Sunday, May 24, 2009

Page 13

The first wave of nausea tapped Madison on the shoulder, causing her to blink, shrug, and wipe spittle from her lower lip, giving her warning of what was to come. The next wave heartlessly coldcocked her, and she promptly crumbled to the ground laying in a heap like a dirty dish rag. She clutched her stomach as the cramps alternatively squeezed violently and relaxed briefly, until the relaxing eventually lasted longer than the squeezing. This healing was necessary, as she was still green when it came to her power, so her body needed the down time to recuperate and grown even stronger. Madison wasn't sure how she knew this, she just did, and she willingly gave her consent. No pain, no gain, afterall.

Madison remained blissfully oblivious to her surroundings, which included Azrael pacing frantically and ranting about this latest happening. Lily shakily stood and watched Az as if she was in a trance or had just smoked some very powerful weed that rendered her useless. Samson, on the other hand, worked swiftly loading and securing the gas cans and filling the tank, completely focused on the task at hand, which was getting them all the hell outta there ASAP before the henchmen decided on a second look. He picked Madison up as if she weighed no more than a feather and placed her delicate frame on the cushion in the back of the van, taking the time to gently wipe her forehead. He then led Lily by the hand, helping her climb in and then motioning for her to stay put. Samson then sighed and went back for his agitated comrade.

"Come on, Man, we gotta get goin'. We're just sitting ducks out in the open like this. Now load up," Samson tugged at Azrael's sleeve.

"This makes no sense! What in the fuck is goin' on? Who's protecting who? I'm not understanding this! What is she, Man? What the fuck is she?" Az pulled away and continued pacing.

Samson grew tired of Az's antics and grabbed his friend by the shoulders, forcing Az to look him in the eye.

"Man, we ain't got time for this. Let's find somewhere safe to camp, and then we'll seek some answers. But I need you to focus right now and load up. Don't make me fly solo man," Samson pleaded.

Az saw something on his friends face, a frenetic peacefulness, a rushed calm, a chaotic order, and he snapped back into sobriety. They rushed to the van, kicking up dirt as they sped off in their quest to find a safe haven for the night. They could all use a little down time to process all they've been thru so far. The trio deserved answers, and Mad deserved the opportunity to provide them--without Az agitated and shouting down her throat. Samson knew his friend, and he knew his behavior was the result of fear. Az liked to get inside the head and heart of his opponent, and he just couldn't see inside Madison. Once Az knew what he was dealing with, Samson knew his focus would return.

Az glanced in the back seat to find Lily stoned and Mad sleeping, her breathing as rapid as a nervous dog, so furious he expected her heart to explode out of her chest even though she appeared to be resting comfortably. But they aren't dealing with an ordinary being here, and Az couldn't wait to find out just what in the hell she was.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Page 12

Azrael crouched down, sifting thru the scattered remains of the station. He shifted some burned wood, pulling out a piece of cloth, traces of skin and blood still intact.

"Well, there used to be someone manning the station," he said, dropping the bloodied remnant and wiping his hand on his pants. "No telling what happened to them."

Samson worked diligently at digging thru the rubble to see if any gas remained. He managed to unearth a tank that still had enough to get them out of this danger. "Do we have any gas cans? We can salvage enough to get us away from here and get the girl out of danger."

"Would I be a modern day survivalist if I didn't have one...or four?" Az winked and went to the back of the van. He was surprised to see Madison standing on still wobbly legs, but her cheeks were pink and she lost that asylum escapee look from her eyes.

"How goes it?" Lily asked, stretching as she climbed out of the van. Az looked at her deeply for the first time in what seemed like forever. She looked tired, worn, down but not out, and his heart caught in his throat; she was beautiful. He shook his head to break the gaze just as Lily's expression changed to puzzlement.

"Good, actually. Sam found enough gas to get us the hell outta dodge before whatever was here comes back," Az said as he lugged two huge gas cans from the van.

