Rejected story for an anthology

Wrote this for submittal for a book of short stories with either a ‘Hero’ or ‘Villian’ main character. It was not accepted. A) It was not what they were looking for. Or B) It’s not that good. I’m going to assume it was option A.
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Heroes. Villains.

By Wayne Hills

—1—

The pigeon’s feathers ruffle in the warm breeze hinting at the coming summer. Having no knowledge, and therefore no respect, for the shoulder of the statue she has perched upon; she relieves herself in same location her ancestors have done for hundreds of years. Her bodily function merely adds another, unnoticed, white and brown patch to the coat of the bronze homage in the small town’s main plaza.

The sculpted figure’s gaze is forever watching the sea to the west. The subject’s explorations of the New World returned great riches to his home country; his crusades brought many converts to his faith. The combined exploits brought fame and fortune to his family, and this otherwise unremarkable city on the coast of Europe.

The local school children learn about his life and travels; they look up to him and dream that their lives could one day be as glorious. This unimportant seaside village has produced countless fishermen and their wives, many drunkards, and even more prisoners.  It has however, only produced one hero. Fernando Alejandro Reyes, world explorer, and prophet of his religion.

Fernando sailed uncharted oceans in small wooden ships, when primitive, and often unreliable, compasses, the stars, and a rope with metered knots tied in it, were the only means of navigation. He, and his motley crew, all desperate to escape war, disease, and famine, cast their lots to the sea in search of adventure and glory. They were the lucky few to not only discover new land, but to return safely; all that is, except for Capitan Reyes.

On his fourth expedition he met his ultimate fate at the hands of a savage. As told by his surviving shipmates, their brave leader was killed by a naked, brown, sub-human somewhere along the southern coast of New World.

There were many celebrations of Fernando’s life and deeds; an annual fiesta, and holy day were named in his honor. On the one hundredth anniversary of his glorious death, the town erected a life sized tribute in the city common. He is considered by all to be the town’s greatest son, their one true hero.

He was a mass murderer, they say. He brought civilization to barbarians, the History Books print. Fernando’s brutality was condoned in the name of the crown in order to bring back wealth.

He crushed a thriving society, they say. He discovered new lands and riches, the Inscription reads. He is a fearless explorer, and warrior of King and God, a man to be venerated.

To the inhabitants of an equally unremarkable village, somewhere on the southern coast of the World that was not New to them, perhaps not.

 

—2—

Surprised by a commotion from a cluster of men huddled around a small television in an open air café, the pigeon launches from her perch in a flurry of dust and loose feathers. Circling the plaza she eyes crumbs near the group’s feet. She lands nearby, and a few waddling steps towards them rewards her with a gizzard full of ants that have also discovered the spilled bounty. Occasionally her head tilts, allowing one eye or the other, to keep watch on the men in their brightly colored shirts. If her avian mind had the capacity to understand, she would know their matching attire is in support of a sports team; the region’s most popular soccer club, Futebol Clube de Sporte’.

Her pecan sized brain is also unable to decipher the large black patch emblazoned on their backs. A single bold numeral, ‘5’, symbolizes the club’s premiere player known only by his last name, Bene.

Bene, the football player, is a hero to these hard working men and their sons, and their friends and sons, and hundreds of the friends and sons of similarly dedicated and God fearing men throughout the countryside. Famous for his accomplishments on the pitch; he has earned glory for the team by amassing personal records and awards while in their employ. His fierce play, and athletic ability, has earned great victories and brought championship trophies home for the club and its fans. On the field he is a ball handling king; his skill with his feet is legend to opposing players, and the men who wear his jersey. His talent with his more delicate body parts is secretly renowned to their wives and daughters.

He has fathered a dozen children, all unknown to him, all unsupported from him, all HIV positive by him. As he travels with the team he receives standing ovations and cheers under the bright stadium lights; when those lights are dimmed however, he is spreading his seed and disease in every town he visits; one, or more, willing partner at a time.

Bene the revered athlete has failed every drug test he has ever taken for illegal narcotics. All the failures are covered up by Futebol Clube’s lawyers; the same men who buy off the women he’s infected or impregnated. For a quick payday they’ll forget what he did, and who he did it with. He is always whisked away when the Policia arrive, several times by the Policeman themselves for an autograph, or used pair of his playing sneakers.

