Forever Becoming

121 to 135

121

Disjointed images danced in a kaleidoscope ballet of reality mixed with non-reality. As the impressions came to her and from her, time expanded and contracted. She saw her life in one gulp and then stretching out into an incomprehensible infinity. She felt comfort, lost once again in the insanity of her youth, far removed from the world of reality. She warmed in the place where nothing mattered.

Things that mattered nagged her.

Pops and Ma matter.

Pop’s calloused hand reached from the darkness. “This hand, and here it is. No questions asked.”

She snuggled warmly into the gift given, a gift demanding nothing and offering nothing. The gift sustained her.

“You taught me love, Pops and Ma. Thank you.”

Another hand reached toward her from above. She felt the hard stalks of cut hay under her back. “We’re automatically buds the second we meet unless we decide otherwise.”

“We are and we will never decide otherwise. Thanks for making me see I’m important, that I count.”

You matter.

Judy’s lips touched hers in the darkness. “Follow your friend to Hell and your reward will be a place with her.”

“Yeah. I’ll lead the way.”

“Not while we have breath,” came Pops’ voice again.

“I didn’t believe you then, but I believe you now. I know you’d die for me. I know you’d all die for me.”

The many faces of people who touched her life swirled in a cloud and became one.

“I thank you all.”

“I never thought I’d lose both our kids,” Makaila’s mother said, Makaila watching her back.

“I’m not lost.”

Cass didn’t respond. Makaila stamped her foot. “I’m not lost! Oh, God! Can’t you turn around and just see me standing here?” She turned to her father, who was in bed. “Can’t you, just for a moment, see what you’re looking at?” She held her fist to him. “You can blame me, but it’s you who made me!”

Her words echoed in her head and for the first time, she understood humanity. “Of course, you can’t.” She sighed. “And, that’s okay. It really is.” She went around to her father and kissed him on the cheek. “I love you anyway. Maybe if I told you that sometime or other things would have been lots different.

“See, Dad. I didn’t understand love. I didn’t understand anything. How could I? I’m not like you. I’m not even of you. Did you know that?” She turned to her mother. “Did you know that, Mom?” She wiped her tears in her hands. “In your world, you guys are just fine. You are right where you should be. It’s been wrong for me to demand any different. If I never had, things would have been lots different.


Makaila heard crying in the distance. Among the sobs, she heard her name called as a plea. She reached into the darkness and found a face.

“Oh, thank God! I thought you were dead!”

Makaila opened her eyes and tried to orientate herself to the new reality. The sun loomed above. She was surrounded by wildflowers. Arianna knelt next to her. “No. I’m not dead.” She took a breath. “Where’s the bitch?”

“You mean Cat?”

Makaila smirked bitterly. “We got more than one bitch around here?”

Arianna blinked at the sarcasm. “She said she had to leave for a short time.”

Makaila sat up much too quickly. “Damn!” She raced over her memories. “How long ago?”

“A few minutes.”

“Damn!” She closed her eyes and relaxed as she always had to return to normal reality. When she opened her eyes, she was still looking at Arianna. “Damn! I’m really, really here! What did she do?”

Arianna blinked at her. “I got like no idea whatsoever about any of this.”

Makaila put a hand to Arianna’s forehead. “Okay. Don’t freak out on me. We’re going to figure this out.” Makaila was taken with urgency. “You’re not really here.”

“Huh? Yeah. I kinda caught that. Still funny to hear someone say it. I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night. Cat don’t give it up and the short talks we’ve had, you ain’t saying, either.”

“Sorry. I really, really don’t know.”

Arianna laughed. “Bitch. I get it!”

“Yeah. When I first started coming here about three years ago it wasn’t long until Cat showed up.”

“How’d you come here?”

Makaila rolled her eyes. “Any of that coffee left?”

“You bet!”

“Let’s cook some up, see what we got, pick a direction and start walking.”

“Walking?”

“Yeah. We’re gonna blow this popcorn stand.”

“I was getting the idea this place doesn’t really exist in, how do we say it? Our reality?”

Makaila groaned as she stood. “Not nice to shoot a girl and run. I thought that at one time, but I know someone that walked here. If he can walk here, we can walk out of here.”

They found their way to the cabin. “But I’m not here?”

“No, you’re not. This I’m sure of. You’re here like I used to come here. I’m not sure how to explain it.”

“My spirit or soul?”

“Yeah, pick a word. It doesn’t matter. There’s no define the terms on this test.”

They sat, fell into the coffee and watched down the hill and across the lake.

“North by northeast, follow your nose. It’s about a half-day hike. Something Cat said. Don’t suppose you have a compass?”

“I’m a farm girl. Don’t need no stinkin’ compass!” Makaila laughed and pointed over her shoulder. “That way.” She shook her head out. “Okay, you wanted to know how I came here. Here’s the deal. I’m like nuts. When I was younger, this guy, a doc type, taught me what he called creative visualization. I’d like imagine a nice place and be there in my head. This gave me time to relax and reflect on life in a safe place.

“He said that my problem was that I didn’t get human beings so I’d act up. If I could understand what people wanted, by thinking really hard about it, I could be like functional. Follow?”

Arianna nodded.

“So I created, or thought I created this place. Like it? I did all the decorating.”

Arianna laughed.

“One day, I like zoned out and climbed the hill and here’s this person sitting here.”

“Cat?”

“Cat. So, she like tells me things. The wacky doc says she’s just me manifested in a form so I can talk to myself, but you know Cat and me aren’t the same.”

“You are kinda sorta. I bet like you’re related or something.”

“I’d take that bet, but I don’t want to take your money. At first, I thought she was a sage-like person, guardian angel or a spirit guide or something like that.”

“I can see that.”

“Beep! Do not pass go and don’t collect your two hundred dollars! She gives out more misdirection than she gives out direction. I don’t think she really has my best interest in mind or yours. I got no idea what her game is, but it’s a game.”

Arianna closed her eyes. “Okay. Cat plays games. Let’s forget Cat.”

Makaila nodded.

“I gotta ask you. You said before you’re not dead, like never was.”

“Nope.”

“Larry said you were.”

“I know. I was following the best I could. I don’t know where he got the idea.”

“You were murdered in jail, after you were arrested for killing that guy. They killed our hero because you killed theirs.”

“They put me in an institution. Actually, they made me disappear. Maybe that’s it?”

“Yeah. It would be easy to assume you were killed.” Arianna’s face reddened. “We got this religion going.”

“I know that, too. My lawyer had a guy inside.”

“George Potter?”

“Yeah, that’s the guy.”

It was Arianna’s turn. “Damn! He was really acting for you? The message was really from you?”

Makaila shook her head. “Yeah, sure. I sent a message. You guys were getting too loud. George was afraid something bad was going to happen.”

“It did.”

Makaila put a hand to Arianna’s arm. “And, here we are!”

“Well, here you are. Where am I?”

“I don’t know for sure, but Cat said you were in the institution I was sent to. Hell, I fondly call it. I don’t know if I should believe it or not.” Makaila sat back and rolled her eyes up into her head. “Damn!” She shook her head hard. Maybe I am more like Cat than I’m willing to admit.

“Yeah, you’re there. You really took a beating. You’re in a coma.”

Arianna went white.

“Sorry. It is what it is. Not saying it isn’t going to make it any different.”

“I understand.”

“I was on my way back to spring you when, well, when I got bounced here.” She closed her eyes again. “Funny, I can see you but not Judy.”

“Maybe you see through my connection?”

“Could be. I got the idea Cat could see anything at anytime. I watched her do it. If you being here as you are now is like when I was here, you can simply think yourself back. I don’t suggest it, ‘cause it won’t do you any good being in a coma and all.” Makaila didn’t share with Arianna what would eventually be done to her body in the darkness of night, behind closed doors.

Arianna smiled weakly. “I will accept your counsel.”

“It’s all too much. How’s Larry, really?”

“See if you can look in. We’re like connected big time.”

“And, I’ll take your counsel. You’re pretty smart, not to mention beautiful.”

Arianna blushed as Makaila rolled her eyes up into her head.

A tear rolled down Makaila’s cheek and her soft flesh turned to rock. “Gather what you want. We’re leaving. Larry’s in the institution.”

122

Makaila stood close to Arianna, placing a palm over Arianna’s ruptured eye. “You’ll be able to walk better with both eyes working. Besides, it’ll give ‘em something to talk about in the institution.” Makaila giggled into Arianna’s shocked expression.

“How’d you do that?”

Well, I am like God, you know.

“That’s what we call you!”

“What?”

“She-who-is-like-God.”

“I’m hearing that from so many different directions, I just might start believing it.” Makaila laughed at herself and took a few minutes to examine the surroundings.

“Gee, I’m surprised. Looks like south by southwest. I told you I know of someone who visits here and walks in? Well, he didn’t come from the north. We can follow his trail right out.”

Makaila took one last look at the cabin. “Lights off, coffee pot off, doors and windows locked.” She laughed again. “Arianna. Life is good. It really is.” They headed out in the direction of the lake.


They walked for two hours. “Notice we haven’t even heard an airplane?”

“I haven’t been listening.” Arianna glanced at the sky through the trees.

“I have. I’m not sure if it means anything. I can’t imagine a place that doesn’t get some kind of airplanes over it.”

“Yeah. Let me ask you. You don’t have a plan to come back and like give us all the gifts life promises, do you?”

Makaila looked into Arianna’s words. “Never gave it much thought. I’m not sure I have anything to give anyone.”

“You do.”

“Do what?”

“Have a lot to give, freely, and I’m not sure you even know it.”

“Yeah. My light.”

“Then you know?”

“Only what people tell me. I can’t see it.”

“Because you’re not looking. You mean to tell me you can’t see it in the eyes of others?”