"Too late," Mad whispered, her eyes wide as she peeked around the opened door. Droplets of sweat surfaced on her forehead and wound a crooked path down her face as her chest slowly began to heave.

They felt them before they could see them, slight tremblers threatening to build in crescendo. They could hear them before they could see them, a clamoring herd of talons striking the parched desert ground. Then they saw the outline of the Striders thru the dust, moving swiftly toward them, and nowhere for them to run or hide. On the Striders were henchmen, sworn to uphold whatever twisted regimen came into play, the current one ruling New Promise with iron fists and a shoot first ask questions later philosophy. Anything for their greater good, no matter how many metamorphoses the greater good goes thru along the way. More like a religious cult than a government, not that one of those was any better than the other.

Before any of them could wrap their head around a plan to get themselves out of this fine mess they've gotten themselves into, Mad rushed to head the pack, barking orders like a seasoned army vet.

"Get behind me NOW, in order of height, tallest last, shortest closest to me! Move it! Join hands, Lil, grab my hips and do NOT let go no matter what. And don't move!"

The three did as they were told, no questions, and by the time they were in position, the Striders were roughly ten feet away. Mad closed her eyes briefly, and when they opened they were blue ice.

Mad continued to stand frozen, staring at the five Striders and their henchmen as they stopped briefly directly in front of Mad, kicking up dirt and screeching. Striders were an ostrich hybrid bred for quick travel across the terrain, bigger and stronger and able to kill a man with one swift kick. If the claws didn't get you the sheer power would, not that you would know it. Death would save you before you even knew you had died. As far as ways to die went, it was quick and painless; you certainly wouldn't feel the Striders as they picked your bones clean. Another bonus of this government bred experiment--instant removal of any evidence.

The trio stood silently behind Madison, not daring to move, blink, or even breathe, eyes glued on the enemy, incredulous that they haven't noticed them standing in a line holding hands like kindergarteners going to lunch. Suddenly with a "Hee-ya" and a kick, the henchmen rode their Striders right thru the foursome. Right thru them without stopping, dust enveloping them while it followed the group down the road and out of sight. Only when she was sure they were gone, Mad bent over, hands on her knees as if she had merely been doing yoga and sighed.

Lily, lightheaded from the experience, fell on her hands and knees coughing uncontrollably, wretching and heaving like someone who had too much to drink. Her eyes stung and watered as if pepper spray clung to the air.

Azrael rubbed his burning eyes, turning slow circles trying to get his sight back. "What the fuck was that? What the fuck just happened here! Who's protecting who? What the fuck?" Just then a wave of nausea hit him like a tsunami and knocked him clean off his feet. He lay on the ground on his side, spitting and coughing, a cold sweat sending chills up and down his body.

Samson stood utterly befuddled, knowing this had to be some form of divine intervention he had just witnessed. He was convinced his path crossed with Az's for this very reason, because he was meant to partake in this quest, this mission, even if it ended up being his last, even if his final destination was far away from Frankville and freedom. How free are you really when you have to stay in one place in order to call yourself that? Where he was now, what he was doing, having died and been revived for whatever reason, now that was freedom. Suddenly his head began to pound but he didn't care, nor did he care when the coughing struck, or when his knees buckled and he sank to the ground. Because he glanced in the sky and saw heaven for the first time. And he saw that it was good.

" those...damn stinkin' freaks," Az stuttered as he lifted himself to one knee, still hunched over, sniffing the sleeve of his jacket.

Mad smirked, standing over the bunch while shaking off the cold sweat like a dog who was caught out in the rain. "Rookies!"

Friday, January 25, 2008

Page 11

Eyeing the gas gauge, Samson informed Az they were in need of gas. Az ripped out the map, searching for a way station that offers gas to travelers of the free zone. All they had to do was prove they were impartial, and they could buy or barter for gas. If they had any luck left, they would land in a station with bored attendants who would barely scan the cards they produced (very nice looking forgeries, if Lily did pat herself on the back) preferring instead to talk about what life was like "out there". They asked to see pictures, drawings, longed for the days of memory scans, anything to show them what they were missing. Az usually read them pretty well, and knew which ones wanted a grand painting, and which ones longed to believe it was a wasteland beyond their humble abode. Azrael aimed to please, anything it took to refuel and get the hell outta dodge. He wasn't comfortable in one place for too long; kick up enough dust and they can't trace your steps. And dust kicker was his middle name--well, not really, but if he had a middle name, that would be a good one.

