power in the blood, part six
28 February 1925
Joanna slammed the door shut as she entered her home, a small shack on the Ohio River in southern Indiana. Jeremiah was sitting at the small table that occupied nearly half of the main room, and looked up from his newspaper when he heard the door.
"What did you do?!" she yelled, storming up to him and then standing, arms crossed tight across her stomach.
"Now, mama, you have to know-" he started.
"Just answer me, boy!" He sighed and set the newspaper down, then turned to face her.
"I saved our house is what I did, and got nearly a year's wages out of it."
"You nearly killed Mr. Robbins! I've only just managed to establish a life for us here, and if he turns against us-"
"What kind of life is it?" Jeremiah screamed, standing so rapidly his chair slid back and fell over. "All of my life has been spent in tiny shacks, with barely enough food, watching you work a string of meager jobs for people that hate us! Why won't you let me find a better path for us?"
"Because there's a darkness in you, Jeremiah, and your attempts to 'fix' this invariably include hurting people who look at you funny for your skin or your mom's habits."
"They mean nothing! They're little, pathetic things, running around acting like everything of value is built on these little kingdoms they manage, ignorant of the world that exists all around them!"
"These are human beings you're talking about, now."
"And what good is that? I have the power to take this entire river off its course, and I need to play along to their rules? Fit in to their society? Who put them in charge of this?" he finally screamed, holding out his hands and floating as all the water in the sink and his glass rose up with him.
"They matter because they're people! All that power don't make you more important than them!"
"And all them books you lug around and read don't make you any different! You're punishing yourself! You'd rather keep people like Robbins happy while you waste your life away waiting for a man who'll never return, than let yourself have even a taste of what his power can give you! I think you prefer having him gone!" Joanna slapped Jeremiah hard across the face, and as he snapped out of his trance and fell the water in the air splashed to the ground.
"You don't talk to me like that, boy. You don't know what I go through every single day." They both stayed where they are, Joanna standing next to the table and Jeremiah sitting on the floor, and stared at each other catching their breath.
"You're never going to leave this river, are you?" he finally asked, softly.
"I made my choice. I took my vows. I keep my word." He sat in silence another few moments, then slowly stood and dusted himself off.
"I'm done, mom. I can't do this anymore."
"Can't do what?"
"Wait for him. Hide what I am. Live this life," he answered, indicating the cramped house with his hands. "It's time I go live my life." Tears started to form on Joanna's eyes.
"No, please, Jeremiah, I'm sorry, I-"
"It's not your fault. Not really. We just don't fit in the same world anymore." She reached for him, but he turned and walked into the side room. By the time he returned with a bag packed, she was sitting on the floor and sobbing. He paused, then flicked his fingers. The liquid from the tears came out of her clothes and off her face and landed in his cup. She looked up at him and opened her mouth to speak, but he just gave a weak smile before turning and walking out.
Road to perdition, part one
23 august 2005
There are places in the Metaphysical Realm that are barren for a season. Sometimes a culture will dream up a land for their dead, or their stories, or their heroes, and then slowly forget or die off and leave the realm of their imaginations untended. Sometimes the Ravens fly silently over a waking void, a place they know will soon house some new dream that is only barely beginning to form in the mind of a single individual. These places are generally avoided by spirits, or at least those who know how to access them at all. They are reminders of the frailty of dreams, the reliance the spirits have on the whims and imaginations and fears of a race that could not truly see them even if they wanted to. For the Ravens, though, these lands are scattered oases, wellsprings of energy and lonesome creativity, places where they can fly without worry, walk without hassle, live in quiet connection to the fundamental nature of the Realm itself. They are quiet, isolated, secure.
"Look, the deal was just that I didn't tell him anything, right? So maybe you could?" Kastor was standing on a massive stone, floating in the void. Above, the moons were constantly changing, some vanishing, some being created, some shifting in size or shape or brightness. A purple tree with orange leaves floated nearby, in which the Ravens sat.