He has a drug problem, they say. He’s seeking treatment, the Tabloids print. Bene always walks, never pays for his crimes.

He doesn’t stand up for his responsibilities, they say. He will play this week, the Sport’s Page reads. He is the ultimate champion, a thoroughbred of the greatest measure.

To the thousands of people who applaud his ability to play a child’s game, he is a sports hero, an athletic God.

The scores of neglected and infected women and children he has left in his wake; and the countless souls that lie dead because of the trafficking of the drugs he abuses, would disagree.

 

—3—

        The shopkeepers straw bristle broom shoos the pigeon away from his café sending bits of dirt, some ants, and a small button into the air. Instinct takes over as the late afternoon’s cool breeze signals the bird that it’s time to head for her nest. The insects, dirt, and button, having no instincts at the moment but to obey the law of gravity, fall back to earth. One of the minuscule creatures lands on top of the shiny white button, but having no capacity to understand the importance of his find, crawls off in an attempt to find his way home carrying the bit of bread he holds in his tiny mandibles. He, if in fact this particular ant is a he, has found an integral piece of missing evidence in the trial of a, high ranking, Deputy of the nation’s Parliament.

Juan Carlo Opello III was born into his role as a leader of men; and the population of the country adores him for it. He has shown incomprehensible expertise in straddling the, very barbed, fence of fiscal conservatism, and liberal policies for the poor and under privileged. He is the eldest son of Juan Carlo the second. Juan II, having served as the country’s Prime Minister, was very proud when his son was appointed to the position of Deputy of the Treasury. Especially since Juan III had never worked a single day of his pampered life; it was only natural for Juan the First’s grandson to follow in the family’s dual businesses, wealth and privilege.

Juan the eldest began amassing the family fortune running liquor to the United States during the country’s, ill-advised, attempt at national temperance. And once America, pardon the pun, sobered up to the fact that they could make more money in taxes than it was cost to subject their people to an unpopular, and mostly unenforceable, law, dealt weapons to various rebel organizations throughout the world. Just as any great robber baron had learned, once enough money was made, unimaginable wealth is within grasp by seeming to be a legitimate businessman. A few well-placed bribes here, a couple ‘accidental’ deaths there, and within a generation, an unknown black marketeer had a son rise to be the country’s most powerful man.

From there it was an easy step to hold that power, to elevate another generation’s son to the heights of politics. As simple a stride as it was for that promising young man to spend a pleasant evening driving through the countryside sampling some of the land’s finer depravity. Making a quick stop here and there for a carafe of the local red or white; partaking in anything, or anyone, available to this influential politician. This respected, and coddled man who may, one day, follow in his father’s footsteps to reach the top of the political mountain.

Why shouldn’t the people want to emulate him, to shower him with gifts and praise, to treat him like the national hero he is? This man must be a God among mere humans to reach to the stars of power at such a young age. How else could he have risen so quickly?

The good people, of this proud nation, have no knowledge of the dominant Opello family’s closed door meetings with other prominent men of wealth and power. The unethical deals they arrange, the back alley packages, some containing bills both large and small, some merely containing photographs or secrets preeminent men would prefer to keep hidden. Promises covertly passed between politicians out for their own profit.

Yet even with all his distinguished family’s influence, Juan III’s ascension has not been as smooth as they had planned. An unexpected, albeit minor in their eyes, rumble up the street and over a single mother and her young child walking that same lovely evening; they were simply out enjoying the cool night after an especially hot day.

In the countryside the poor don’t have air conditioned mansions, or cars, so they walk for free in the calm night’s air. The widowed mother felt safe in her belief that any driver could see them, out for a stroll, on a well-lit street just on the outskirts of their little town. Their faith, just as one would expect a respected and important man to have inborn morality, has let them down.

Before speeding off into the dark, and the protection of his political machine; he did stop. He did in fact, rush to the mother in her dying moment. He heard her moans, “Be’be, be’be.” And he turned and looked for the child, spying him under the sleek German sports car that was a gift from his generous grandfather. He did not however, notice the mother’s hand reach out for help, for comfort in her final movement, and pluck a small ivory button from the jacket of his imported, handmade, Italian silk suit.

