Monday, June 25, 2012

Wither The Vain: Mightier Part 1

White Space

The only place Eli ever sleeps is next to me. I take a lock of his hair and keep it wrapped around my fingers. His hands stop burning and as he sleeps, he squeezes a little tighter.

He'll never forgive me for the fight against Christoph, for twisting the big tree around my finger. I laugh, quietly. He'd never have let me hold him if he wasn't exhausted.

Eli's not mine and I know it. He's not anybody's. He was made to end the world, so there's no one made for him. No happily ever after. Just riding a pale horse off into the sunset as it bleeds in a slow steady pulse across a charred horizon.

I stroked his hair and trail my fingers through it, trying to breathe in his scent. But there's only dust scent, fall scent, ash scent. None of it's really him, just the body he's in.

I trace his face with the tips of my fingers, memorizing him. He sneezes when his hair brushes his nose but doesn't wake up.

He doesn't really want to find them. They don't trust him, never have. Especially the oldest. They never understood why he was put in charge.

I kiss his forehead and he starts to stir, a little smile barely surfacing. The same smile when I found him so long ago, when he dug me out of the temple. He was smiling just like that when I started breathing again.

"C'mon old man, time to get up."


"Already. Time waits for no man."

"Not a man."

"I know, you're a horseman. Now get a move on. Arturo's staying at The Dreamtime."

Eli smiled again, the tooth-filled grin stolen straight from the mouth of wolves.

"I'd swear you were looking to get rid of me Delilah."

"Never old man. I just have an entertainment empire to run. Go on, beat it."

He slipped on his gloves, dressed, and disappeared with only a wink.

The hair fell from between my fingers and blew across the floor.

"Miss Geri, the Mayor's on line one and you have an appointment with Consular Mako in an hour."



I slipped through The Dreamtime's doors, melted jazz blowing through my hair. Smoke danced on the floor, draped over faux flappers and mock mobsters.

A drink.

I slid across the floor, catching the hand of a twenty-something retro with raven-hair and eggshell skin. Spin for three circles, dip, steal a kiss, and slip back into the fog of smoke. She was still leaning back when she realized I was gone.

The bar was packed all the way across. I tapped a young guy on the shoulder and when he turned around, I slapped him.

"What the hell was that for?"

"For leaving your girl out there alone."

"That's not my girl."

"You have a girl?"

"Well, no."

"You do now. Go get her."

He blinked a couple times before he caught on and tripped his way out to the floor. She was still leaned backwards. An ideal couple.

I took his seat and pulled myself up to the bar.

"Bartender, gin and tonic."

Thinly-sliced muscles laced around his bones, a short crop of spiked black hair, and a face full of stubble; all of these were what caught most people's eye looking at the bartender. I only ever saw the Hebrew characters tattooed on his neck. Shimrat. Protected.

He was turning with my drink when he recognized me.

"Hey Dad. See any kangeroos lately?"

"I'm not yer father and this isn't Australia."

"You're the closest thing to one I have. Funny about that Austrailia thing though. I think you're right."

"Leave. This place belongs to me. I don't 'ave to be mocked by you."

"Calm down already. I'm here looking for someone."

"Never met 'em."

"I didn't even ask you who for yet."

"But you're the one askin'. Now get out."

"Dad, I'm looking for one of the twins."

"They're out again?"

"Everybody is. Big change this time. Might be the last one."

"Yeah, well, what if I said I've changed me mind about wantin' this to end? I've got peace 'ere. A good clientele that respects the rules."

"And the Disciples constantly coming for your head."

Most people would've laughed. Bitterly. A laugh that was a last will. A laugh that was a last resort.

He didn't laugh.

"Look 'ere. If you think I'm afraid of that filth, you've got another thing coming son. You know damn well what my mark means. Even if they could touch me, I wouldn't back down. That piece of trash is nothing like my father was."

I drained my glass.

"No, he's not. How's the garden coming?"

His jaw and his accent softened like the piano in the corner.

"Fair. I've managed to grow a couple tomatos and a rosebush. Sharon loved them."

"Good. You deserve a reprieve. How is she?"

Dad looked at the bar.

"She left. Two months ago. Ran away with the circus you could say. Last I knew, she was on 'er way to Gravesite to join up with the Black Symphony. I pulled some strings. Nobody'll give her any grief. Being head of public works has its perks."

"Can't be that good a perks if you bartend on the side."

"This? This is my 'obby, what keeps me sane. Speakin' of jobs... The fella you're lookin' for has a private table in the corner. Doesn't remember any of it yet."

"None of them do."

Dad shook his head, ignoring the shouts for more shots, more bottles, more more more.

"Try not to make a mess boy. If you can, get him outside first. And watch those damn pencils of his."

I nodded and slid off my seat as Dad went back to work. Table in the corner. Try not to trash the place.


He was asleep on his notebook when I got to his table. Three empty bottles of scotch kept him company.

"Arturo? Arturo Del Pluma?"

He pushed the table and fell back against the booth.

"Si. That iss me. Arturo Del Pluma. Writer. Author. Marquis Du Inebri... Inebri... Drunks."

"Marquis eh? Thought you were Spanish."

"A talented author isss well-versed."

"Well Arturo, why don't we go outside?"

"Why? You think I'm deaf? I know you want me outside. Think I'm important. I am. Thass beside the point."

Heard us? From across the room. In a jazz bar. While drunk.

He was scribbling at his notebook.

"Arturo, what are you doing? Just come with me, everything will be fine."

"Yesss. Everything will be fine. I have a script you know. How things work. Isss how I heard you. Now, I can't just write what I want you to do 'cause you've got f-free will. But watch this."

He stabbed his wrist with his pencil and dabbed the blood onto his notebook.

Wind. Not Fate's wind. A locust wind. A mustard gas wind. A plague wind.

The graphite letters were caught by the wind and torn from the page, stretching, twisting. Words dismembered themselves and fused back together, framing the air before me. Claws. Teeth.

"What are you doing Arturo? Who are you calling?"

He didn't answer. He giggled, chewing on the end of his pencil.

"Answer me!"

Arturo leaned forward, grinning through stained teeth, hair framing his yellowed eyes.

"Stick and stones

may break my bones,

but words

will never hurt me."

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