"Why would we do that?" Huginn asked. "This sounds like a personal problem."
"Look, I don't know what your connection is to this, but it's no secret that you both seem awfully invested in the Mattesons. Hell, I only met John because of a bet about who could find out what was so interesting about them to you."
"Did you win the bet?"
"You're damn right I did! Admittedly, the standards for success were not high. But the point is, you care about this guy, and there's some spirit trying to do...something evil with him! Or to him! Or whatever!"
"Ghost," Muninn said, glancing up from preening his wing. "She's not a spirit."
"So you've been paying attention! Why is this not concerning to you?"
"It's already done. She confirmed her pregnancy today, with a test from Walgreens."
"Wait, she what? She just wanted to get pregnant? She threatened me just to get a cub?"
"No, but it need not concern you. We are aware of the situation and will act if necessary."
"Thank you for your concern," Huginn said. "Keep your distance, as promised."
"Okay, but if this goes south, I want you both to know I'll hold you personally responsible!" Kastor said, straightening up and putting his hands on his hips.
"Mm. And what will you do about it?" He stood for a moment longer, then slouched slightly, then stood straight again and wagged his finger at them.
"I will be very disappointed in you both! And I'm Mediterranean! Don't think my disappointment can be ignored!"
"We will be sure to bear that in mind, Kastor."
"Good! Good," he said, nodding. He turned around as if to storm off, then stopped and looked around. "How do I get out of here?"
"You could wait til the author finishes worldbuilding and just walk out?" Muninn offered. Kastor threw his head back and groaned.
"Oh come on! Authors are the worst! You didn't tell me this was some potential novel!"
"We didn't invite you!"
"Just jump into the void," Huginn said with a sigh, "it's still in a rough enough state that you'll land somewhere else." Kastor grumbled as he walked to the edge of his stone, then pointed at the Ravens as if to remind them he was watching, then dove off and vanished. "Does this book ever get written?" she asked, after he was gone.
"No," Muninn replied. She took to the air.
"You're cruel! What if he'd actually stayed here?" He laughed and followed her.
"Kastor doesn't stay anywhere, and you know it!" They vanished, and the moons continued their slow shift in silence.
Golden Calf Epilogue
1 August 2005
Lori was sitting in her bedroom, humming along to the local Oldies station and hunched over her dresser poking holes in a couple wrapped condoms with a pin. Beside where she worked, a calendar lay open marked with phases of her menstrual cycle and the current date circled.
"Oh, tonight's the night. Can you feel it? Everything is finally coming together." She bobbed her head softly to the music for a moment, then laid the pin down and huffed. "Well no, I don't suppose you are, little miss hissy fit, but it's hardly your concern anyway." She rested her palms on the dresser and stood still, as if listening. "Well I don't know why you wouldn't," she said, forcefully, standing straight up and turning around, "he's magnificent, but like I said. I'm not leaving until it's done, and that includes delivery, so don't worry your pretty little head about it. You don't have to feel anything you don't want to." She leaned against the dresser and waited, then groaned and waved her hand dismissively. "Then you can go back to sleep. I have work to do." Her head drifted slowly to the side, then stopped when her gaze hit her bed. "And you, what are you doing here?"
Kastor stopped suddenly, his mouth wide open and prepared to bite into the memory of an apple. His eyes darted around the room, looking for anyone else she may have been speaking to.
"Yes, you, goatman," she said, the final word dripping like poison from her tongue. He lowered the apple and straightened up.
"So you CAN see me! I knew it!" he exclaimed, pointing at her.
"Did he send you? To spy on me?"
"Oh child, no one sends me anywhere. I'm not that kind of faun. But I suspect he'd be very interested to know what you're doing on that dresser there." She narrowed her eyes and leveled his gaze at him for a long moment, before slowly raising her hand and then snapping her fingers. Kastor raised an eyebrow, then his eyes slowly got wide as he heard a low growl behind him. He turned to find a massive black dog with red glowing eyes, its teeth bared and wispy shadows of fur raised. He jumped off the bed and stumbled backward. "The Hound! You--there's no way you have command of the Hound! You're not her!"