“Oh, that! Yeah. What people mistake for love, meaning lust.”

“You too?”

“Me too what?”

“People want to pop you all the time.”

“Oh, no. Not me. My body.”

“Huh?”

“Let’s see. If someone wanted to pop me, they’d have to know me first. If they don’t know me, it’s not really like sex. It’s more a self-pleasuring thing.” Makaila stopped and looked hard at Arianna. “I can see it with you. The first time I saw you I wanted to wrap you up and kiss the hell out you. You got this thing I want to be close to. But, it’s not about sex at all. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was about sex.”

“I’m not sure I follow.”

“You do show the Mark, baby.” Makaila laughed.

“What does that mean?”

“I got like no idea, but you show it! If we come across a witch, I’ll get her to explain it.”

“Witch?”

“Gypsy. The witch’s got this thing they call the Mark. It’s something special about someone that sets them apart from others. This is like a gift and they’re supposed to help others because of it.”

“There’s nothing special about me.”

“I feel like I’m talking to myself. You died for your people and what you believed in. I’d say that sets you apart from others.”

“I did that for you, actually.”

“Hey, don’t go shoveling any blame my way. I got enough stuff blamed on me already without carrying your stuff. There’s nothing in this universe that powers you and empowers you but you. This, I’ve learned. The only reason you call on my name is because you don’t got it in your head that you count. Arianna, take it right from the mouth of your god: you count.”

“I do?”

“Asking me or telling me?”

“I do!”

“Lesson two: so does everyone else. Ten points if you can tell me why.”

Arianna almost skipped with joy. “Because they are?”

“Asking or telling?”

“Because they are!”

“Better. Yeah, just ‘cause something is, means it counts. Don’t let anyone discount you and don’t discount anyone, except maybe Cat. I’m not sure she fits in the human equation.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“About?”

“Cat.”

Makaila paused and faced Arianna with a finger to her lips. “Sh. I don’t think Cat’s a mortal.”

Arianna’s eyes got big. “What do you think she is?”

“Don’t really know. I got no deities to compare her to and I’m religious retarded. I got no way of placing her in a theology. I’ll ask the witch when I see her.”

“Witch?”

“Gypsy. My bud, Megan. If I got like any kinda clue at all, I got this feeling Megan’s getting an up close and personal look right now.”

“You’re confusing sometimes.”

“Welcome to life! I’ve been stumbling around in the dark falling over everything. Every time I figure out an answer, someone changes the question! But I think I got it and only had to get shot a dozen times to make that happen!”

Arianna took a deep breath. “What is the answer?”

That is!”

“What is?”

“The question is the answer!”

Arianna danced on her toes and spun in a circle, landing in front of Makaila. “That is so wacky and far out, I bet you thought I’d say, Huh, but you get a duh instead. I get that!” Arianna took Makaila’s face in her hands and kissed her firmly on the lips. “Thank you!”

Makaila giggled. “Back at you.”

Arianna froze. “Shot a dozen times?”

“Maybe more. I wasn’t counting.”

“You’re dead? Yes, I’m asking.”

“I don’t think so, but the answers I got don’t make any sense right now. I’ll make a note and keep you advised.”

Arianna giggled. “Where did you learn to talk like that? You’re funny.”

“Guess I just picked it up. I don’t forget much of what I hear and my brain just puts stuff together and out it comes.”


All at once, night came with light rain, more like a mist. “That was weird.” Makaila looked around.

“Did I doze off or something?”

“Don’t think so.” Makaila took Arianna’s hand and back-stepped ten feet into the warm, dry daylight.

Arianna blinked hard, unable to get her mind around it.

“Deep breath and don’t even try to understand. We’re out. I was kinda expecting something like this.” She pulled Arianna back into the darkness.

Makaila thought deeply into the new environment. “This way. I can feel people and don’t even ask me to explain it.” She put her arm around her new friend. “You okay?”

“Not even close, but I’ll be all right.”

“Welcome to my life! I actually understand that!”

The smell of smoke guided Makaila’s sharp senses to a campfire just over a mile away. Pulling Arianna behind her, she entered without reservation. “Nothing to fear from these people.”

To the startled middle-aged woman, Makaila said: “Hi. We kinda got turned around. Do you have a map I can look at?”

The woman narrowed her eyes. “We?”

“Oh, like duh. Sorry, I talk like that. I got turned around.” Makaila realized why Mother’s Light couldn’t see Cat. Cat wasn’t actually there. “When I’m out hiking by myself, I like talk as if I’m not, like I got a friend with me.” She laughed and turned to Arianna. “You gotta know that no one can see you but me, Arianna.”

The woman handed Makaila a map. “Imagination’s a good thing. I often work out problems talking to myself.”

Makaila held the map for Arianna to see. “Nothing but houses.” She pointed to where the cabin was. “Just as I thought.” She squinted into the forest. “Dirt road that way about three hundred yards?”

“Wow. You’re good at reading a map!” the camper praised.

“It’s a gift.” With a wink and a thanks, they were off again. “She couldn’t see you because you’re really not here. It’s like totally bizarre and I don’t have the rulebook for being in the spirit body, but I got some stuff I know.

“When I was in the institution, I was like fed mush and spent almost all my time tied to a bed. They like puzzled over why I didn’t lose muscle tone and weight in general, like all their other patients. I got my exercise and food in the dream, that place we were just at.

“When I fixed your eye, here, I know it fixed your eye there. Follow me?”

“Yeah. What I do here affects my body, but I can’t affect anything here. That’s not so hard to get.”

“There was something Cat said. Something about murder. She said she couldn’t kill, like I could. I thought she meant like she had this moral thing going on. Now, I see it’s like she can’t directly affect there. She’s not there to murder.

“I’ve always wondered why this lawyer dropped out of the sky to spring me. No one seemed to know and Mr. Elderage wasn’t saying. Cat hired him. Mr. Elderage is the one who visits Cat on the mountain. She hired him to get me sprung because she can’t act directly there!”

“She can now.”

“You think?”

“Yeah. I think she switched places with you. You said it yourself. You think your witch friend is getting a look.”

“Uh huh. I did say that.” Makaila stopped just onto the dirt road. “Are we doing the right thing to leave the dream place?”

Arianna took a turn laughing. “I don’t have a rulebook, either. I’m really, really curious to see what happens when I come face to face with me, though!”

“Why didn’t Cat just walk out like we just did?”

“Easy. She’s not like us. You said it yourself.”

“Cat doesn’t have a temporal form?”

“Huh?”

“A body.”

“Maybe.”

“But, she smacked me in the forehead church.”

“You said she can’t affect things there.”

“I did. But, she smacked me good.”

Arianna blinked in awe. “I think I get it. You aren’t like her and you’re not like me. Yet, you’re both.” She nodded slowly. “That makes all the sense in the world and would explain everything.”

“My brain’s tired all of a sudden. So you’re thinking Cat’s not a temporal being –”

“Huh? Define that.” Arianna crossed her eyes.

“Temporal, of the flesh? What we think human beings are? Normal reality critters?”

“How far do you think this dirt road goes? Okay. Temporal being is a human being as most people understand a human being to be. Mother, father, seed and egg, a baby’s born. Temporal being: me.”

“To the end, the road goes. Yeah, you. Of the flesh and by the flesh.”

“Oh, of earth, from the dirt.” Arianna scooped up a handful of sand. “This place.”

“Yeah. This place.”

Arianna glanced quickly over her shoulder. “Then we got that place, which is not this place?”

“Not on the map. The dream.”

“Yeah. And, there’s no dirt in dreams. No real dirt.” She cast the handful of sand in front of her. “I’m made of dirt. Cat’s made of dreamstuff.”

Makaila thought into the idea. “You’re mortal, temporal and she’s immortal, not temporal?”

“Maybe. That would put you somewhere in the middle. I bet you’re of both places.”

“I never guessed the missing link would look like me!”

Arianna did not laugh. “Suppose Cat’s God, and you are like God, but like me, too?”

“If Cat’s God, I think we’re in serious trouble.”

Now, Arianna laughed. “Right back to creation, mankind’s been in serious trouble.”

“You talking about religion now?”

“Yeah. What we’re taught.”

“I told you, I’m religious retarded.”

Arianna stopped and closed her eyes. “Okay, I got it.” She took Makaila’s hand as they continued walking. “God was hanging out in a void or something and for some reason or other, decided to create the universe. He made this wonderful Garden. He felt something was missing so He created man in His image. God made man from the dirt, but breathed into him, giving him this like spiritual aspect.

“Now the Garden was perfect with all things man needed like food and all.”

“How perfect could it be without women?”

“By man, I mean man and woman.”

“Okay.”

“God didn’t ask for anything but to be obeyed and He gave only one prohibition. Don’t eat the fruit of His special tree. Well, we did and this pissed God off pretty good and He punished us by giving us pain in childbirth, having to work for our food, illness, suffering and death.”

“I hope it was good fruit. Let me guess. As the story goes along, we get a basketful of rules from God that we got to follow to get back in His graces?”

“Yeah, kinda like that.”

“Life’s gifts? I’m supposed to bring you life’s gifts?”

“Yeah.”

“And, you guys came up with rules to follow and if you followed these rules, then you get the gifts?”

“Well, I guess.”

“It’s a just so story. We got stuff in life that we don’t like, so we make up a story to explain why life isn’t perfect. How old is that story?”

“I don’t really know. Thousands of years, I guess.”

“God really holds a grudge, huh? I think I like Cat as God rather than the one you’re talking about. Cat’s never really asked me to do anything but think. There were those whacks in the forehead, but that was more like smacking a mule with a two by four to get his attention when he’s being stubborn.”