"Okay, okay, let's see...if we go straight for another mile or two, then veer to the right, there should be a way station a quarter of a mile up that road," Az traced the path with his finger. "Yes, it should be right there. That's not too out of the way." He felt more like he was trying to convince himself, not Samson, who already surveyed the road ahead for the road to veer right on. Azrael glanced nervously back at Lily and the child, because that's what she was, just a child. She could be anyone's sister, best friend, daughter, out for a nice drive. Or that's what she should be. Instead the weight of the world, thousands of sad and lonely cries, all landed on her shoulders. He wondered at what exact moment she realized this, and how she felt about that revelation. He imagined her saying "Let's see, I'll have some Lucky Charms, wear those low rise flairs with the strategically placed rips, smile at Bradley, and oh yes! become an invincible psychic with hair as white as a ghost, and follow the yellow brick road to see the wizard, possibly getting back in time to have my hair done for the prom. All in a day's work." He stifled a laugh, knowing at this time it would be horribly and inexplicably misconstrued, and that's the last thing he needed.

The van jerked to the right, bouncing over pot holes, diving around rocks, all the while kicking up plenty of mud. Cover those tracks, Samson my good man. Gotta stay one foot ahead of the enemy, gotta make good time, gotta--the van suddenly skidded to a halt, Az barely able to stop his head from ramming the windshield. He shot Samson a dirty look, but was met with Samson pointing to where a way station used to be. It apparently had been blown to bits, by someone, or something.

"This is not good," Samson mumbled, while Mad was still stark raving and Lily looked at a loss for the right thing to do to comfort her. Her glazed eyes shifted from Sam to Az, back and forth like a pendulum sinking lower and lower sealing their fate. Funny how they were never at a loss for negative associations. And right now, the only thing positive was how positively screwed they were.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Page 10

The group stood, shocked and shaking, staring at Madison, mouths agape, eyes saucerlike. After what seemed like years, Lily and Samson looked from Az to Mad and back again. What just happened here? seemed to loop thru everyone's mind at once.

Mad sat, still regaining her strength after reviving Samson, holding the heavy harpoon after having caught it right as it threatened to pierce the skin that guarded her heart. Didn't even mark the skin, or if it had it had already healed. The harpoon dully thudded as it hit the ground. Devoid of strength and energy, Mad collapsed onto the wet, cool earth, eyes open yet unfocused. Samson moved to her side in long quick strides, swiftly lifting her light body off the ground and heading for the van. His plans have changed, his purpose shifted. Samson no longer sought the easy refuge in the south, but knew his destiny was with the young, chosen one.

"Such is life in the whale's belly/it's soft and cushiony like raspberry jelly/if you look straight up you can see the stars/thru the blowhole and past the bars

I gotta roll, can't stand still/got a flame in my heart, can't get my fill/Eyes that shine burning red/Dreams of you all thru my head

Ring around the rosey/a pocketful of posey/ashes, ashes/we all fall down

Accipere quam facere praestat injuriam*

Mens agitat molem**

How can I see with stones in my eyes? Thou canst expect me to weave magic when thou doest hide from the light."

Samson drove at a feverish pace, sometimes on the road, mostly not, but Az knew better than to open his mouth. In fact he pretty much sat dumbfounded over what had occurred this afternoon. As they listened to the ramblings of Mad, who lay in the back swaddled in Lily's arms, a cold compress on her forehead for lack of anything better (none of them have ever experienced anything of this magnitude before; since they managed to grip a tiny ounce of sanity, they considered themselves ahead of the game) they only hoped that she would come to enough to explain what had happened. Lily and Azrael had no idea she was capable of that, but what he had seen renewed Samson's drifting faith in a higher power. All he knew was they couldn't get to New Promise fast enough. His brother would just have to understand his detour. He might never make it out alive, but he knew that this was where he was meant to be right now. The hole in his shirt told him that.