The young boy survived the crash, badly broken and orphaned from his encounter with the rich and powerful Juan Carlo Opello III. Although his memory was clear of the night and his description of the silver sports car and man in the fancy suit were very specific, there was no physical evidence linking this, very important, national hero to the death of an insignificant woman in the street.

“Why would she be out walking at night,” they say. “She was probably a prostitute,” the News Anchor reported. Juan Carlo is destined to be the next President; he has the pedigree for the job.

“What good to society was she?” they say. “He’s one of the country’s most powerful men, too important to fall,” the editorial page wrote. His skill at bringing the political parties together is unmatched.

To the government of the country, he is a national hero for the economy and her people.

To a young orphan boy, whose murdered mother was branded a whore, he is the vile creature who ruined his life.

 

—4—

Dusk’s light casts elongated shadows across the plaza as the pigeon approaches her home in the belfry of the old church. The generations of her family that defiled the town’s celebrated statute, nested in these nooks and crevices; these same sheltered outcroppings will be used by her offspring for their nests.

As she spreads her wings, and flares her pure white tail, to alight on top of her young, she spies one of the cathedral’s many feral cats stalking the three puffy grey chicks she left hours earlier in search of food.

Diverting her flight she lands on the intruder; there is no thought of her own safety, no fear in her actions. Her young must be protected from harm, even if that action puts her at risk.

Pecking and flapping her wings, she beats the predator away. As the hunter turns to flee, one last slash of a paw nicks the mother bird’s breast. The tiny red drops fall on her young as they chirp her welcome.

A month later she’ll be dead; poisoned from an infection contracted from that small nick in her tender flesh. By the time her soft body falls from the steeple, providing an easy meal for the tabby’s relatives, her three young chicks have grown to fledglings. They have left their provider’s care to explore the plaza, and add their droppings to the remnants from their forgotten mother.

—5—

Was this simple pigeon a hero? A selfless mother, she died in the act of providing shelter and protection for her family without care for glory, fame, or riches. She was just a bird, instinct guided her actions; she had no more motive than the ant bringing a crumb back to his colony.

What about the explorer, surely he is a hero? Courageously traveling the uncharted world in barely seaworthy craft; successful in his mission to discover new lands to plunder, and people to convert to his way of life. The New World’s population, were considered brutal and primitive by the conqueror’s civilization’s standards, were shown no mercy in his quest for riches and glory.

The sports star perhaps, fans worship him as their hero? Elevated to stardom, and idolized by legions simply because he was born with physical gifts, and abilities greater than the average human’s. The adoration shown by his followers allow him to live an extravagant lifestyle with no concern for the welfare of others. His indifference includes his own, unfortunate and unseen, progenies.

The eloquent statesman, a man of the people, he must be a hero? Born into a family considered royalty by the oppressed masses; they are seen as the paramount example of the promise of a better life.  They choose to ignore, or conveniently forget, that he inherited a privileged station in life because of his forefather’s illicit dealings; his ancestor’s trading in vice, and death, bought wealth and power to his family tree. Abuse of that authority allows them a free pass to murder, and corruption in the name of wealth.

There are heroes, and villains in this story. Individually each fisherman, wife, mother and father, shopkeeper, sports fan, even the drunkards and criminals may be flawed. But among them, there are men and women who strive each day for what is right for their families and society. Unknowingly we encounter heroes every day; we are just looking in the wrong direction.

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A Ghost’s Story: Chapter 9.2

A Ghost’s Story: Chapter 9.2

By: Wayne Hills.

‘Coming to you from Warner Brother’s studios…’

 Sidekick Andy Richter begins another nightly episode of, Conan, the same way he has for decades in the living world, as he will for eternity in ours. Sitting in my familiar recliner in the living room of our home, chubby dachshund Lola on my lap, apprehension overwhelms me as I glance toward my wife. Why I am afraid of what I might see puzzles me. Inexplicably, I’m relieved to see that Suzie is knitting her endless ball of yarn into the ‘Never Ending Story’ of sweaters, just as I expected. The garment never got bigger, the wool never smaller, but I can tell she’s content just working away.

But I’m not content; something pulls at my memory.

Why do I think her project is never going to end?