Arianna danced on her toes again, spun in three circles and landed in front of Makaila with wide eyes. “If Cat is God, and like without temporal being, then she’s got no idea what it means to be a human being with flesh! How could she give us any kinda rules for living in a world she’s never been in?”

Makaila reflected on the idea with sad eyes. “There was a time when I didn’t know what it was like to be a human being. I was isolated, lonely and sad. Deprivation. How sad it must be to be God.”

“If you never had it, can you really hurt ‘cause you don’t have it? Like, you don’t know what you’re missing, so how can you really know?”

“Arianna, believe me. It hurts so deep, I don’t have words for it.” Tears wet Makaila cheeks.

“I didn’t mean to make you sad!” Arianna hugged her.

“You didn’t make me sad. I’m sad for God, because She can’t be.”

“Maybe that’s it. Maybe Cat learns about life through you?”

“Cat thinks she knows it all.”

“A god’s got to have a kick-ass ego.”

“Right. Cat acts like she knows it all.”

“Like with you. You’re going to fail us ‘cause you’re not the god we want you to be. If Cat shows you she ain’t da man, you’ll be disappointed.”

“Most people would. I’ve never really expected much from anyone. At least, I didn’t think I did. My parents weren’t very cool to me and I did everything I could to stay out of the way as if I wasn’t there. Today, I realized that was just as bad as getting in their faces.”

“There’s no other choice, is there?”

“Yeah, there is. I could have loved them.”

“But, if they didn’t love you?”

“Don’t matter. Real love offers nothing and demands nothing.”

“So real love is nothing?”

“No. Real love is everything. It’s what gives us life and makes us who we are. It brings us into true being.”

“Real love from other people, you mean.”

“I don’t mean that at all. Love can only flow from you, never to you. Real love offers nothing.”

Arianna’s eyes went wide again. “Like the glue that holds everything together, us to each other, the breath that God pumped into man?”

“Kinda, yeah.”

“Dream love.”

“Huh?”

“Like the dream. You got your temporal love, the love of flesh and things and all that. A love that offers and demands left and right. Then, behind our temporal being, you got this love that offers nothing and demands nothing. You got this love that brings us into being. It’s a love that sustains us. Without it, we could never exist.”

“That would mean a temporal person couldn’t dream love. I’ve seen temporal people do just that.”

“Then, us mortals must be of the dream, too.”

“Maybe. Let’s hunt Cat down. You hold her and I’ll tickle her until she gives us the deal.”

Arianna laughed.

“I’m not kidding!”

“I was raised Catholic. The thought of holding God down and tickling Him until He gives up straight answers is funny!”

“I guess it would be if you’re talking about the Garden God, the God in the story you told.”

“Hey! Isn’t where we just came from a garden?”

“We had gardens on the farm. No, that wasn’t a garden.”

“That’s not what I mean. I mean the Garden in the story. A perfect place. I left out, when God gave us all those curses, He cast us out of the Garden.”

Makaila narrowed her eyes. “And, we walk out on our own. Go figure! Anyway, it’s a just so story and really doesn’t mean anything.”

Arianna pulled on Makaila’s arm. “Doesn’t mean anything! Doesn’t mean anything! It means everything! I don’t care if you’re God, a god, a demigod, a imp, a mortal, Satan or just some wacky chick who gets her kicks as a midnight slasher! I was lost in a world that had no meaning, as the rest of us were. Most of us were so close to suicide, it should have been our middle name. You, the idea of you, pulled us together and gave us a rope to pull ourselves up with.

“Don’t you dare ever think to take that away from us simply because it’s not the truth!”

Makaila looked to the ground. “I’m so stupid!” She found Arianna’s eyes. “Tell the story in a way they’ll understand it.”

Arianna nodded sharply once. “Damn straight! Now you’re talking like a god I’d follow right to Hell!”

“Witch.”

“Witch?”

“Gypsy.”

123

Stupid mortal! How can she be so smart and so damn stupid at the same time? She knows she can stop the flow and direction of a rock in mid-course oh why oh why doesn’t she just stop these bits of lead?

Cat looked around to ensure no one was watching, rolled her eyes and walked into Makaila’s body. Cat immediately learned the mechanics of esoteric manipulation and the laws were not the same in the temporal world as they were in her realm. The lesson came crashing through her/their skull just above her/their right eye.

Bracing against pain she never felt before, she froze the moment in transitory time even without thinking. The ease in which the body sustained damage surprised her. She knew she could repair it, which she did immediately, restructuring the hemisphere as it was.

Okay, for some reason, I can’t stop the projectiles.

Her plan was to step in for the slightest amount of time, drop the bullets to the ground and step out. She needed a new plan. She looked ahead and saw the other thirteen bullets finding flesh.

Might be too much damage to repair.

She couldn’t allow Makaila to be lost.

She tried simply moving Makaila’s temporal form out of the path within the transitory time. The damage to the brain deepened and thus couldn’t be repaired simultaneously. She reeled ahead in the minds of the attackers and saw if Makaila didn’t take the hits, they’d reload and attack again.

Well, that’s simple enough.

Cat reached out to crush their temporal forms.

Nothing.

That sucks!

The pressure of transitory time pushed on her existence, forcing a decision. Only guessing at the consequences of her choice, she brought Makaila fully into a place and time beyond the temporal and filled the void with her own form. She counted on her greater experience, though none of it practical.

As normal time rushed in like a storm driven wave, an incomprehensible moment flickered in the universe when Cat and Makaila were one. Pain tore at Cat like spears thrust by Achilles in the days of old. With all her being, she cast back the discomfort of the flesh, holding tight to her new form, repairing the damage as quickly as she could.

Cat cast a thought and planted her essence into the mind of one of the attackers.

A house divided.

Even as she crumbled to the ground, with the rebuilding and replacing of damaged flesh, she began the process of switching back with Makaila. The process didn’t work.

Now what have I done?

The thoughts, emotions and combined energies of so many temporal beings piled on her. She tried to shift her form out of normal reality and again failed. Lying across another body, she thought of following the two attackers into the woods. She didn’t think she’d be able to get her legs working without some practice. She could not escape the place or time.

She couldn’t comprehend. The schemes no longer opened themselves to her inner vision. The impressions of the world around her were dark, confused and general, no longer clear.

Mike was the first to reach her. He knelt on the grass as she sat up. “My God! Are you all right?”

“Wish me happy birthday, Mike.”

Mike blinked hard. “Makaila?”

Cat smiled inwardly.

Sure, I can do Makaila.

“You look, well, different.”

“Getting shot a dozen times can do that to a girl, you know. Like you get this whole new outlook on life.” She placed a hand to Josephine’s head. “Come back to us, now!”

Josephine stirred.

Thank the Father something works!

“I’m cool.” She tilted her ear to the forest. “On their way and not looking back.”

Cat worked quickly, identifying the faces gathering around her. She knew what Makaila knew and more. “Mike, like the first time we met, get me out of this crowd. I need to think!”

Mike stood tall and raised his arms. “Makaila’s fine. Not a scratch. She needs some room, please!” He pulled her to her feet. “Your wishes will always be respected. You know that. You can hideout in our trailer if you like.”

The crowd held its ground, applauded cheerfully and then dispersed. Batman knelt before Cat, leaning on his bat. “Should we go after them?”

“Long gone, but thanks.”

He withdrew and took up a position between her and the trees. She got the impression he would always be a few feet behind her.

Judy slammed into Cat with a breathtaking hug. “Don’t you dare die on me like that!”

Cat laughed softly, warming into Judy’s emotions. “No chance of that. I like it here too much.”

“I have no idea how you pulled that off and don’t really care.”

“Let’s sneak off to Mike’s.” Over her shoulder, she called to Mike. “Let’s do a party after the day’s done. I need to talk to everybody.”

124

Mike hurried off to find Megan. Her absence spoke volumes. He found her in her tent, at the table, in a trance. He waited and when she didn’t move, turned. Her voice stopped him.

“Did it say what it was?”

“Huh?”

Megan’s deep, dark eyes cut through Mike. Her serious tone scared him. “That which purports to be our friend. Did it say what it is?”

Mike sat across from the witch. “I’m still not sure I follow you. Makaila’s not Makaila?”

“No, that is not even human. Did it say what it is?”

Mike leaned back and scratched his chin. “She did look different. A little slimmer maybe, something about the eyes and her voice. However, she had just been traumatized and it was dark. I know how the perceptions can trick us. I do it for a living, after all.”

Megan stared through Mike. “Your eyes do not see as my eyes see. You did not see what happened.”

His skeptical nature wrestled with the trust in his friend. He went down the middle. “What do you think you saw?”

“I know what I saw, Mike, but I won’t argue. I don’t think we have time to argue. Makaila did the unspeakable and the impossible. She opened a portal between here and there. If I hadn’t seen it, I would never have believed anyone telling the tale.”

“You mean there, the place that is not a place in a time that is not a time?”

“I am pleased you have listened to the story when I tell it. Yes.”

Mike grimaced. He discounted much but dismissed few things. “I don’t believe it for a second, but if what you say is true, we could be in big trouble.” Mike looked at his hands. “I believed it was Makaila because I wanted to. It was easy. I think you’re right. It’s not Makaila. However, she never said she was. She let me believe it.” Mike rolled his eyes. “What did she say first? Something about wishing her a happy birthday.”

Megan remained emotionless. “She’s taken flesh, maybe for the first time.”

“Who?”

Megan closed her eyes. “I don’t know. Maybe this Cat Makaila has spoken of. Maybe a darkness who took advantage of Makaila’s moment of death.”

Mike tilted his head, narrowing his eyes. “Do you mean a walk-in? Do you have direct experience with such a thing?”

“I have my stories. I have no direct experience with such. I will go to my books and cast a spell to cast out dark entity walk-ins.”

Mike nodded. “It doesn’t require killing anything or anybody, does it?”

