Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fusion Powered Hero

Ember woke slowly, stretching her long limbs out and wiggling her fingers and toes as she gave a mighty yawn. Sitting up in her bed she swung her legs over the side, pushing the cat-tail fluff filled comforter aside as she slid to the floor. With small shuffling steps she made her way to the window, pushing the shutters open and peering out across the vast field of green grass and wildflowers; it was spring in the forest.

With an arched back she unfurled her wings, stretching the bones and forcing the hibernation induced wrinkles and folds from the translucent membrane. Ember’s deep red hair was tousled and matted, the braids she had woven the locks into six months earlier were twisted and hung in fuzzy ropes over her shoulders.

A loud growl emanated from Ember’s stomach, and she pressed her hands against her tummy, scowling in her typical just-woke-up way. Flopping down into her favorite chair, the one she had made herself years before out of pliable twigs, she scooped up her hairbrush and set about the task of untangling her hair.

It was afternoon before she had managed to smooth out her hair, and with one final pass of the burr-bristle brush, she opened her door and stepped into the warm spring sunshine. The air was chaotic, filled with flitting fairies whose jewel-colored wings glowed like drops of magical light, and with the widest of smiles she jumped up and joined them.

After greeting friends and family, Ember darted off, leaving the circle of trees in which they lived in search of her favorite bathing spot, clutching clean clothes to her chest. She heard the river before she saw it, eagerly anticipating washing off the dust the inevitably collects on a person during hibernation.

Cresting the brow of a small hill, the river came into view and she immediately spotted the jutting rock that diverted some of the water into a small fall to splash into a round pool before finding its way back to the main vein of the river. Ember landed on the banks of the pool, draping her clothes over a nearby branch and then merrily stepping under the small falls.

The cold water gave her a sharp jolt! She let it course over her face, splash off her shoulders and run down the curves of her body, sighing blissfully as the dust was rinsed away, leaving her skin feeling clean and new. Climbing up to the top of the falls she perched on a tiny outcropping of rocks, turning her face up to the sun and opening her wings to dry.

Ember wasn’t sure at first that she had heard anything, the river making enough noise to drown out most of the other sounds the forest might be making. There it was again. She sat up straighter and looked around, raising her hand to shield her green eyes. Nothing. She wanted to turn back to the sun, to absorb its warmth and revel in the feel of the golden light, but something in the back of her mind pushed her to leave despite her wings not being dry.

Ember climbed back down, skirting the pool and heading toward where she left her clothes. With a startled scream she fell backward as the hawk, missing its mark, slammed into the ground. She scrambled backward on hands and feet in a very awkward crabwalk, trying to keep out of reach of the hooked bill that continued to snap at her.

Climbing to her feet Ember turned and ran, knowing that birds were cumbersome on land and hoping to find a log to hide in. The forest floor was littered with pine needles, sharp stones and large rocks, all of which proved to be an obstacle of one kind or another. She fought to climb over the rocks, slipped on the needles and cut her feet on the stones, and still she ran, her life depended on it.

The hawk hopped after her, its large black eyes zeroed in on her and the feeling of that focus pushed her forward. Another startled scream escaped her when she was scooped up from behind and lift off the ground, much to the dismay of the hawk which let out a frustrated cry as it took to the air.

Clinging to the arms that encircled her, Ember turned her head to see who was to thank for her timely rescue and her heart flipped in fear when she didn’t recognize the face. The stranger’s powerful wings beat an ebony blur through the air, out maneuvering the bird like her own fusion powered hero, and in only a few short minutes the hawk gave up the chase, rising up and passing beyond the canopy of trees.

The stranger landed on the banks of the small pool, setting Ember down gently on her feet and taking a step back. She stared at him, taking in the glossy black hair that hung over one shoulder, his honey colored eyes and the iridescent sheen that shimmered off the opaque black of his wings. Ember completely forgot she was naked, being completely transfixed by this strange man who had saved her life.

He walked toward her, his bare chest rising and falling as he worked to catch his breath, and she stood frozen to the spot. He reached past her and retrieved her clothes from the branch where she had hung them, handing them to her wordlessly and watching as she dressed slowly, her eyes never leaving his.

“Who are you?” Ember asked, laying one hand on his chest, feeling the steady beat of his heart under her fingers.