I watch as her hands nimbly work the long slender needles in her fingers; the soft but surprisingly strong digits I’ve held a thousand times. Her right index deftly pulls the yarn from the ball, slips it over the top of the shiny pink needle, and then quickly, almost imperceptibly, transfers it onto the left hand tool to become a knitted stitch. Or a pearl, one is over the stick, the other under I think. She knows, that’s all that matters to me. Her happiness, her safety, that’s all I care about in life.

Yet there’s something more, a tinge in the back of my mind. Something isn’t done, I have left something incomplete. There’s unfinished business outside.

 Outside? Why would I need to go outdoors?

I stand and walk to door.

I look back at my wife; her gaze alternates between the work in her hands and the TV screen.

“Suzie, I need to check on something outside. I think I left the hose running.”

I don’t know what else to say. I have to go to finish what I’ve started. Even though I’m not sure what it is, I can’t ignore it and stay.

At least I know Suzie will be safe and happy.

Why would I think otherwise? It matters that I feel this way, but I don’t know why.

“I’ll be back my love, don’t worry about me.” I say as I reach for the doorknob.

“OK dear.” She replies without looking at me.

My hand hovering over the knob, I stop, turn, and go back to her. I kneel before her so that she has to look into my eyes.

“Suzie.”

“Auggie?”

“You know I’ll love you always and forever, don’t you?”

“Of course Auggie, don’t be weird.”

I kiss her and hold our lips together for one long breath. I lean back.

“You’ll be all right without me for a while. I’ll be back.” I mean it and know in my heart it is true, but at the same time I am afraid. I don’t know why I have to go or what it is I will do once I leave. I just have to leave.

“I told you not to be weird,” she smiles as she reaches up; I feel the warmth of her fingers touch my cheek. “You know I love you too, I’m just not a nerd about it. Now go shut off that hose, Conan has some good guests tonight.”

She returns to her knitting as I walk to the door.

As I step through the opening, a thought occurs to me, ‘I wonder if Doc’s found his eye yet. ‘

——-End———

A Ghost’s Story: Chapter 9.1

A Ghost’s Story: 9.1

I find Doc outside attempting to rearrange the misplaced parts of his legs. I notice his jaw has reappeared, as well as some more of his, still incomplete, arm.

“Doc, I’ve got to tell you I was a little disappointed with you. I’m hoping that you knew I’d be safe in her bubble.”

“Yes, Auggie, I said you were special. None of the others can leave of their own accord. They must be drawn out or have you with them. I knew that if she went inside, she wouldn’t be able to get out.”
“But why did she want me in there? Her plan was to trap me inside.”

“Her plan was to shred you inside. You would be trapped and out of the picture. That’s what she wanted. If she were to cut you up out here, you would simply return to your home bubble.”

“So Roger and Lucy are okay?”

“They’re safe, I’m sure of it. Roger’s probably getting a lap dance right now completely oblivious to the adventures they’ve been on.”

“But why did you stay here and just float around in pieces?”

“I don’t have a home. When I died I just stayed where I was murdered. I have always been most comfortable in the uncharted space between the living world and this one.”

When he finished putting his legs in order, I helped him up.

“What do I do now Doc? Can I trust you?”

“I know I owe you an explanation Auggie, I’ll do the best I can.”

He told me about the murder of his parents and the hypnotic suggestion put into his impressionable young mind. He told me an eerily familiar story, about seemingly benign strangers asking for help on a rainy night. He talked about his parent’s gory death at the hands of the caped man, and Theo Loddi’s murder from his. That night when he was a boy, Rita was a blond, and the man in the cape was the same man he saw through the tear between realities. When Doc came face to face with him, a moment before he was cut to pieces, he saw the man for what he really was. He saw the demon’s face and knew he couldn’t help them anymore. That’s why he tried to push me into the bubble. He didn’t think he could get Rita in, so he tried to protect me. He hoped I would think of something to help end this.

“Unfortunately, it’s not over, is it Doc? He’s still with the living. He’s still killing.”

“You’re right, he is. We have to try again to stop him; we have to build an army. I’ll get Roger and Lucy back.”

“How, they’ll remember everything that happened to them once they’re outside. Do you really think they’ll try again?”

“We don’t have a choice, there’s nobody to help the living but us.”

“Okay, but I need to go home first. I have to see if Suzie is all right. The last time I saw her…” I had to pause, the horrific image of the last time I was with her still terrified me. “Frankly I miss her.”