Megan smiled curtly. “No, it doesn’t.”

“What do you need?”

“More training and experience would be nice, but all I need is in my head already. For now, I need to meditate. I want to find Makaila.”

“You can do that?”

“I won’t know unless I try.”

“Makaila said, this new Makaila, that we should have a party. She wants to speak to everyone.”

“You have a show to do and a party to arrange. I will make my determination and see what we can do, if anything.”

“Aye, aye, my friend.”

125

It’s all so much more clear from the other side. “I need you to do something for me, Judy.” She relaxed once in the safety of Mike and Jill’s trailer.

Judy nodded eagerly. “I will do anything you ask, but first you must answer a question.”

Holding Judy’s eyes, Cat put a hand to Judy’s cheek. “Sure, if I can.”

“Who are you?”

Cat didn’t betray her surprise. Judy knew Makaila more deeply than a mortal could. However, Cat found Judy’s emotions curious. Full understanding escaped her. Cat tried to see the emotion, which was new to her. Cat realized she didn’t understand human beings as well as she thought she did. “I’m not sure what you mean.” Cat probed, trying to separate what Judy knew from what she felt.

Judy narrowed her eyes. “You are not Makaila. Now, if you got a problem understanding that, tell me what words you have the problem with and I’ll explain them to you!”

I’m not going to like it here. “Judy, listen. I don’t have time for this. Can we do it later?”

Judy closed her eyes, pushing down her fear and anger. “Okay. Just tell me if she’s okay.”

I wish I knew! “Accept this. If I didn’t do what I did, Makaila would be lying dead right now.”

Judy nodded slowly. “What do you need?”

“I need to kinda zone out. I need you to watch over me.” She pulled Judy’s hand to her forehead with open palm. “Put your hand like this and say forcefully: come back to us, now! if you need to snap me out of it.”

Judy nodded again. “I’ll trust you for now because that’s my only choice. Know this: you will return Makaila to me else one of us will die this day. Do you understand that?”

The fierce loyalty shocked Cat, surprise showing on her face. She had thought she didn’t understand these people, now she knew it. Her hubris rose in her chest. “After what you just saw, you think you could kill me?”

Judy’s face showed grim and hard. “Know it. They were just doing a job. My love for Makaila will send you right back to Hell, if that’s where you came from.”

Cat nodded, understanding she was nothing to Judy compared to Makaila and Judy might be able to carry out the threat. She was jealous of this love. I’m not going to like this temporal at all! She pushed back her confused emotions. How do they live like this? “I really, really need to think. I promise you, I love Makaila more than you can ever understand.”

“You’re going to have to prove it. Butterflies.”

Cat tilted her head, wishing she could read Judy’s thoughts or even subtle body. “Butterflies?”

“Yes. Butterflies.”

Judy waited for something, but Cat couldn’t guess what. Cat went for the obvious. She showed her palms. “Hands like this over my head. The butterflies come.”

Judy’s eyes narrowed again. “Why? For what purpose?”

Cat closed her eyes and raised her arms, then dropping her palms to Judy’s face. “It makes people feel good.”

Judy’s mind spun in bliss. She almost fainted. She pushed away, shaking her head hard. “Okay! I didn’t really think you existed.” Judy took Cat’s face in her hands and kissed her briefly on the lips. “Let me be the first to welcome you to our world.”

126

Cat ran up the hill, through the towering pines to find not only Makaila not present, but also Arianna gone. The two coffee mugs told her Makaila had been there, just as Cat thought. She fell into a chair on the porch and rolled her eyes into her head.

Damn. The vision’s gone!

She was just as blind as anyone else.

Finding her way to the field of flowers, she danced until the butterflies came. “I don’t understand any of this at all.”

You were warned, Catrina.

“Help me!”

Did you not say: I will do as I wish.

She stopped her dance and looked to the ground. “Yeah, I said that.”

And?

“This sucks!” Cat stamped her foot. “I know where this is going. I did what I wished and now I get what I got!” She raised her face to the sky. “I don’t think I like this anymore.”

It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not.

“But – but – but I did it for her! It just didn’t work out like I thought it would. I only did what had to be done!”

You didn’t have to do anything.

“And, lose your favored?”

You don’t know that. And, I don’t favor her over you or your brother. Maybe I could send him to help again?

“Oh no you don’t! I’ve not asked, so you can’t!” She waved a tiny fist to the sky. “So, you’re not going to help me?”

No. It is not my concern.

“Not your concern!”

This is what you have done. You have done as you wished. What I wish to do now, is nothing.

“Go away then!” Silence came in her head. “Good!” Cat stamped her foot once, fell into the flowers and cried.

127

Judy placed confusion and speculation in a box, shelved in the dark recesses of her mind. She looked hard at what lay directly before her, a child who dropped from the sky, a fallen angel. Maybe.

Judy snickered at herself, wondering whether she had a rational mind anymore. Draping a comfortable blanket over Cat, Judy kissed her on the forehead. “Sleep, rest. I pray the dream brings what you need, what I need.”

Batman turned, questioning Judy with his eyes as she opened the door. “Everything’s fine for now.”

He turned back to his watch, searching.

Judy went to Megan, standing far off in the shadows. “Is it true, witch?”

Megan read into the question. “It is true. I am not sure what the meaning of this truth is. My visions fail me. I cannot see. What did it say?”

“Makaila?”

“I feel our Makaila is the answer, not the question.”

“My question is: is Makaila okay?”

“The answer is: if she is not, nothing is going to matter.”

“I’m not ready to be a true convert to the myth and madness.”

“It does not matter what you are ready for.”

“Ladies.” Mike nodded, approaching. “Let me introduce Makaila’s shadow.”

“Jo.” Judy nodded.

“Hey, Judy.”

“Did I miss something?” Mike tried to laugh, but laughter was hard to come by. “I guess you know Megan, then?”

“Actually not.” Josephine eyed Megan. “Jo McCarthy.”

Megan found a way to smile, though slightly. “Megan.” She took Josephine’s hand. “You’re near the end of your journey.”

“That’s what I figure.”

“Megan’s our witch-in-residence,” Mike explained.

Josephine leaned back and eyed Megan again. “I would have never guessed.”

“How is she?” Mike addressed Judy, indicating the trailer.

“Depends on if you’re asking her friend the rational scientist, her lover or the new convert to esoteric lunacy.”

Mike chuckled. “I understand. Since we’re all card-carrying members of the Makaila fan club, how about you answer it from there?”

Judy scrunched her face. “First off, that’s not Makaila.”

Megan nodded. “We know.”

“Wait a minute.” Josephine held up a finger. “I didn’t get a decoder ring. I was sure it was Makaila.”

“It was. Now it’s not,” Mike explained.

“Did you guys pop a cork, or what?”

“No,” Megan answered sharply. “We did not pop a cork.”

Josephine blinked hard and held Megan’s eyes. “Sorry, I just landed in the middle of this Twilight Zone. Give this cop some time on the ground!”

“Granted.” Megan bowed slightly. “Mike is correct. We have all come to this moment and this time with one drawing factor. In this one concern, we are one.”

Judy stared toward the trailer. “It’s like our lives have all become about her life.”

“Maybe all life,” Megan suggested.

“I’m going to put a rope around your neck and stake you to the ground like a tent,” Mike told her. “What do we know? I mean, what do we really know?”

Josephine squared her shoulders. “I know the child is a murderette. She killed a guy in a very gruesome way. She was illegally institutionalized for the crime, but more than that. She was erased from the system. It was a kidnapping. I have six other disappearances of children on the same date, different years, that she committed the murder. I know Makaila is the key.” Josephine took a deep breath. “Then, it gets really strange from there.”

Judy picked up the story. “She got released from the institution by a mysterious lawyer from outer space.”

“There’s a piece I didn’t have,” Josephine confessed.

“The people who imprisoned Makaila, didn’t like that she was out. This guy Harshaw –”

“Met him.” Josephine looked like she wanted to spit.

“– came to take her back, but Makaila got the drop on him.”

“Which is a wonderful story in itself to hear Joseph Carleton tell it.” A new voice joined the circle. “If you want Harshaw to hear you, stand on his left side.”

Judy laughed. “Don’t tell me! Mysterious lawyer from outer space? Right?”

“Yeah, that fits. I’ve been called worse. Larry Elderage.” He pulled Sally into the circle. “Allow me to present my faithful female companion, Sally.” He looked sharply in all directions. “There’s a slim lady around here with driven eyes and notepad. Hayley Siegel. If you have the pleasure of speaking to her, begin every sentence with: This is off the record, now.”

The Hayley Siegel?” Judy’s eyes went wide.

“Could be. I always thought her first name was Hayley.” He spread his arms. “What is this? A wake? I know she’s not dead! I got a wild card no one knows about.”

Before introductions could continue, fifteen feet away, the door of the trailer opened. “How’s a girl get a cup of coffee around here, anyway?”

Elderage turned white. “Catrina!”

“Catrina?” Sally asked.

“What the hell did you do?” Elderage demanded.

“It’s dandy to see you, too, Larry.”

Megan, for the first time in the four years Mike had known her, fainted dead to the ground. Batman, eyes alert, winked at Cat. “We’ll get you some coffee.”

“Catrina?” Sally asked Elderage again.

“Fishing.”

She eyed the child. “That’s our client? You weren’t kidding?”

“This can’t be good.” He turned to the only level-seeming head. “Where’s Makaila,” he asked McCarthy.

Judy knelt next to Megan as Mike stared off into space.

“Sorry. You’re the cop, right? Josephine –”

“McCarthy,” Sally put in, reading from a notepad.

“McCarthy.”

“Call me crazy or call me Jo. They both seem to fit at the moment. We don’t know where she is.”