“Jasper,” he answered, his voice a whisper. “I’ve been looking for you.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Four Score and Seven Years Ago

I was the newest doctor in the county psyche ward. Fresh out of school and low man on the totem pole, this is why I now found myself working with the homeless and nameless. To make my job even better, I was also given the graveyard shift, which guaranteed I wouldn’t have a social life.

I was making my rounds, my white shoes silent as I walked the halls, stopping at each door to peer through the windows at the sleeping patients. They weren’t all still in their sleep, many tossed and turned, talked and yelled or fought against their restraints and I sympathized with them as they fought their demons.

The janitor didn’t hear my approach; he was too busy making faces through one of the door windows at whoever was inside. “Hey coo coo bird,” he said, tucking his hands into his arm pits and flapping from side to side.

“Excuse me.” My voice sounded loud in the quiet hallway, and the janitor jumped and spun to face me. “What are you doing?”

He had the decency to look embarrassed, shifting his weight nervously from one foot to another. “Just talking to Abe here, doctor,” he replied, jabbing his thumb in the direction of the door.

I walked to the door and looked through the window at the man inside. He sat quietly on his bed, his back braced against the wall and his arms wrapped around his drawn up knees. His dark hair was shaggy and hung in his eyes, eyes that watched me sharply, unblinking.

“Abe?” I asked, shifting my attention back to the janitor.

“Yeah, that’s what they call him on account of his funny talking. He won’t give his real name, what else they gonna do?”

“Who are ‘they’ and what kind of funny talk?” I asked, folding my arms across my chest and cocking my hips to one side.

“They’s the other doctors,” the janitor explained, wringing his hands, “He talks like Abe Lincoln, like in his speech.”

I frowned at him, “Four score and seven years ago? That speech?”

“Yup, just like that.” The janitor nodded.

“You can carry on with your work now,” I said and he looked more than relieved to be dismissed. “And please don’t taunt the patients any more.”

“Yes ma’am. Never again ma’am.” He took the handle of his cart and hurriedly made his way down the hall.

I lingered at the window, watching as Abe rose from the bed and walked toward the door, his eyes locked on my face. In the brighter light from the hall I saw that his eyes were gold, like warm honey, and in them I saw no insanity, no instability; I saw only a man.

“Who are you?” I asked, despite not expecting an answer.

“Victor,” he answered, his voice vibrating through the mesh enforced glass and I blinked in surprise.

“How old are you?”

“Two and a half score.”

“30?” I was surprised I remembered what a ‘score’ was in terms of time, and Victor looked equally surprised, a tentative smile spreading across his face and I couldn’t help but smile back.

I laid my hand on the glass and he stared at it, clearly suspicious. “You don’t belong here, do you?” He replied by laying his hand against the glass to mirror mine. Without a word I moved away, turning away and heading back up the hall and I could feel the press of his gaze against my back like a hand.

Returning to the nurse’s station I was conveniently ignored by Susan, the tenured nurse who was there to supervise me, but instead went between watching bad late night TV and sleeping. At the moment she was engrossed in a re-run of the Jerry Springer show and was shouting loudly at the screen.

The door to the records room was open so I slipped inside, rifling through the file cabinets until I came up with Victor’s file, labeled ‘Abe, room 342.’ He had been picked up a year before for disturbing the peace. When he was arrested he had been wearing a fine suit and top hat, and the mug shot from the police looked like one of the old fashioned photos you can get at the fair.

When the police weren’t able to identify him they sent him here, claiming he was insane and not safe to be on the streets; he’d been scrutinized by doctor after doctor and all the notes said the same thing: ‘Amnesia and delusions of grandeur.’ I didn’t believe it, there was something in his eyes and I was inexplicably compelled to help him.

I tucked the file into the waist of my pants and pulled my shirt over it before slipping back out into the hallway, grateful there were still people fighting on TV to hold Susan’s attention. Pocketing the master key I quietly made my way back down the hall, glancing up and down its length to make sure no one was watching.

Stepping up to Victor’s window I saw him sitting again on his bed. Surprise flashed across his face and he stood, walking toward me and again laying his hand on the glass. I kept my eyes locked with his as I slipped the key into the lock and turned the bolt, pulling the door open.

“Trust me,” I said quietly, taking him by the hand and leading him down the hall.

Susan was snoring softly and we moved past her and out the doors easily. The butterflies in my stomach were making me sick, and I was hyperaware of every movement and every noise around us as we walked.