“I’ll gather the rest of myself back together and I’ll call on you when I’m ready. Auggie; you go see your wife.”

We shook hands and we parted ways. He to gather an army, and me to see my love.

An Unexpected Message

This is a piece of Flash Fiction written in 24 hours for a competition. I’ll post the results in mid-March when they announce the results:

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An Unexpected Message

By: Wayne Hills

 

A message, they’ve got some nerve sending her to deliver it. Trying to bring me back, to suck me into the world I’d left seven years ago. I have the perfect cover in this little town. They love me here in my new life; I forgive their transgressions to God’s law, even as I pay the penance for my own.

Every Sunday morning, they come and listen to my sermons, who better to lecture on sin than one of God’s greatest sinners. The people are happy with my parables, the Monseigneur’s ecstatic with the extra donations, and I’m at peace with my life, a bloody perfect plan. Until today, when she boldly walked up in the town market of all places. No thought to be discrete, to maybe just send a note.

Out of the blue, she comes up and touches my sleeve as I’m greeting the townsfolk. As usual I was feigning disinterest in the women shyly stealing glances and sharing knowing nods amongst themselves as I passed by; I thought it was just another lonely housewife looking for some ‘private’ counseling. I looked down, and at first didn’t recognize her, but her unique features pulled the smile from my face.

“What are you doing here? They paid you off; you were never to speak to me again”

The anger in my tone was covered by the crowd’s chatter as they bargained with the hawkers selling goods in their crowded stalls.

Her long lashes cast a thin shadow onto her heavily scarred cheek, reminding me of the pain I caused her, and why I had to leave Her Majesty’s service.

“I know, but they sent me. We have to talk.”

She leaned close and whispered, “You see, I’m bringing a message, and you won’t listen to anyone else. More importantly, they’re pretty sure you won’t kill me. I wasn’t so positive on that part, that’s why I came to you in the open.”

I lifted my head and searched the crowd. We were seen together, so in that point she was correct. Even if the messenger had been some random lackey, I would’ve had a hard time making them disappear without questions.

“Yes my child, I’ll hear your confession, but it must be in the church to be official.”

As I led her by the hand from the town center, I hoped my voice was loud enough for the few curious faces nearby to hear and be satisfied.

 

We sit in separate booths, only the thin gold screen of the confessional separates us. I grill her, trying to get to the truth.

“What do they want? Why send you? And don’t give me bullocks about me not listening to anyone else.”

“They need you to come back; you’re the only cleric the M17 service has.”

“Had,” I corrected her. “I don’t work for them anymore, not after…” I trailed off. She knows why I left the SIS version of the American X-files division. After all, it was her fault.

“That’s why they sent me. It was my deception which caused your mistake. I’m sorry, and not just because I’ll pay the price of this hideous disfigurement for the rest of my life. I need your forgiveness, not for me, I deserve what I got. I need you to forgive yourself. It wasn’t your fault.”

“What does it matter? I’m happy here; the church and Crown are satisfied with my banishment to this tiny hamlet. What could be so important?”

“The demon is back, the one that you summoned when you performed that unnecessary exorcism. He’s got one of the princes. Your replacement tried to perform the ceremony, and now he’s dead.”

I fall silent. She’s right, it has to be me. I called that devil from the depths of hell; I’m the only one that can send it back.

She was just a lonely teenager trying to get attention from parents that ignored her. Because she happened to be the daughter of the Prime Minister, they called in the M17 to take care of the matter in secret.

Among my other duties in service with the SIS, a vicar is good cover for a spy or a hit-man, I worked a dozen exorcisms. I didn’t know she had access to her father’s private files on the work I’d done in the field of demon expulsion. She studied well and passed, or failed, all the tests for any other explanation for her condition. I had no way of knowing performing the ritual on an unpossessed person would actually produce an evil spirit.

When I tried to banish it back to hell, the demon made the votive candles explode into a napalm fire permanently maiming her. It was an unforeseeable accident.

I should have known about her, I had my doubts, but that’s part of the deal of being a good Catholic, isn’t it? But then, so is faith.

“I’ll come back to eliminate the demon with you. But then I’m done, done with you and the Queen’s, bloody, SIS forever.”

I thought it would be simple, easy to walk away from them the first time. I have to believe this will be the last time I’m needed.

