Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
I'm still not 100% sure what the story is about but it might have something to do with being Lost and Found. I've always been interested in the idea of losing everything and then getting it all back in the end after a difficult journey. The journey is the thing, of course, but there's nothing wrong with bringing it all back home with you. The interesting thing is my imaginary world has changed, and clearly there are things that this story is trying to tell me. I just need to learn what they are.
The Epilogue after I wrote “The Coda” was about the arduous journey and making your way home. This is something a little different and more monumental. Precious characters were lost and found, stayed and left, and some were lost forever. I was surprised while writing this story since almost everything was unfolding as I was writing it down.
Central to this story is Mr. Gryphon, of course, and losing him and getting him back. When I first started the story I was completely freaked out that my best imaginary friend had been killed. I didn't know what to make of it but I did know the story would be about the journey of getting him back. Who is Mr. Gryphon? He's me, of course, though sometimes I think of him as my ideal partner or what my ideal partner could be like.
Nick is based on a real person who might have looked out for me in real life for a time. I haven't seen him in a while and wonder how he is. I hope he's doing well. The chapter where I was in the bubble mirror traveling from the White Tower in Dis to the church was inspired by a mini-crisis I inflicted upon myself last summer. I originally wrote some of my tender feelings into the story but had to delete them as they were too close to the truth.
The church is a real church in New York City on Lexington Avenue. I visited the church during one of my solitary trips. When I walked into the place the silence was so heavy that I felt like I'd been transported to a different plane. It felt really unearthly. There were only two other people in the church at the time.
The little old man with the clear blue eyes was a man I talked to briefly while in the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in North Beach. I blogged about him in my post about my walk through that neighborhood.
There's more, I suppose, but I think I will stop here. Thanks again for reading. It's much appreciated.
One warm evening we are having dinner on the roof of the Library and talking about my adventures without him. We've talked about them before but we go over every detail to see if there's anything we can use to defend ourselves.
“Nick sounds like a good guy. I'm glad he was there to protect you,” says Mr. Gryphon, holding a glass of the wonderful cab we are drinking with our dinner.
“He is. He did very well, but it makes me wonder why I have so much protection in these stories. I mean, I don't have much protection in real life so why would I need protection here?”
“Perhaps it's something you crave. These places are fantastical and not a little dangerous,” he says taking a sip and putting his glass down. The evening sky is turning the dark stone of my Library a dark purple. The sun is setting into a dark pink sky. I stand up and go to the edge of the roof, looking out. I can see the tall silhouette of the Tower in the distance. It looks ominous in the coming evening light.
Mr. Gryphon comes to stand next to me. He takes my hand and I lean against his warm, soft feathers and fur.
“It's there,” I say.
“What is?” he asks, squeezing my hand gently. I feel a slow warmth building up inside me.
“The portal into this place. I think that's how Ravelle got in here through that Tower.” I turn to him. “We have to go there, right now.”
Mr. Gryphon hesitates. I look at him again, “What's wrong? Are you afraid?”
He laughs, a short sound. “No, of course not. I just think you shouldn't go there. It's too dangerous. I can go there with some security and take a look.”
“No, I won't let you leave me. We go together. Okay?” I hold his hand tight. He looks down at me, his eyes filled with vulnerable tenderness. He nods and then leads the way to the armory.
While there we assemble a team of six people to come with us, bullet proof vests, and weapons. I have my dirk, a machete, and a couple of 9mms. Mr. Gryphon has a shotgun and Nick's sword. All us of walk out of the Library and made our way to the Tower. At the black iron gates I open the door with my ring of keys. Civil twilight is just finishing.
We venture inside, everyone searching the bottom floor but it's as I remember, completely empty but very clean. We check every stone, every window but there's nothing. We assemble again climb the narrow stairs. Mr. Gryphon elects to fly to the top of the Tower. I ask him not to but he insists. The rest of us climb up the Tower stairs. I'm nervous because we are vulnerable climbing in single file as the night comes but I know it's necessary. As we wind up and up I glance out the window. There's a full moon tonight and I can see the dark clouds moving in the sky. It is still warm and I'm getting hot from climbing the stairs. The nearest window darkens unexpectedly and I jump but it's only Mr. Gryphon checking on us.
“There's no one at the top so I'll just keep flying around until we get there,” he says. I thank him and ask the others how they are doing. They nod and we walk on.
Climbing the stairs goes on for a few minutes longer and we finally reach the top. The troop does a thorough check and lights the torches surrounding on the walls. Mr. Gryphon does one last circuit around the outside of the Tower and then alights near me next to one of the large windows.
“No one's home, Miss Turtle. Have you found anything?” he asks, folding his wings away.
“No, not yet. Although I noticed that the suits of armor are standing up again.” We check every stone and every crack but there's nothing in the room. The troop checks each suit of armor but there's nothing at all. Mr. Gryphon is looking around.