We made it out a side entrance of the hospital and into the dark streets without incident, and a block away I stopped, dropping his file into a nearby trash can. “This is all the help I have to offer,” I said, shrugging and feeling helpless. Had I let him out just so he could freeze to death on the streets?

Without a word he reclaimed my hand and walked with purpose, his bare feet navigating the dark city streets with ease. Rounding one final corner he stopped and stared at a blank brick wall, into which was set a single row of stones that formed an arch. I wouldn’t have thought it was anything more then an architectural detail, but Victor looked at it and clearly saw something very different.

“Come with me,” he said, and the confusion must have been clear on my face. He caressed his fingers across my cheek and smiled, “Trust me.” It didn’t occur to me to protest, I simply walked with him toward the wall, and only had a heartbeat to be afraid before I found myself in an elegant garden, a large stone wall at my back into which was set a brick arch.

I stared at the people milling around at what was clearly a party, but it must have been a costume party based on how they were dressed; it had to be, didn’t it? Clinging to Victor’s hand as he walked toward the crowd I whispered to him, “Where are we?”

He smiled at me, wrapping his arms around my shoulders as he replied, “1837.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I was in love with the way he made me feel, singularly beautiful. I adored the way he smiled, like sunshine bursting from behind clouds. I relished the way he smelled, that purely masculine scent that couldn’t be found in any bottle. I treasured the sound of his voice, the deep tone like a smoothly plucked E string.

As he maneuvered the car out of the city the acrid scent of pollution was replaced, mile by mile, with the almost foreign smell of the countryside. Wide swaths of tall green grass moved in the gentle breeze, swelling and undulating like a land locked emerald ocean. Patches of wildflowers screamed their colors out from the crests of the soft waves, schools of shocking orange poppy fish, deep purple lupine eels and bright scarlet rose coral.

He lowered the top of the car, the black canvas peeling back to expose us to the sun’s warm rays, and I lifted my face to them, letting them pour over me and soak into my skin. I could feel the press of the golden light against my closed eyelids, and I smiled when I felt the caress of his fingers across my cheek.

Turning my head I opened my eyes and watched him, his dark eyes intent on the curves of the road which he deftly negotiated as though he’d traveled this path enough to have it committed to memory.

“So where are we going?” I asked, not for the first time as I brushed a stray lock of my chestnut hair out of my eyes.

“I’m not at liberty to say,” he replied, not for the first time, a sly smile quirking his mouth.

I knew better than to press him for more information, he wasn’t going to tell me, so I just tilted my face back up to the sun and was content in the moment. I let myself doze under the coaxing warmth of the sun, letting the chill of the city streets seep from my core and a remarkable calm crept over me.

When I felt the car begin to slow I opened my eyes, my lids heavy with sleep, and as he brought the car to a stop and turned the motor off the sudden press of silence deafened me. A city is never completely quiet, and the sudden onslaught of quiet was unfamiliar and left me feeling almost anxious.

His laugh rose up through the air like a falcon riding a thermal, “Relax,” he said with a wide smile before getting out of the car, “The country won’t hurt you.”

“Uh huh,” I replied as I climbed from the car, my shoes silent on the soft grass. Holding out his hand as he rounded the nose of the car, I slipped my fingers across his palm and his touch calmed my groundless nervousness.

He led me away from the car, the knee high grass tickling my exposed calves and as we crested a low hill my gaze fell on a huge pride of mountain lions and I froze. I glanced sideways at him and spoke at a whisper, “What was it you were saying about the country not killing me?”

Again he laughed, he actually laughed, and it seemed an odd thing to do considering the situation so I looked at him more fully. He stepped in front of me, taking my other hand as a very serious expression replaced his smile.

“You know that saying about something coming out of left field?” he asked, and I could only nod in response, unsure why he wasn’t more concerned about the animals he’d just trusted his back to. “Well, you’re standing in left field now, and here is what’s coming,” he paused as though working up the nerve to continue. “This family you see behind me is my family. I am, in part, like they are.”

My face must have conveyed my confusion because he stepped closer and cupped my face gently in his hands, laying a soft kiss on my lips. “I love you, and I want you always at my side,” again he paused, “I need to show you my other self, the other side of my nature, and I can only hope for your acceptance. If you can accept me, and if you can love both aspects of what I am, know that I can make you like me, you have only to consent.”