Mike found his voice. “There was an attack. Makaila disappeared and she appeared in her place. So Megan says. I can’t explain it any other way.” He said to Judy: “She’ll be okay.”

“Gee, give a girl some room to work!” Catrina joined the crowd, pushing Larry and Sally apart. She fell to her knees, winked at Judy and put a hand to Megan’s forehead. “I showed you this already. It’s like a panacea for the unconscious.”

Larry nudged Sally. “Pay attention. I’ve seen her do this before.”

Judy grabbed Cat’s wrist. “Let me, then.”

Catrina withdrew her hand.

Judy took a deep breath, put her palm to Megan’s forehead and commanded: “Come back to us now!”

Catrina smiled lightly. “Put all your thoughts on your hand and do it again.”

Judy did.

Megan’s eyelids fluttered and popped open.

“Hey, witch. The Cat’s out of the bag, I guess. Makaila was right. You are a special one.” Catrina giggled, pulling Megan to her feet.

“I’m lost,” Josephine said.

“We’ll see if we can find you.” Catrina smirked. “Mr. Elderage, would you be so kind as to do the introductions.”

“Huh?”

“Like duh, Larry. Introduce me.”

Larry laughed. “As?”

“It really is good to see you, my friend. As what you know me, of course.”

“Okay.” Larry glanced around. “Everyone, this is Catrina. Catrina, everyone!”

“Cheater!” Catrina pushed his shoulder. “Where is that wife of yours, Mike? I have something to say to her.”

“Eh, getting our party ready.”

“I can do it,” Judy said solemnly. “Catrina?”

Cat nodded.

“Let me start with our newest friend. Josephine McCarthy, please meet Catrina.”

Cat stepped to her. “If I may.” She hugged her warmly, stood back, still holding her hands. “What an adventure this has been for you! Your quest has taken you far from home and even into death itself. You bring to mind Odysseus, a personal favorite of mine.”

Josephine nodded. “I’ve just been following what I know is right.”

“So did he, for he most part.”

Catrina looked toward Judy as Judy continued. “Mike, Catrina.”

Catrina, as she did with Josephine, embraced Mike warmly. “Mike the skeptic. It’s always good to have a skeptic in the crowd. This is about the physical world and you’re good at reminding everyone that.”

“Catrina.” Mike tasted the name. “However, I do know there is much more to creation than the physical.”

Catrina laughed, putting a hand to his chest. “You keep that knowledge here.” She moved her hand to his head. “Not here. And, this is good. If you take proper care of the physical being, the spiritual takes care of itself.”

“That’s the trick, isn’t it?”

“Your stock in trade, yes?”

“It’s all magic.” He quoted himself, nodding, maybe truly believing the statement for the first time.

Sensing the timing, Judy went on. “Catrina, Megan.” Megan accepted the deep embrace.

“You do show the Mark. It has been difficult to find your way, as it is for all who do show the Mark.”

Megan bowed. “In knowing that, it makes the path not so difficult. Why is it we do not get better guidance?”

“Then the Mark would be meaningless. You must pay the heavy price for the wonderful gift.”

Megan raised her eyes and held Catrina’s. “You are the pure one? You are the Virgin, sent by Him?”

Larry tilted his head, leaning forward.

“Megan the witch. That is a complex question, which holds a yes and a no. He did not send me. Makaila did. We need to speak long and hard, witch. Much depends on what I am to do next and I’m not sure I can do what must be done. Full understanding escapes me.”

“Because you took flesh?”

Catrina smiled darkly. “Yes. You have learned the Way well.”

“I am honored by your words. Much time has gone by and I have feared the deep wisdom lost in the context of retelling in lives lived in the mortal foil.”

“Much has been. We will speak of this.”

“This is Sally.” Judy continued.

Catrina shared a hug with Sally. “Larry Elderage’s sidekick. He’s spoken often and warmly of you. I can now see why his stays were so short.”

Larry laughed. Sally blushed.

“You two share a deep love neither of you even know is there. It is a love uncluttered by the way of mortals.”

“It asks for nothing and offers nothings,” Megan added.

“You have learned well, witch.”

Sally blinked at the child before her. “If we got involved, it would ruin this love?”

“You are involved and the answer is neither yes or no. Pure love cannot be corrupted. It is, like me, pure and virginal. It will always sustain you, if you allow it.”

“That is the challenge you face now, is it not?” Megan asked.

“It is.”

Judy put her hand to her forehead and leaned forward with wide eyes. “You are the one who Makaila is like!”

“I am. Makaila is my half-sister.”

128

“If this.” Arianna put her hand flat to her chest. “Is not my body, then why am I tired, cold and hungry?”

“I kinda explained what I thought already. I didn’t waste away in the institute ‘cause I ate and exercised in the dream. One’s gotta affect the other. It’s a weird thought, but I don’t really think there’s a difference between the two.”

“You mean I’m having an out of body experience?”

“It’s more like an out of mind experience. It’s like you gotta put aside the understanding of time and space you got in your head and see things exactly as you’re looking at them. There is here and here is there. Yet, we understand them to be different.”

“Too confusing.”

“Okay. Where do you go when you dream?”

“My body? Nowhere? In my head.”

“Yeah. It’s the same deal.”

“But, the dream’s not real –”

“If you have a nightmare and wake up scared, are you really scared?”

“Sure, yeah, I get it! What affects me in the dream is going to affect me. But, well, not the other way around?”

“Yeah, kinda, sorta.”

“Okay. I want some coffee so bad, I can smell it.”

“You do smell it. Let’s see if they’ll share.”

Arianna giggled. “Always be kind to the stranger who visits. It just may be a god walking among men.”

“The Bible thing?”

“No. The Iliad, by Homer.” She rolled her eyes. “But yeah, the Bible, too. The Garden God had this big thing about being kind to strangers and sometimes those strangers were angels. One town wasn’t kind to visiting angels and God firebombed them out of existence.”

“I don’t think I like the Garden God.” Makaila led the way off the dirt road and into the woods, soon to come upon a makeshift shack constructed of gathered odds and ends. A bright fire hosted a large metal pot sitting directly in the dancing flames. Three old, dirty cups were set out.

Makaila took everything in with a shiver, quickly turning to Arianna. “Shut up, accept what you see and listen much more than you talk.”

“Huh?”

“Just do it.”

Arianna nodded with eyes wide as an old man draped in rags appeared from the shack with a smile on his lips and a gleam in his eye. His high pitch voice mimicked his slight frame. “Ah, company! This is good. This is very good. Most I’ve known all these years have forgotten me and never seem to bother! Sit. Sit. Take a load off. Visit. Share my coffee!”

As Makaila and Arianna sat, their host pulled the pot from the fire with his bare hand, filled the three cups and returned pot. He handed a cup to each. “I thank you for this gift, Father.” Makaila received the mug with a bowed head. Arianna followed her lead.

The old man laughed, full and rich. “Call me as you wish, see me as you want! I’m just glad to have company!”

“As you wish it, Father. You know I can see all I need to, in your eyes.”

“Oh, child. I know you see what you wish to see. Just like everyone else!” He turned on Arianna. “How’s life been working out for you?”

Arianna blinked hard at the smiling face. “It’s been okay, I guess.”

He leaned an elbow on his knee. “Just okay? Would you rather it be someone else’s life?”

“Eh. I don’t know, sir. I’m not sure what you mean.”

Could I be wrong? Makaila thought.

“Of course not,” he said to Makaila, then turned back to Arianna. “I mean: your life is your life. If it were given to someone else, you wouldn’t have it. If you were given someone else’s life, you wouldn’t be anymore.”

Arianna looked into the fire. “You’re saying this is what I got and I’d better be happy with it ‘cause it’s all I’m going to get?”

“Are you two in love, with each other?”

“Yes,” Makaila answered.

“No,” came overtop Makaila’s yes.

Makaila and Arianna looked at each other.

“I don’t think I meant what you meant.” Makaila shrugged.

Makaila reached into the fire, retrieved the pot and refilled the coffee mugs. “I meant, of course, the non temporal love.”

“Love is love.” The old man smirked. “It just appears differently.”

“Would you really know?” Makaila narrowed her eyes.

“Maybe not. It sure sounded good, though!”

Makaila pressed forward. “Tell me more of what might sound good.”

“About?”

“Tell me, old man.” She leaned toward him, her eyes almost begging. “Of many things: of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings. And, why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.” She raised her palm to him. “When you finish telling me things that sound good, tell me what you need to. Tell me of the time to come and if your vision is a certainty or a maybe.”

The old man placed his cup on the ground, putting his hands on his knees. “I will tell you what I have seen, that which is to come to pass. The darkness has been bound for one thousand years within man and will be released upon what you know as the earth. With it will come death, hunger and disease, ending in a lake of fire brought by God, which will sweep up all life.”

“Revelation.” Arianna rolled her eyes dismissively.

“Revelation?”

“Yeah, a book in the Bible.”

“Really?” Turning back to the old man, Makaila knitted her brows. “You quote from a book?”

“No. I tell you what I have seen.”

Swinging her head back to Arianna: “You sure?”

“It’s not an exact quote, but it’s close enough to call plagiarism.”

“Darkness bound in man? In human beings?” She challenged the aged face.

“It is so.”

“It is not so! I know. I looked!”

“You asked what I saw. I offered it. If you don’t like the answer, it’s not my fault you don’t come in faith.” He shrugged. “If you invite me, I can help.”

I just gotta know what I know and trust what I know. “I got no idea who or what you are. I got my guess, but my guess ain’t fact. I don’t believe you have anything of value to offer us, other than some really good coffee. I thank you for that.” She stood, putting her hands on her hips. “It’s time for us to go!”

He looked up with sad eyes. “It is coffee you came for. If you wanted more, you should have come for more.”