“Everything's been repaired,” he says, looking at me, “Remember when I first fought with Ravelle? We slammed each other into the walls, causing chunks of the wall to break off.”
“Yes, I do remember,” I say. Something unpleasant is occurring to me. I pull out my machete and immediately the rest of the troop draw their weapons. “Easy, give each other space. I'm just trying an experiment.” I aim the machete at a space between the stones and shove the blade in as deep as possible. The stone starts to crack around the blade. I wrench the blade sideways and a chunk of the stone comes loose. It falls to the floor with a thud. “Stand back!” I say.
We all stand there, looking at the stone with our weapons drawn. Nothing happens but the uneasy feeling grows in me. I back a little further away. The dread is growing inside me and I know that nothing is happening but I can't relax. I take a deep breath to steady myself. The stone on the floor hasn't moved, nor the hole that it came out of changed.
Nausea rises in me as the stone on the floor flies back in the hole and repairs itself. I turn where I'm standing and swing the machete upwards. The angel who is descending from the ceiling is impaled on the blade. The some of the others shout as more angels descend on top of us. We swing and fight. I yell, the sick feeling in my stomach doesn't go away. I slash on and the air is thick with angels now. I shout to everyone to get away from the center of the room. A couple of my troop are killed by the angels slashing swords. I throw down the machete and will the dirk to appear. I slam it into the nearest heavenly body and work my way through the room, slashing and slamming. Those beautiful screams echo through the stone room as they vanish forever, still more angels descend and still I slash.
I shout for the others to run back to safety. Angels descend, some disintegrate, some don't. The air is thick with clanking armor, swinging blades, and feathery wings. As soon as I kill one, two or three more enter the room. The clouds shift and the moon shines its full brightness into the room. I pull the dirk out of the heavenly body in front of me and it falls away. I turn to slam the dirk into the next one and freeze where I'm standing.
Only a few inches away from my face is Mithra, black blade fully extended, shimmering and terrible. When I swung the dirk Mithra stopped its progress. I look at the small white hand holding the bronze blade and I see it is April.
She smiles that long lashed Go-Go smile. “Surprised?”
“A little,” I reply, not moving from the battle stance I'm in. The room stops moving and clanking. The angels move into formation on one side of the room. Mr. Gryphon stands in front of the two of my troop who didn't make it downstairs.
“Why?” I ask that one question because it's the only one that matters.
“The Boss is in charge here, not you. You're too busy off coming up with weird stuff that none of us understands. You're not the rightful creator, he is.”
“I still don't understand,” I say. Her words throw me off. I can't understand what her point is.
“You think you can create things, these words, these characters, and stories but you have no right. Only he does. He's the creator, you're not. And then you have the gall to come up with this sword,” she shakes her head, “It's blasphemy.”
“I had no idea you were so religious,” I say. The dirk and Mithra are still in contact. “And I had no idea you could wield this sword.”
“You saw to that outside Paradise's gates when you took me into the Source. Renewal in the pond with you means I get all your powers,” she smiles at me.
“If that's true then...,” but I don't complete the thought. I let it hang in the air knowing the right person will pick it up. He does.
God is standing behind April, smirking. I feel a burning hate towards him and his unholy arrogance.
“You see, Miss Turtle, I have a plan for everything. Nothing slips past me. April here has been tracking you all along with your lovely green stone,” he says.
She nods, “I was that woman in the back row of the church where services started. I followed you up the white tower in Dis and the one in Heaven.”
“And Ravelle?” I ask, tears in my eyes.
“Incompetent. She was just there to put the fear of God into you though she did take her mission very seriously,” she says. God smiles at this statement. I clench my teeth.
"You used her, you bastard! You purposely sent her to obliteration!" I say, glaring at God.
"That's all that being alive is about, Miss Turtle. It's using and being used," says April.
“I'm just about done with you, bitch,” I say and then I slam the dirk underhanded, April knocks it aside but not before the blade nicks her, slicing open the fabric of her white robe. Her eyes open wide as she stares at the slash. The shimmering begins and then her scream. This time she dissipates like the others. The green stone falls to the floor and the handle of Mithra drops. I catch it in mid-air and swing the sword and dirk left and right. Angels' screams fill the air. They scatter. Some throw themselves out the window of the Tower. The ones guarding God try to fight but I destroy them easily. In a few minutes God is alone up against the stone wall, the tip of the sword at his neck.
“What do you want, Miss Turtle?” he asks, his beautiful voice hoarse, his eyes sparkle beautifully. In the moonlight I can't see their color. “I'll give you anything you want," he says.
“I want to wipe that smirk off your face,” I say and then I swing Mithra through the air and cut God's body in half from the shoulder to the groin. He shudders, the sliced body parts falling away, they shimmer, humming, and the sound grows fainter. There's no scream as he disappears forever.