I heart was hammering in my chest almost painfully, and the pounding echo through my ears was backed by the sound of my blood racing through my veins. He back away slowly and the pride parted, creating a backdrop of tawny fur and whiskey colored eyes that went between watching him and watching me.

He removed his clothing as he walked, warm sunlight replacing fabric until he stood nude before me, draped in golden light. His eyes never left my face as his body transformed, shifting and reshaping itself, fur flowing to cover his skin until he stood before me as a large cat.

I stared into his face, seeing the spirit of the man I loved in those foreign eyes and knowing in my heart that I never wanted to be without him. I moved toward him, my feet following the trail of clothes that tied one form to the other, shedding my own as I moved. The pride closed in around us, encircling us and bearing witness to my own transformation.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Innocence Ended At That Moment

I hadn’t wanted to go to the party; I’m just not a party going girl. The music was always too loud, the people too drunk and too obnoxious; but it was my sister’s 25th birthday party, what choice did I have?

I arrived late, hoping to stay for an hour or so and then slip right back out; Jules knew I hated parties so I figured she’d anticipate my early escape. I heard the music the moment I got out of my car half a block away, the bass notes moving through the air like ripples on a pond and with a sigh I forced myself to walk toward the noise.

Climbing the brick stairs I opened the heavy white door and almost staggered when the music flowed over me, cringing involuntarily. People were packed tightly into the space and they had to move just so I could get inside and close the door, many casting annoyed looks at me that I had interrupted the bouncing they called dancing.

I didn’t hear my sister over the thump of the music so I wasn’t expecting the hug I found myself in that was almost a flying tackle. I hugged her back and then smiled into her unabashedly enthusiastic face, her liquid brown eyes sparking. I expected her to fade back into the crowd as she usually did, but instead she took me by the hand and dragged me upstream, against the push of dancing bodies, and into the kitchen where it was only moderately quieter.

Jules pointed at the liquor bottles that covered the counter like a disorderly army, dropped a kiss on my cheek and then disappeared. I smiled to myself and shook my head, how could two people come from the same stock, be raised by the same parents and yet be so completely different?

Ignoring the few people who were milling around the kitchen, I made myself a Midori sour on the rocks and added a splash of black cherry vodka to the top. Holding the crystal class I turned and made my way to the back door, pushing my way through the crowd and continuing to walk until the body count thinned and the noise faded to a more bearable volume.

I stopped where the lawn ended and weathered planks leading to the beach began, kicking off my shoes and making my way to the sand, sighing when I sank into the soft grains. I walked quietly to my favorite spot among the dunes, sheltered from the wind, and sank down with a contented sigh.

The rhythmic sound of the waves lulled me as they advanced and receded, advanced and receded and I closed my eyes. I was so lost in the ocean’s song I didn’t hear the man approach; it was only when I felt the weight of his stare that I opened my eyes and found him sitting between me and the water.

The color of his eyes was lost in the faint moonlight, I could only tell that he had dark hair that hung in a shaggy fringe across his forehead, and the silver light caught only the high angles of his face. I wasn’t alarmed at his sudden appearance; I didn’t feel my usual sense of self consciousness as I usually did any time a man was within 20 feet of me, instead I felt completely at ease. It was an unexpected feeling.

“The ocean, she speaks to you,” he said, his voice silky and laced with something foreign, sending goose bumps down my arms.

“No,” I replied softly, amazed my voice hadn’t fled, “She sings to me.”

“Then shall we dance to her tune?” He rose to his feet and reached out his hands to me.

I set my glass aside and reached up, sliding my fingers across his palms. He gripped my hands and pulled me to my feet, not releasing his hold on me as he walked backward toward the water where the sand was firmer. When the ocean licked at our ankles he pulled me closer, his arms snaking around my waist and pulling me against the length of his body.

I wrapped my arms around his shoulders as we began to sway to the song of the sea that only we could hear, hearts hammering and breath quickening. In what was probably the bravest moment of my life I laced my fingers into his thick hair and pulled his mouth to mine, tentative at first until he eagerly responded.

We touched with anxious hands, tongues tasting and bodies yearning to be one. I learned as we went, savoring the feeling of euphoria that rose up in me, giving back to him all I could.

I’d never been with a man before, no one had ever been interested, but I followed his lead and found the dance easy to learn. In the thundering rise of our passion he filled me, holding me tight and sending us over the edge into a sea of pleasure; my innocence ended at that moment.