I must have faith.

—End—

 

Wayne Hills. (Miguel A. Rueda)

Waynehillsauthor@gmail.com

Word Count: 873

A Ghost’s Story: Chapter 8.2

A Ghost’s Story: 8.2

 I have a plan, not a great plan I’ll admit, not even a whole plan I’ll confess, but I have to get Rita away from my home, and give Doc some time to literally pull himself back together.

I begin by talking to Rita without any intent other than denying her the opportunity to interrupt, I side-step away from my bubble in the opposite direction from where we had come.

“I’m willing to help you but I don’t know exactly what it is you expect from me. I’m obviously out of my league here, and you have this all figured out. I’m just concerned with what would happen to my wife, Suzie. She doesn’t know anything about what’s going on out here.”

“I told you alread…” Rita tries to cut me off; I keep talking.

“Yes, I know how you feel about marriage and death, but she will always be my wife. After all we were put here together, just like Roger and Lucy were. That must mean something in the grand scheme of things.”

The mention of Roger strikes a nerve, she raises her blade. Quickly, I change the subject.

“It’s crazy here isn’t it? I never was a religious man, didn’t believe in life after death. Still don’t really, I mean this isn’t really life is it?”

I continue to talk, trying not to babble or repeat myself. I go on about her and her love, and how similar they are to Suzie and me. I talk about what it’s like for us in the bubble, being careful to leave out the details about how we got there. I don’t ask any questions, or say anything that will require a reply from her. Amazingly, it works and she follows me away from my home, and the slowly dispersing Roger and Lucy. Rita turns when I turn, walks where I walk. Somewhere along the way, her silver blade reverts back to normal and her demeanor lightens. Maybe all that time waiting for her unnamed lover made her lonely for some regular conversation.

Before she even notices what’s happening, we’re back by her bubble. I steal a glance behind, and as I hoped, Doc’s disjointed mass has followed us.

His pieces have come together to form a semblance of his normal shape. Although there are a few pieces that seem to have not found their way back in place, he has the overall look of a broken vase that had been glued back together, badly. Gaps between his extremities make it obvious where Rita’s sword had sliced him. His right eye, chin, and left bicep are missing; although the rest of that arm seems to be floating in generally the proper position. It also appears that several pieces of his legs are swapped onto the wrong side. They don’t seem to bend in the right directions, he appears bowlegged.

When Rita finally notices where we had walked, her reaction isn’t what I expected.

“Auggie,” she says with surprising calmness. “Are we back at my home?”

“Yes Rita.” I see no point in lying about it. “I brought you home. You were at peace in there don’t you remember?  That’s all any of us want isn’t it.”

I try to stay calm, soothing. I need to maneuver her into a position near her bubble in order to get her inside. I have to convince her that she wants to go back.

Yet another glaring hole in my plan that has yet to have a plug present itself.

“Rita, do you remember how you were when I first met you?”

“Yes, I was waiting for a client. That person turned out to be you.”

“That’s right. I came into your home,” more like a lair actually. “And you greeted me as if I should have known why I was here. But what I meant was, how were you feeling? You seemed calm to me, happy almost, isn’t that right? You were serene.”

She thought about this for a moment before answering.

“Yes. Yes, I liked it in there.”

“And now that we’re all out here, you’re life, sorry, existence is in chaos. Don’t you want to be at peace?”

She appeared to be thinking about it, but it’s taking too long.

I glance sideways, trying to get a better look at Doc. I’m shocked to see him running towards us. At first I thinks he’s going to try to push Rita into her bubble, but at the last second he turns towards me!

“Doc! What the hell?”

I move just in time for him to miss me, he bounces off Rita’s home and falls to the side.

“You missed him Doctor!” Rita screams at him as he’s lying on the ground. I knew you were useless. Her silver arm is back, although this time it has the shape and size of a samurai sword. She easily decapitates the remnants of Doc’s head and kicks it away from his flailing body.

“His purpose has already been fulfilled, he delivered you to me. I kept him around in case he could be of some use, I guess I was wrong.”

Turning back to me, her arm revert to normal.

“That was a very nice speech, Mr. O’Neil. You’re right in that I was peaceful. But only because I am very patient; have been my whole existence. The anticipation of the fun we’d have together would rip me apart otherwise.”

