, but they do it, don’t they?”

I smiled. The fact of the matter was I had been thinking that all along, and after I had made that obvious by nodding a few times he continued. “I’m just glad to finally have a moment to talk to you Anna. The parchment thing was nice, but what a pain in the rear it is to sit and write, when I have so many other things to pay attention to. I can be a bit long winded too which the size of the parchment spares me from at least,” and I gave him a hug for whatever reason, and then he made an interesting statement, “We’re going to be ok mom.”

I let go of my son, and stepped back from him. I wanted to say something amazingly poignant, and leave a lasting impression on the moment, but instead I just said, “I guess I better get back into town huh?” and then before he could reply I said, “So is that it with the parchment and everything?”

Even as I write this, and mind you it was hard the entire time I started this book not to let this cat out of the bag, but I managed to do it, I was finally shocked past the need to even ask a question afterwards. The entity that was inside of Jake and had resembled a piece of parchment the whole time said, “That’s in your other pocket. When you start heading towards the town and get closer to your other self you will vanish and your consciousness will flow back into the other you,” and for a change I had no questions. I was in a state of shock and was looking forward to my insanity again. He did offer one thing though as I left, “That’s what Darius understands and Lucifer still doesn’t Anna, so use it to your advantage, because you’ll need it.”

I foolishly wasted the opportunity to walk away from this whole encounter looking like one of the cool kids at the mall who is unaffected by all of this trivial stuff by turning around. I finally had a question and if I was smart I wouldn’t have concerned myself with it. There was nobody to concern myself with it anyway. Jake was gone, and thank God or whoever I am supposed to worship when it is all over I thought, so was Lila and Ricky just as they had been when I came down stairs. I hadn’t really learned to appreciate how when things changed around for the better after something really horrible they usually managed to stay that way. Here was another beautiful example of forgetting to take the good with the bad.

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