"Oh, that's true enough," she said, gracefully walking toward him, "but make no mistake. We have an arrangement, and if you do anything to threaten it, the Hound will be there." She leaned close to his ear and whispered, "and in that moment, you will wish I could really control him."
"Who...who are you in there? Really?"
"Give me one year, Kastor," she said, standing up and returning to the dresser. "If I so much as smell your horrid fur near Matteson for the next year, eternity ends for you."
"It was you, wasn't it? Everyone on my side knew that human, Mark, that his death wasn't natural. Did you do that?"
"I am not here to answer your theories, faun. But if you are wise, you will stay out of my way."
"A year and a day, fiend, and everything comes to light."
"Oh if you must, but it will be too late by then." The Hound drew closer to Kastor, who took a deep breath and backed up partly into the wall. "I suggest you go, now. My date will be arriving soon and I would hate to have to kill you on a technicality."
"Mark it. A year and a day, and you are undone." With that, Kastor vanished into the deeper parts of the Realm. The Hound sat and looked at Lori.
"I'm sure your mistress has other things for you to do. Thank you for your time." The Hound nodded, then slipped away into the shadows. "Well, I better get cleaned up. Big night tonight!"
Power in the blood, part four
22 december 1921
Joanna was sitting by the fire knitting in her house just outside of Milton, Kentucky, when Jeremiah finally burst through the door. His arm was slung around Orville's shoulder and they were both laughing as Orville was trying to tell a story that quickly tapered off when he saw Joanna very calmly but decisively set her needles down and turn to glare at them.
"Ma'am," he said, clearing his throat and removing his hat. Jeremiah groaned and stood up straight next to him. "Mighty sorry 'bout it bein so late an'all, didn't mean to disturb ya."
"You're quite alright, Orville. But if you wanna stay that way you best get home and leave my boy to set down right here for a talk." Orville nodded, then gave Jeremiah an apologetic look before slipping out into the night. Jeremiah made his way into the living room and sat down on the other chair facing the stone fireplace.
"It was harmless, Ma. We was just out-"
"Ain't worried about tonight, boy. You know damned well I don't mind Orville. It's about somethin happened at the railroad yesterday." Jeremiah sunk slightly further into his chair and fixed his eyes on the fire. Joanna watched him for a moment, then sighed. "You remember why we gotta keep moving so much, right?"
"I could control my power better if you let me use it!" he said, sitting bolt upright.
"Oh not this again! You know full well I let you use it just fine, just-"
"'Not to get my own way,' I know, Ma. But what was I gonna do? They already been itchin to get rid of me over my skin, if that tank fell over I'd been out a job and probably worse, and where'd we be then?"
"We got by just fine before the Pennsylvania Railroad came to town, we could get by again." She leaned over and put the knitting aside.
"Oh, what, moving again? I don't even know what business you had hearin about it while you was down at the river all day anyway."
"It was my anniversary, and I spent it with as much of my husband as I could! And if you don't want me hearing about your business you need to stop makin it so loud!"
"Your husband, listen to yourself! He's gone! He ain't comin back, why we gotta keep waitin for him?"
"I swore to God, Jeremiah, to be his til one of us dies, and ain't neither of us dead!" He stood and threw his hat at the wall.
"He may as well be! What good's a husband can't keep his family fed, anyway?!" He stormed out of the room as Joanna tried to call him back. Once it was clear he wasn't returning, she sat and watched the fire for a few minutes before rising, putting on her coat and shoes, and walking down to the river.
"Oh Abe," she said, sitting down on the beach. "Please, wherever you are, please come help me with this." It was two hours later when Jeremiah wandered down to the river's edge to find his mother asleep.
"See what you've done now," he muttered at the water. He carried her inside, covered her up by the fire, and went to bed.
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