*It is better to suffer an injustice than to do an injustice

**The mind moves the matter. (Vergil)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Page 9

Madison stood hunched over, hands on her knees like a demented baseball umpire, back alternately arching and swaying like a drunk heaving in the streets, sweat pasting her hair and clothes to a body wracked with spasms panting like she'd just run a marathon. Lily took a step toward her before Az and Samson both reached out and put a hand forcefully on her shoulders. She started to turn to them, briefly tried to pull away, until her eyes found the source of their restraint. Mad's belly swelled abnormally, as if she ran the gamut of pregnancy in the matter of seconds. Something squirmed inside of her, something that would eventually find its way out.

As the trio stood unable to move, unable to speak, and unable to process what they witnessed, Mad's head flew up so that she stared at them, only she didn't look at all like the young girl they knew. Her moist skin was pallid, dark circles hung in half moons under eyes that blazed red, her mouth twisted into an evil snarl. If this were a movie, I'd be covering my eyes right about now Lily thought, but her hands stayed melded to her sides. That's when the sound--a rumbling they could almost feel, started deep within the girl, moving up toward her mouth swiftly. She looked at them, no, thru them, and in a low echoing voice that sounded like something dubbed in a bad Godzilla movie, she shouted loud enough to be heard over the weather raging around them.

"They're coming they're coming for you. get down get down now dddduuuuccccckkkkkkk!" and with that winged insects burst from her mouth, her nose, even her ears. The swarm headed straight for Az, Samson, and Lily, who until that very moment were paralyzed until Samson shoved the other two straight down to the mud. Before he could join them, these insects, which seemed like a cross between a fly and a bee, flying with stingers curved and pointed in front, flew right thru Samson, leaving a baseball sized hole in the middle of his chest. Before he even realized what hit him he fell straight back, like a deathly Nestea plunge; he never felt a thing.

Mad collapsed on all fours, blood trickling from the corners of her mouth, nose and ears,her eyes once again a soft violet, skin peaches and cream, half moons resorbed. Lily and Az, no longer hearing the deafening hum of mutant insects, lifted their heads to see the storm was also clearing. Shakily regaining their feet, Lily let out a "whew" as she attempted to brush the thick mud from her clothes and then her hands. Az started to chuckle, a warped joke about this on the tip of his tongue, until he turned and saw his old friend. "What the---" was all he could muster. "Wha--?" Lily turned and joined his speechlessness. They stood on either side of Samson, who lay no longer breathing, the crisp clean hole filling with muddy puddle. Mad moved in lunges and lurches, a living zombie, until she stood at the size 15 feet of the corpse formerly known as Samson.

"What is it? Why is he laying here? Shouldn't we be going? Shouldn't..." her eyes drifted down, down, to the man, the hole, to death and defeat.

"You!" Az pointed at her unforgivingly. "You did this!" He grabbed her by the back of her small head, his hand cupping it like a football. With one flick of his wrist he threw her down on top of his oldest and dearest friend. "You killed him, you fucking freak of nature! And I'm supposed to save you? I should serve you to the gods on a skewer! I should--" A resounding slap echoed thru his head as Lily's hand connected with his cheek, leaving a nicely shaped hand-print in red. He glared at her, lips curled upward in a disgusted snarl. "Fuck you too! Damn you both to hell!"

Az stormed back to the van. Lily figured he meant to leave them there, and she wouldn't blame him. She didn't see him climb in the back, digging in the chest, past the flare gun, the AK 47, the MM-201 rocket launcher, searching for the harpoon gun, the closest thing to a skewer that his enraged mind could find.