Makaila rounded the fire, bent to the old man and kissed him on the cheek. “I love you.” Her words fell like a whisper. Turning, and with Arianna by the hand, she moved off. “Let’s get, Arianna.”

Makaila turned back. “Stay out of my way!” She pointed a threatening finger.

“Or what?”

“I did this with Cat. Ask her!”

He smiled. “Travel well, Makaila.”

They were off toward the road beyond earshot.

129

“I don’t get it.” Arianna hurried behind. “Who was that?”

Makaila spun, meeting Arianna with tears of rage. “That was nobody!”

“Makaila.” Arianna took Makaila by the shoulders. “Makaila.” She pulled Makaila to her. “Whom the God’s will destroy, they’ll first make mad. Please, come back to me.”

Makaila warmed and relaxed into Arianna’s arms, unclenching her fists. “More Bible?”

“No, more Homer, I think.”

“Oh, I think Homer might be right.” Makaila took a deep breath and stood back. “I’m all right, I guess.”

Arianna looked from under her brows. “So who was that?”

“Not sure. I think it was my dad.”

Arianna looked back. “I see why you’re mad. I’d be disappointed, too. What makes you think that?”

“Hard to explain. It has something to do with the eyes. He’s just another trickster, like Cat. We can’t believe a word he says.”

“Yeah. Revelations is over the top for most people.”

Continuing on the dirt road, Makaila asked: “Tell me the story.”

“I can’t really tell you the whole story, word for word, but it’s a book in the Bible by this guy, John. He had an angel appear to him and show him some stuff.”

“Like?”

“How the world was going to end.”

“Letting loose the evil?”

“Yeah. The guts of it is God’s pissed because we’re bad and causes all sorts of suffering and horrid death to those that haven’t been good.”

“Like Santa Claus in a really, really bad mood?”

“You’re funny. Yeah, like that, I guess.”

Makaila bit her lip. “God isn’t going to destroy this place. It will be our own doing.”

“A done deal?”

“Absolutely not! I know one thing for sure. The future’s not written yet. Nothing’s a done deal.”

“Yeah, I get that. No prophecies that we don’t write today.”

“Yeah. Here’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to get my bro and you out of Hell. Then, we’re going to dig up Cat and see what the deal is.”

“Deal?”

The deal. I got this idea she screwed up. She went out of her way to tell me she didn’t live on the mountain. That makes me think she did live on the mountain, like she couldn’t leave it. Now she left it. I got this feeling she can’t get back.”

“Why?”

“Why can’t she get back or why do I have the feeling?”

“Why do you have the feeling?”

“Oh. ‘Cause she didn’t come back.”

“All this means?”

“Maybe nothing. Maybe the end of all things. Maybe something in-between. Cat told me to trust this.” She put her fist to her stomach. “And, this isn’t feeling too good right now.”

Makaila fished in her pocket. “Good. I got my money. First off, I can read a history book. There wasn’t like a big bump in the road a thousand years ago. We got no reason to believe some darkness was locked up in man or anything like that. Second, I’ve been around this planet long enough to know people aren’t evil. They just value stuff different. That guy was a madman or a liar.”

“Or God?”

“Which would make him both! I learned a long time ago, seems like a lifetime, not to jump on the first flight of fancy to explain what I’m looking at. Crayfish ain’t rocks after all. Everything is exactly what we’re looking at. It’s just sometimes we don’t see what this everything is. We really, really fool ourselves too easy. My bud Mike said it’s all magic.

“There was this time Cat didn’t understand about this pain and fear a child had. I told her she’d been on the mountain too long. I get her now.” She thumbed over her shoulder. “And, I get him now. They don’t know anymore, really, really about us than we do about them.”

“Let them eat cake.”

“Huh?”

“A princess lived in riches and wealth. When she was told the country people were so poor, they didn’t even have any bread to eat, she said: Let them eat cake! because that’s what she ate all the time.”

“Yeah. Just like that!”

“He’s been in the woods too long.” Arianna laughed until the tears came. “You’re going to destroy all the bad guys!” She laughed more, pointing, falling to her knees, then rolling on her back, grabbing her stomach. “We are so stupid!”

Makaila caught the laughter and dropped down, giggling. “Tell me what’s funny or they’re going to think I’m nuts!”

“We got this idea that people have this darkness and that’s why they treated us like they did, because we had the truth, you know? Then, there’s this kid, you, who dies and came back. Now, you’re going to destroy the darkness! And, this kid, you, is like God and you’re going to make things all dandy again. Get it? It’s the same story!” Arianna choked for air. “There’s more!”

Makaila, kneeling next to Arianna, wasn’t laughing, but smiled.

“Makaila, in the Iliad, God’s wife, Hera says to God: Why are these mortals so quick to blame their own doing on us?” Arianna sat up and looked at Makaila with wide eyes. “You said that! Don’t dump the blame on you! Don’t you get it?” She sucked in air. “Okay, so Cat’s God and you are like God. That and a buck will get us a cup of coffee. It means nothing here!”

Makaila nodded into the irony. “It means nothing and it means everything.”

“Love that gives nothing and asks for nothing.”

“Yet, is what sustains us.”

Arianna smiled. “You are so right, my little godlet. Cat’s gotta get back to the mountain even if we got to kick her all the way back!”

“Larry and you are going to have to wait.”

“How long were you in Hell?”

“Too long.” Makaila’s eyes went cold. “But, I get your point.” The air became thick. Makaila yelped once, falling backwards to lie still on the cold, damp ground, staring wide-eyed at the sky.

130

“What’s it like to fly?” George Potter asked his mother again. He asked once, years before when he was five years old.

“Only the birds and God know that.”

“Mom, I did fly and I did see God. I saw His angel, too.”

“The living do not see such things, Georgie.”

“I know! I was dead! The angel told me it wasn’t my time and to sleep!”

“Then, why don’t you sleep?”

Far above, somewhere beyond what can be heard in a dream, a soft voice sang a wordless song hidden behind the high pitch of a child. The child’s voice, like a lighthouse on a storm-swept night at sea, shown bright. George was drawn to the cry like heroes of old answered the Siren’s song.


“In the name of Makaila, she-who-is-like-God and in my name, Saint Terri and by my will, I command you back to the living. I do now command by the power placed upon me and within me, to act now on the behalf of God and Makaila, she-who-is-like-God that your wounds be healed, that your health return, so that you may continue in her service.”

Terri’s eyes sparkled and glistened, standing on a chair with her hands raised as if to touch God, high over the critically injured George Potter. Pastor Stevens stood close, out of the way, eyes filled with tears called forth by the wonder before him.

Nurse Brook watched on, cautious yet confident. She recently watched Makaila work. Terri came in her name. She was taken up in the flamboyant event and helpless to stop what happened next.

Terri dropped on the bed, straddling Potter’s chest. She held a hand toward Stevens, the pastor placing a knife with an eight-inch shinning blade to her palm. Terri pulled her hand, lighting her palm bright red. “By the death of Makaila, she-who-is-like-God and the blood of the Saint: be healed now!” Her command came with a power beyond her age, beyond her humanity and beyond the temporal. She placed her reddened palm to Potter’s forehead.

Potter surged up quickly, almost bouncing Terri to the floor. He caught her around the waist. She put her forearms on his shoulders. “Hey bud. Good to see you.” The demeanor of saint melted away, once again just an eleven-year-old child.

“Terri! What? Where? How?”

She giggled. “Shut up, silly. Who sent you off to the store by yourself, anyway!”

Potter smiled.

Brook was by his side. “There was an accident. Do you remember it?”

“Yes, kind of.” He didn’t take his eyes from Terri.

“Do you know where you are?” Brook continued, trying to take his blood pressure.

“If that’s a test question, I’ll say I’m in a hospital.”

“I wouldn’t believe it, if not for watching Makaila do the same thing.”

“Huh? Here?” Terri’s eyes went wide. “When?” She looked excitedly at Stevens. “It’s beginning!”

He nodded smiling, holding a hand forward to help her down.

“Get me my clothes.” George pulled at his blanket. “I know where she is.” Without the slightest bit of stiffness or discomfort, George, who moments before the doctors weren’t sure was going to live the night, swung his legs over the side of the bed.

Brook didn’t bother trying to stop him.

“We have work,” Stevens said.

Terri gazed out the window, watching the gathering dark clouds for the longest time. “You’re right.” Saint returned to her face. “If she meant us to go to her, she would have called.”

Stevens nodded.

Back to George: “We have work elsewhere. You will come with us.”

“I have my instructions already.”

She turned, her eyes flashing, burning with an inner fire. “You will come with us! Brother Larry has been taken. You will help us set him free!”

“Taken? Arianna?”

Terri narrowed her eyes. “You love her? You love her.”

Stevens stepped up, putting a hand on Potter’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

“Wait!” Terri raised her hand, rolling her eyes into her head. “Steve. We may be wrong. I see Saint Arianna is not dead, yet.”

Potter dressed – quickly.

131

Makaila sat up quickly and looked around. “Boy, that was weird!”

“I’m getting used to weird. You were breathing, so I didn’t panic. You okay?”

“Yeah. Right as rain, I guess.”

Arianna pulled Makaila to her feet.

“You didn’t tell me you were a saint.”

Arianna blushed. “I kinda thought I was. Wait! How’d you know?”

“God knows everything. I guess it would depend on the meaning we hang on the word. Anyway, did you know this George guy is in love with you?”

“This is getting very weird, even for you. No. He isn’t. I’d have been able to tell by the way he looked at me.”

“I just had a vision, or a dream. I’m leaning toward vision. You’re confusing love with lust again.” Makaila closed her eyes. “Funny, I can’t bring the memory back. I can always bring back something that happened before, like fully in my head.