“You knew I was leading you here, and you still came, why”

“I don’t know, just toying with you. I also wanted to see what that quack doctor would do. I’ve had him on my hook for thirty years. Wanted to see if he’s still loyal.”

She starting laughing at the fallen doctor. He managed to find his head and had placed it back in its proper location. He was trying to stand, but his mismatched legs weren’t cooperating. He slid around on the ground, each attempt at rising thwarted by his inability to get solid footing. His outstretched hand is floating in mid-air, reaching towards Rita for help. Disgusted, I walked over to him.

“Stop, where are you going?” Rita screamed.

“I’m going to help him. Whether his intention was devious or not, I can’t let him suffer like this.”

“He was going to end you. If he pushed you in, you’d be trapped.”

If she just wants to finish me, she could chop me up like Roger and Lucy.

An idea came to me. Everything I’d learned in this realm, told me she was wrong. Doc had been right about me being unique. I could enter and leave other bubbles, and still come back out. I had to call her bluff.

“Why does that matter Rita? Why do you want me locked in your home?”

She hesitated. It wasn’t a long pause, just enough for me to detect a line of bullshit was imminently approaching.

“Because that’s the plan, always has been. You get locked in there and I can go back.”

“Really, go back to the living? I don’t see how that’s possible. You’re dead, I’m dead, Doc’s all hacked up, but still dead. I think you’re lying Rita. I don’t think you want me in there, I think Doc went rogue, and you were just as surprised as I am that he tried to push me.”

I jumped in to her bubble. As I dissolve through the surface, Rita’s screaming confirms I made the right choice.

Back in the tidy basement, I’m not sure what will happen next. I decide I need a drink as I wait so I pour a shot of Rita’s firewater and sip the burning liquid.

I’m surprised when I hear Doc knocking and calling to me as he had when I sat in my own home with Suzie.

“Calling the spirit of August O’Neil. This is Doctor Jordan Bukowski, are you there spirit?”

What the hell is he doing? He’s knows I’m in here.

I stomp my foot once, same way that we started all our conversation back when I was in my own home.

“August O’Neil, come outside and see me.”

I have no doubt that this is a trap. I wonder if Doc’s whole face is back, or if his tongue is just flapping around in the ether. The only way I’ll be able to tell for sure is to go out there, and that’s not going to happen. But maybe I can take a peek?

I move closer to the wall, as I hold my hands and face close to the surface, they start to dissolve. As they begin to move towards the outside, I carefully shift my weight, I must maintain my balance inside Rita’s room.

I’ve always just stepped right through bubbles without pausing, this time though, I’m going to try to slide just my face through. If I’m right, I’ll be able to see what was going on out there.

As my eyes begin to melt through the swirling wall, I’m surprised that although my vision is blurry, I can still see fairly well. I hear the doctor’s voice calling to me as my view of the outside world clears.

The Doc is still lying on the ground, where he’d fallen when his attempt at knocking me into the orb had failed. He still didn’t have a jaw. The voice I heard calling to me was coming from Rita. She’s able to imitate the doc’s irritating séance voice perfectly.

Nice try bitch.

She continues to try to draw me out using Doc’s voice. Even though I can see her, she doesn’t notice that I’m here. The missing part of my plan finally presents itself.

As she moves around the bubble calling for me to come out, I wait for her to get close to where I’ve stopped moving through the thin wall between us.

When she passes by me on her way around, I reach out and grab her long overcoat by the lapels, and yank her back into the bubble with me.

She tries to struggle, but my surprise attack prevents her from stopping the momentum and she falls in on top of me. We tumble onto the cool linoleum. I slide across the floor ending up by the bar under the stairs; she stops with her back against the bed. We stare at each other as I wait in fear of her sword’s reappearance.

“Where are my manners? Would you like a drink handsome?”

Holy crap, it worked. She’s forgotten everything.

I quickly jump to my feet and rush over to help her up, hoping the gentlemanly gesture keeps her in the moment.

“No Miss, I have another engagement, thank you so much for the offer.”

I walk towards the stairs as I say goodbye.

“We’ve had a wonderful time; it’s been a very memorable evening. I wish you all the best.”

She tries to protest, to stop me, but I hurry up the stairs and back into the outside world.