"I...did....this...I did this? I did I did I did this I did...this, I? did? this?" Mad babbled, still kneeling on the dead body of a man she wasn't even introduced to. Lily, sobbing, dropped to her knees and running her hand across Mad's forehead in a vain attempt to soothe her. "No, honey," she said, nearly choked with tears. "Whatever possesses you did. Not you."

"Me me me me me me, that's not me, that's not me, I'm not death. I'm life! I'm life! I'm not evil, no no no, I'm not evil...I'm good. I, I, I, I'm good! I have to be good!" blood stained tears streamed down Mad's cheeks, leaving pinkish trails like clown make-up gone horribly wrong. "I can fix this! I can, yes, I can!" She looked Lily directly in the eyes, and the power the young girl projected terrified her. Like a candle inside a jack-o-lantern Mad's eyes flickered and glowed, the whites turning into shining silver. "Move away" she told Lily, putting her hands on her shoulders and moving her back, just a little, pointing in the hopes that Lily would move herself more. She did. She wasn't sure why she was so complaisant, but right then she felt it was her only viable option. The van in the distance shook, but neither noticed the movement, no one saw the flashlight shining this way and that. No one knew what Az really had in mind.

Mad climbed the huge man who, if he had a blanket one would think he merely slumbered, until either hand rested next to the perfectly round hole. A bluish white conic light shot from her eyes creating a glow around the hole. Lily watched in disbelief as this bright light welded Samson's body back together. No stitches, no needles, just light closing the hole in his body; his clothes, however, could not be mended. Somehow Lily didn't think he'd care. Once humpty dumpty was put back together, Mad leaned forward and delicately pressed her thin pink lips to Samson's much larger brown ones, holding the pose for just a few seconds, just long enough for his massive chest to fill with air. She climbed from him and slumped on the cold, wet earth, eyes closed, energy drained.

Samson sat up, blinking his eyes and looking around for anything to remind him of what just happened; he got that reminder when his hands found the perfectly round holes in his jacket, flannel shirt, and long underwear top. Just then Azrael jumped from the van, only one thing in his line of vision as he cocked the harpoon gun, holding it close to his shoulder. His strides led him straight to the girl, drained and empty sitting on the cold, wet earth, unaware she was about to become a shish kebab. He stopped about ten feet away from her, but his eyes hadn't shifted or he would have seen his old friend sitting next to the girl, still fingering the holes left behind in his clothes.

"Hey!" he shouted, his voice a scary mix of rage and pain. Mad's head slowly bobbed up, her eyes locked his for a moment before drifting to the glinting harpoon perched ominously in her direction. As if in slow motion his finger closed, clamping down on the trigger, a slow moaning "pppffffffttttttttsssss" as the harpoon was released, a dull thud when it landed, the strangled voices of Lily and Samson as they screamed "NNNOOOOOO!" in unison.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Page 8

The wind continued to whip up around them, blowing scraps of paper, leaves, and twigs all around, specks of grime stinging their eyes. The world had become a very dirty place, despite well meaning alleged environmentalists who insisted their war be fought for the good of the Earth. Look where it got them. The good Earth adapted, Mother Nature arm wrestled global warming and won, and enough people found after brief bouts of sickness that they were truly immune from Strain XL8-1100, for lack of a better name, since the founder of this very virulent and resistant bacteria? virus? STD? all of the above? Dwight D. Kramer succumbed to it a week after stating he discovered the ultimate cure--completely herbal and organic to boot.

Lily held her breath, envisioning the wheels of reason and insanity cranking in Az's head, as he ran thru all the possibilities in his future, with or without them. Could she deliver Mad to her destiny by herself? Sure. No doubt. Now, ask her if she wanted to. If truth be known, Lily feared what lie ahead in New Promise. She feared her own destiny. She knew that didn't necessarily deem her a coward; if anything it made her smart, attentive, careful. One little slip along the way (no one noticed Mad as she tumbled from the van, hunched over chest heaving right hand clutching her heart eyes rolling back in her head) one wrong turn (Mad dropped to her knees in the mud electric jolts spasming her body as she throws herself forward) one slip of the wrist (Mad lurched forward on one hand and her knees the other hand gripping her chest as if she intended to rip out her own heart to spare herself the pain of destiny daring fate to strike her dead on the spot and let someone a little more qualified save the world why did it have to be her?) and this trek, this pilgrimage to the unholy land would end all for naught. Their lives would end in vain. So she held her breath and waited while Azrael debated. She didn't know he'd already made up his mind.