“Whatever. It seems like I just got invoked.”

“Huh?”

“Called? To a hospital room. Do you know a kid, Terri?”

“Skinny chick, so high, hair about my color without the curl?”

“Yeah. That’s her. You didn’t tell me George’s a babe and Terri’s dead on exactly correct and right. He’s in love with you.”

Arianna’s mind leaped around. “A hospital room?”

“George was hurt, bad. Terri fixed it.”

“Hurt bad? Terri fixed it? How?”

“I couldn’t buy a clue if it were on sale. I thought my miracle was pretty nifty, this kid’s really got it kicking. Her and some guy I don’t know. Stevens? Finally.” Makaila let out a sigh of relief. “Signs of civilization. We can get something to eat.” The dirt road opened to an unpaved parking lot on a narrow paved road.

“That doesn’t make sense. That pastor’s been dogging us. I hope they sell more than just bait. But, I’m hungry enough to eat that!”

Makaila giggled. “I think I’m understanding these mortals enough to know they at least sell beer, too.” They settled in with an early breakfast of coffee and potato chips, relaxing on a railroad tie next to the parking lot.

“Now what?” Arianna asked.

“We wait.”

“For?”

“A car to steal.”

132

When Harshaw’s voice in the telephone said: Take care of the problem on your end, Bixby squirmed, answering in the affirmative. He knew, from the first day he signed on with Harshaw, his life was at risk and expendable. He knew there’d be times he’d step directly in harm’s way and what he worked toward and for were far greater than any individual.

Since the first day he signed on with Harshaw, he learned the organization was a harsh mistress, lacking anything that could be called compassion, focused only on the charter and the goal. He liked that. All doubt was removed, all he had to think out was the task directly in his path. He believed in what he did.

Somewhere in time, he made an error. He got to liking Marks. When Harshaw said: Take care of the problem on your end, Bixby knew what Harshaw meant. Bixby formed the arguments, which were never put to words. He knew, if the situation fell within the charter, he could eat a hotdog with one hand and put a bullet between Harshaw’s eyes, finishing lunch without so much as dripping mustard on this tie.

He had done similar, more than once.

Bixby argued with himself. Marks is a good man. He is an asset to the organization and worth any effort to keep him in-house. His real motivation was he had gotten to like Marks. Marks was the younger brother he never had.

Bixby, like many people who dealt with and worked for the organization, had insurance. Most people had a file and proofs squirreled away that could expose the organization’s dealings, much of the dealings being questionable. Bixby also knew such insurance was worthless. The organization made great efforts with rolling investigations and identifications. Marks’ file and any insurance he had, Bixby knew, was being purged even as he navigated the car with Marks in the trunk away from the city.

Bixby’s insurance was different. It was thorough, complex, multifaceted and complete, accounting for every eventuality. He developed his insurance over time and looked toward the planning as he would any Event Horizon. He didn’t prepare for if they killed him. He prepared for if they wanted to kill him. He designed a total blink with over two dozen varied options, even going as far as having psychological records, history and pre-paid sex reassignment surgery if he needed such an option.

Through layers of shells, he owned properties in the United States and four other countries, two not friendly to Americans. In all his dealings, using his experience with the organization, he left no tracks in the sand. He could disappear like he were never born, if he had to.

Nevertheless, he believed in the organization and he believed in his work. He also didn’t want to kill Marks. As much as they disagreed over many things, he happened to like him and didn’t think it fair not to bring him back from his breakdown. To the organization, the harsh mistress, Marks was expendable. He could not be recovered nor could he be redeemed.

Marks’ only crime was to serve the harsh mistress.

Bixby had many safe houses, designed and constructed in the tradition of the late fifties fallout shelters. Isolated from human surroundings, on the surface the buildings appeared as just another hunting cabin, nestled away in the forest. Below the structure were enough provisions to last a man five years if need be. Bixby piloted his car toward one of his cabins, hoping to hold up for a day or maybe two and bring Marks back to sanity. From there, he reasoned, they could make rational decisions what to do next. If his efforts failed, he had his duty.

I will not give up on you so easily, and I would like to believe you would do the same for me.

He gave into the urge for something hot and stimulating, pulling onto the bait and tackle shop parking lot as the sun struggled to find its way above the horizon, through the trees and the clouds.

133

Dark eyes, black like coal contrasted a slim ivory face. The black of her hair seemed to draw and consume any nearby light. Her gossamer robes flowed and floated in and around her as if a part of her, drawing the night near to become of her, too. Her appearance was at once startling and amazing. One could not tell whether she were an angel sent by God or a demon sent by Satan. She had been called both.

The fire’s dancing fingers played off the deep ebony of her eyes as she stood before and above the gathering of forty-odd people, stark white arms raised to a cresting full moon pushing its face through the high cloud cover.

Her lips, red as blood dripped into the first snow of winter, smiled warmly. “I shall tell the story of the beginning of all things.” She nodded to the faces of old friends and new. “As I have told the story so many times before. In this world, this place of ours, it is because of you, my friends, all of you that I have learned the true meaning of this story.

“You, all of you, have given me a home in a place of understanding, acceptance and light. You have demanded nothing of me and I have offered nothing. Yet, we share a love beyond what we are. It is this that sustains us.”

As with every time Megan began this particular story, lightning danced on the distant horizon behind her. She smiled down from the platform to hold Catrina’s eyes for a long moment. “Did you do that, my new friend?”

Trapped in an unguarded moment, she shook her head. “It is not my doing, I don’t think. I am learning much, most of all, that I do not understand.”

“As it is for us all, Catrina.” Megan raised her arms high once more and began: “If it please my family and the Gods, then this is my telling:”


In a time, not a time, and in a place not a place, lived a youthful woman. She was a child yet was a woman and then was not a woman. If we could see her today, we would cry at her beauty and the children would giggle in delight. She sat among the tall pines, danced in the field of flowers and cooled herself in the waters of the lake. Her being was full, yet she felt deep in her heart something missing.

In this place, not a place, in a time not a time, there was only day with the bright sun laughing always. This child looked beyond her mountain, saw darkness and didn’t understand what darkness was. She didn’t like the darkness. She raised her hands to the sky and sang a song that had no words yet was full of wonder. In this song and of herself, she pushed back the darkness, creating a world much like hers but of the darkness, too.

She created a place, which is a place in a time that is a time. With this act of hers, the universe as we see it came to be. It is because of her and of her. She watched with wonder and excitement this place of her creation. Watch is all she could do. She is not of this place of her creation.

She is of the place, not a place in a time that is not a time. Yet, in this place of ours, she saw creatures not unlike herself and not like herself at all. Over the vast time she created, she watched these creatures, generation after generation, stand upright and look toward the stars and beyond. As their minds reached upward, their souls reached inward, both mind and soul growing from the earth that birthed them to be more and more like her.

A time came when she feared these creatures that stood upright and reached so high. She thought to withdraw her light so that all things would return as they were. She could not because she loved her creation, that place that was a place in a time that was a time.

Her love was not like the love we know. Her love is unwashed with matters of the flesh and emotion. Her love is pure and burns with the fire of one thousand suns. Her love is as the virgin’s love of the Mother and of the Father. Her love asks for nothing and offers nothing, yet this love sustains all that is in the place that is a place, in this time that is a time.

“What have you done?” Father asked from above.

“I have done nothing,” she answered.

“You have and this does not please me,” Father told her.

“What pleases me should be what pleases you. What I have done pleases me.”

Father looked deeply into creation. “This does not please me because they are not like us. There, your light dances with that which is not you. The darkness can, and will, climb upon the mountain and take even you into its shadow.”

She saw his wisdom and the truth that lay in his words. “Then, I will walk among them and they will see my light.”

“You do not understand that which you have done. You do not understand its nature,” Father warned her.

She thought into his words. “If I cannot walk among them, I will send my light among them instead,” she told Father. “So that they can have a star to guide them and I can learn and understand.”

“You cannot,” Father told her.

“Then stop me.”

Father could not stop her because Father’s love for her is pure and offered nothing and demanded nothing, yet it is this love that sustained her.

When we get to the mountain, we must have learned and know love as she knows love, else creation shall end. We must watch carefully those who pass through this place that is a place in a time that is a time, for those souls she sends among us so that we can learn this love.

We, all of us, know this love and we know the light. Yet, we know the darkness, too, because we are both. We are not like her, but we can be like her. We must learn this if we are to free ourselves and free her from what she has created.


Megan’s eyes deepened, dancing with the reflection of the bonfire. “And, that is my telling this night. How have we kept the wisdom, Catrina?

Catrina wiped tears from her cheeks. “Too well. It’s scary.”

“So mote it be. Do you care to address us?”

“Let’s eat?”

“Thy will be done.” She raised her arms once more. “Let us all feed our bodies and ponder the Way!”

Hayley Siegel poked Elderage hard in the ribs. “Is that it? A run-of-the-mill mystery cult?”

Elderage laughed. “Oh ye of little faith! Hang around. You might get to cover the end of all things!”

She put the back of her hand to his forehead. “You feeling okay? I might have some Prozac in my bag? I can get Joe to fly you off to the nearest loony bin?”

“Answer your phone, will you?” Elderage suggested.

“What?” Her cell phone called from her bag. “Hold on.” She stood and walked off, talking into the telephone, pacing and waving her free hand.

Elderage shrugged at Cat across the fire.

Cat nodded. “It’s getting worse.”

“What is?”

Siegel dropped down beside him.

“Your guy’s okay.”

Elderage nodded with his lip protruding. “Turned the corner, huh? Told you he’s from good stock.”

“I’m getting tired of being out of place.” She shoved the cell phone back in her bag. “I didn’t say he was going to be okay. He is okay. Some girl showed up –”

“Makaila?”