"My dear old friend," Az shouted, trying to be heard over the wind that screamed with more lung than he could muster. Lily had to move closer to hear him. Samson didn't move because he already knew he would continue on his own. He knew Azrael, he knew Az would never waiver from the path of greater good. And he admired that about him.

Lightning strobed around them, followed quickly by the guttural growl of thunder that quickly erupted into a full fledged war cry. The clouds appeared ready to burst forth a belch of rain with enough intensity to wash their van away like it was nothing more than a child's toy. And still no one noticed Mad, who had struggled to her feet, still clutching her chest, left hand reaching out her eyes normally a light violet, glowed red.

As soon as he decided to tell his friend he understood, Samson caught a glimpse of something moving behind them. The look of sheer terror on this behemoth's face caused Lily and Az to follow suit. They had seen a lot in this crazy, upside down world, the lot of them, but nothing quite like this.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Page 7

"How did you fare during the Environmental War?" Samson asked, believing he knew the answer, fighting to stifle a grin.

Azrael snickered. "You know me, rarely do I commit to any cause I can't believe in. Of course it's hard not to fight for something when they force you to."

"Amen, brother. Though how a war could possibly help the environment..." Samson shrugged. "Beats me."

"So, where are you headed?" Az asked, glancing around at the gathering storm clouds. The wind began to whip them, a little harder with each pass.

"Frankville. I hear it's the only free land left for those who only want to be. What about you?"

Azrael sighed. Frankville, created by Frank Novice and truly the only free land left in the world, spaned across the southern United States, or the country formerly known as the United States. Now it stood a divided country, one that had fallen and is now up on its knees again, struggling for the strength to stand. But can a country stand divided? Or is it truly what they say--united we stand, divided we fall?

"We are going to New Promise," He said, and held his breath, waiting for the screams of protest from his oldest and dearest comrade. Instead, Samson, squinting in the wind, just glanced around and nodded.

"Somehow I knew it wouldn't be an easy finish for you, my friend. You always did have the knack for finding trouble, especially behind enemy lines."

"If life was easy, would it be like this?" he asked angrily, spreading his arms wide and turning a circle. "Life is anything but easy, and if it's going to be hard I might as well go for brutal and really earn it."

Samson shook his head. "I think, after all we've endured, we owe it to ourselves to retire to Frankville. If you can't trust your brother, then who can you trust? There is a place waiting for me in Sunny Wallace. My own place, Man. I can't remember the last time I could say that. It can be your place, too. There is enough." He knew even as he offered this that Az would pass it by. Az had a mission, and that would be all he could see until it was over. Then, perhaps, if he still lived, he would consider it.

Azrael knew his friend was right. He knew it and that pissed him off. He should be going to Frankville, he should! He had found his share of wars and it was time for him to live his life for himself. He didn't choose this, this pilgrimage! This isn't his battle! This is some crazy little skinny psychic bitch's fight, and her flame-haired obstinate protector's. Not his. NOT HIS. And, it also wasn't his way to shirk his responsibility, whether he felt he earned it or had it thrust upon him. Lily listened to their conversation, and for the first time since this mission began, since they first met up with Azrael, she feared his response. She swallowed hard, afraid he would leave her and Mad and for once do his own thing simply because he wanted to. Simply because he could. He was not bound to them, he owed them nothing. Yes, the powers that be (whatever they were anymore, no one knew) guided them together, as their meeting was not by chance. But that doesn't mean a prophecy can't be broken, can't be re-written, can't be changed. And God or Satan or Allah help them all, after that, after Azrael discovered his own free will.