“Close. Acting on her behalf, she said. Jumped up and down on your guy’s chest and now he’s fully recovered.”

“Huh?” Elderage shook his head. “Whatever. We’ll ask him when he gets here.”

“He’s not coming.” She flipped her notebook. “A nurse Book –”

Judy leaned in. “That poor woman! That’s Brook, her first name, with an ‘r.’”

“You sure?” Siegel waved her pen.

“Yes, positive. She got to see the Makaila show.”

“On with it!” Elderage demanded.

“She said they were off to New Jersey.”

“George and the girl?”

“With another guy who came with the girl.” She looked at the pad again. “Stevens?” She looked at Judy.

Judy shrugged. “Never heard of him.”

Elderage took Sally’s hand. “Do you like to fish?”

“Don’t start that again!”

“I know of him. Pastor Stevens. He started all the bad press. He’s running with that crowd now? Sally, see if you can get Potter on the cell.”

“Ahead of you, boss. He’s not online.”

Elderage crossed his eyes. “Do you like to fish?”

“Yes, Larry, I like to fish. We’ll talk about it another time.”

Judy sighed. “Just make sure you don’t run out of another times.” She stared into the fire. “Don’t let the moment pass.” Tears found her eyes. “It was a gift from Makaila. I give it to you now.”

Elderage found his feet and went around the fire, kneeling at Catrina. “Cat, tell me straight up. What should I do? Hang here or head back?”

She put a hand to his face, smiling the best she could. “I don’t know.”

“This isn’t fun anymore, Cat. Not that it ever was a barrel of monkeys.”

“You should have moved to the mountain when you had the chance.” She worked her way to her feet. “I don’t know how you can stand dragging this flesh around with you all the time. Gather up the Makaila fans and let’s find a table and share a meal. I need some answers and I hope you guys have them.”

Elderage was stunned. “You’re kidding about the flesh, right?” Elderage knew Cat wasn’t a normal child or even a normal human being. Her eyes told him that. She had always been evasive, saying little and saying much at the same time. He knew the only straight answers he could get from her were the answers she chose to give. He accepted all this in his rational mind and left any thoughts of the myth and madness at the front door. All the muses of flights of fancy didn’t matter. He lived in a real world, in a rational world and he understood his job well. Now, the true confession stunned him.

“No, Larry.”

He blinked at her. “Then you mean to say –”

“Yes, Larry.”

His eyes would have fallen from their sockets if they could. “And, you need answers?”

“Yes, Larry.”

“But – but – but don’t you know everything?”

“It’s funny to see you flustered.”

“I’m glad I amuse you!”

“I used to think that’s what it was all about. Now, I’m not so sure.”

“I need a drink.” He rolled his eyes. “I have a million, no a million and one questions.”

“Gather our friends. It’s time to eat.”

134

Judy glanced over her shoulder and then looked across the table at Catrina. “He did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.”

“Should Joe and I leave?” Siegel asked, too amused, receiving a glare from Judy. “You’re not kidding?”

Megan held up a hand. “No, do not leave, you are welcome here. No, Judy is not kidding, because that is her heart’s vision, and no, Judy is not correct. It has never been the way of any gods to withhold from us that which we need.”

“If that were only so.” Catrina’s sad voice sat in the air. “True, but not exactly so. What has been withheld was never for folly or malicious intent. It is from lack of understanding who you are.”

Judy forced her words onto the table. “I didn’t learn I couldn’t understand what I was not, until I lived as one, among those, whom I’m not. This is something Makaila’s shown me. As it must be with you, Catrina.”

Catrina winked playfully at Judy. “You have no idea.”

Megan once again raised a hand. “I feel now is the time to listen, not to speak. Now is the time to listen to she who comes among us so that we can understand the Way.”

“Wait a minute.” Siegel jotted notes. “What are you saying?” She pointed to Catrina. “This child is God?”

Megan narrowed her eyes. “Not as you understand God to be. Did you not hear my story?”

“Enough!” Catrina proclaimed and commanded: “Bring me a barrel of water!” She laughed as only she could. “Only kidding. Ms. Hayley Siegel, it doesn’t matter what you believe or don’t believe. It will change nothing in reality so sit back and shut up. There’ll be plenty of time for questions and answers later. I gotta get some stuff worked out.”

Catrina sipped her coffee. “Good, but Larry brings me much better.” She looked around the table, settling in on Megan. “Boy, do you show the Mark.”

“I am honored by your words.”

“Mark?” Siegel asked.

“Shut up, already.” Catrina waved a hand. “I left the mountain and can’t get back.”

“Piece of cake.” Elderage dismissed the problem. “We’ll take you in the helicopter.”

Catrina laughed rudely. “You don’t listen. I should come over there and smack you on the forehead.” She rolled her eyes. “I don’t think I can explain it.”

“I can.” Megan closed her eyes.

Judy giggled, her eyes filling with tears again. “So can I.”

“I think I can,” Mike offered, pulling out a chair for Jill, then dropping down next to her. “I may not have Megan’s sight, but I have a brain in my head.”

“And, you are a magician after all,” Jill reminded him.

Josephine leaned on the table, drawing closer to the company. “I don’t understand it, but I think I do.” She pointed to Judy. “I do understand exactly what you’re saying. I’ve been the odd-man out of any crowd all my life.” She pointed to Catrina. “If I’m getting any of this at all, you’re really out of your natural element and don’t understand us or this place. All the details aside, which we could argue until the End Time, that sums it up, right?”

“I like you.” Catrina smiled. “You are again?”

“Josephine, call me Jo.”

“Ah, the cop. It’s all like jumbled up in my head right now so cut a girl some slack.”

“Consider the slack cut. I bet it is. So, the question before you is how to get home?”

“Sums it up, yeah.”

“Why not the helicopter?” Elderage asked.

“Catrina, that’s the core question everyone of us human beings has faced.” Josephine held Catrina’s eyes. “But, we don’t know where home is.”

Catrina stared blankly as Elderage asked yet again: “The Helicopter?”

Mike laughed. “Larry, you can’t get there from here. Think about it for a minute.”

“No.” Elderage shot back. “I don’t want to think about it. I want to go fishing. Tell me.”

Josephine narrowed her eyes. “But, you do know where home is. You know how you got here. All you have to do is leave the way you came.”

“That’s it, isn’t it?” Megan said. “I will answer. Catrina, you have lost what you had used to get here. Is that it?”

Catrina put a palm to her chest. “Yeah, I’m not me anymore. I can’t go back.”

“Can’t or don’t know the way?” Judy asked.

“I’m not sure.”

“I am,” Megan said. “If we find the path, you will regain that which you willingly gave up.”

“See, now, Larry?” Mike asked.

“No, I don’t. I go there all the time.”

Mike smiled curtly. “Catrina is not you.”

“Not even close,” Sally added. “Not like any of us.”

Catrina bit her lip and told Megan: “I didn’t willingly give up anything.”

“You did,” Megan insisted. “To save the existence of Makaila.”

Elderage caught the word existence. “Damn!” He put a hand to his forehead. “You, Makaila, the six girls. The girls are not like you. She is like you.” He turned to Megan. “She sends some among us?”

Megan nodded.

“Now you’re stuck here?” Elderage’s eyes went wide. “With us mere morals, as you called me who knows how many times?”

“Six girls? What six girls?” Josephine asked.

Catrina batted her eyelashes over soft blue eyes at Elderage. “Yeah, that’s about right.”

“Oh, the irony!” Elderage went to his feet, laughing. “This is rich!”

“Don’t be so amused,” Megan warned. “The implications are beyond our knowing.”

“I get it.” Judy laughed with Elderage. “Catrina, forgive me. All that we’ve been through as human beings and you sit there on the mountain watching, musing, right?”

Catrina nodded sadly.

“Now, you get a taste of here!”

Mike joined in the laughter. “Oh, that is funny!”

“No wonder we sent Jesus packing,” Josephine bit sarcastically.

“We should not laugh.” Megan tried a warning. “This is grave seriousness.”

Catrina found her voice. “Lighten up, Megan. Sure, it’s about as serious as it gets, but I’m learning something important here about you people. If I forget who I am for a second, it is funny.” She laughed openly. “Let’s find a better way to send me packing than you did with JC!”

135

Harshaw was not pleased to hear Marks slipped over the edge. He needed two men on location. However, the prime target in the Event Horizon was dealt with, leaving just a matter of mopping up. With her files gone, Harshaw knew Josephine McCarthy was left with wild tales to tell, which no one would believe.

The principals in the murder cult, as he had come to call it, were under his thumb. In time, he knew, they’d give him all the information he needed and the other conspirators would be dealt with. Larry Elderage and the mystery hacker were a concern, but Harshaw felt they could wait. Time would end that part of the story, too.

With his system back up and the programs to feed information, the unsolved murders for the past decade didn’t reveal a pattern. He saw three that might fit, but only at a stretch. Dr. Charles Zogg was the only unsolved murder he was sure fit in the equation. An odd pattern of children missing, disappearing in early November, came to the surface.

“My money says they joined the cult. Run down the pictures and once we identify other cult locations, I’m sure the children will turn up.”

Harshaw felt he finally had control of the Event Horizon, yet couldn’t shake the feeling of a coming storm. He didn’t believe in psychic phenomena but was a firm believer in intuition as long as it was coupled with and governed by reason. He stood at the front door of F-36, hands behind his back, rocking on his heels. The sun, just over the trees, promised a clear day. “I have faced the worst life could possibly offer,” he said to the glass doors. “Bring on the storm. I’ve got an umbrella.”

A car stopped on the dirt road fifty yards from the front door. Two adult men, one with a bible, and a child climbed out.

Harshaw smirked. “My job’s very easy when they come right to me.” He called over his shoulder: “Prepare three beds. We have guests.”