I look up at the portal in the ceiling of the Tower. Angels are looking down at me in horror. It's a grotesque version of the dome painted ceiling above the wedding bed. “Get the fuck off my land and seal that hole up.” I look around at the other angels still in my Tower. “You have two minutes to get through the portal otherwise...” They don't hear the rest. The Angels fly through the portal with lightening speed and then are gone.
I don't relax. I keep looking around. “Mr. Gryphon please get the others to the Library.”
“I can't leave you behind,” he says.
“No, call a door for them. You know you can now,” I say, still looking around slowly in battle stance mode.
“Oh, right,” he says. He stretches out his arm and the blue door appears.
“Miss Turtle, you need our help, don't you?” asks one of them. I smile at him and shake my head. He sighs and follows the rest of the troop files through the door. It says "Library Information Desk." The door disappears.
I nod to Mr. Gryphon. “Let's go. Do you mind flying me out of here?”
“Of course not,” he says. He picks me up and leaps out of the open window, reminding me of Song Kang-Ho in “Thirst.” He lands on the soft lawn, setting me down gently, and stands back. I walk up to the Tower and slam Mithra into the black stones. The Tower shudders and trembles, the sounds of shifting stones filling the air. We back away some more and then the Tower shimmers in front of us. We watch as it slowly fades away to nothing. We can see impressions of its foundation on the ground. I walk away and instead of unlocking the gate I slice it open. We walk through without looking back as the black gate disappears.
Mr. Gryphon and I walk the forested path towards the sea. I can hear the sounds of the machine sucking my sea water away. When we emerge from the forested path, there are four angels trying to get through the portal. They scream when they see us. I walk into the warm ocean water and shove Mithra into the thick black metal. The elaborate pump dissolves in front of us.
The angels kneel in the surf in front of me. “We prostate ourselves to you, Oh Lord, for you are now the ultimate creator. Please spare us our lives,” says the nearest one. It's wearing chain of mail.
“Get out of here,” I say, “I'm sick of your lot. It's back to Heaven with you.”
“But..Lord. How do we get back there? Who will lead us?” asks the angel. The others appear to be too frightened to speak. The warm sea water has soaked through their robes and the beautiful shapes of their bodies are showing through the wet, white fabric.
“I'm not your lord. You'll find someone soon and hopefully he won't be an arrogant fuck like the last one,” I say. “If you follow the wrong person I'll destroy all of you. Now get off my land.”
“But...Miss Turtle how do we get back?” the angel asks again.
“I guess you'll have to take the long way home through the transitional places to your own neighborhood. Like most of the normal folks around here,” I say. I stretch out my hand and a blue door appears. It says “No Man's Land.” The angels obediently file through the blue door, the angel who was speaking looks back at me with pleading eyes but it doesn't say anything else. The door fades and Mr. Gryphon and I walk back the way we came. The moon is fully up now, the night is starting to cool down. I squeeze the Mithra's handle, safely sheathed
"I hope we never have to use that sword again, Miss Turtle. There is something unnatural about it. It makes me nervous."
“I hope not either but you never know. As for feeling nervous, you'll get over it very soon," I look at him. "Services are about to begin, Mr. Gryphon," I say holding out Mithra to him.
“Yes, I know. I'm not sure if I'm looking forward to that particular process,” he says taking the bronze handle.
I smile. “The pain won't last long.” He reaches for my hand. We walk leisurely back to the Library. “I'm thinking, Mr. Gryphon, it might finally be time to have a church or chapel here. I think such a building has earned its way into my world, don't you?”
“Well, we can't have services without a church, Miss Turtle,” the warmth of his hand feels right and real.
“No, I suppose not, Mr. Gryphon. I can't wait until we decide on how it's going to be decorated." He smiles at me.
The full moon is shining a blue light down on us, illuminating the path in front of us. The world has changed and shifted into something else.
“These transitional times are so interesting, don't you think?” I ask. The cool of the night is soothing and the fresh, salty smell of the sea is fading behind us.
“Indeed they are, Miss Turtle.”
We ascend a small hill and as we crest, we see the lights from the Library ahead of us. In front of the steps, in the full moonlight, is T-Rex, our old friend back from his sacrifice. He smiles his toothy grin at us and waves.
“Looks like I did get everything back, just like I'd hoped.”
“I'm looking forward to hearing his juvenile teasing,” says Mr. Gryphon. He is smiling as he looks at T-Rex.
“Yeah?” I look back at him.
He squeezes my hand. “Especially the one where he chants. “Gryphon loves Turtle” over and over.
I laugh and even though I'm emotionally battered and bruised from this journey, all is right in my world.
Much later, I wake up. My body is sore but my arm doesn't hurt anymore. It's quiet in my room and I see that I am back in the infirmary in my Library. In front of me is Mr. Gryphon sitting slumped in a chair, asleep. The chair can barely hold him. I wonder why he didn't request a more comfortable one. There are white curtains at the head of the bed even though this is a room for just one person. The window is cracked open and I can just smell the sea. I can see orange shafts of the sunset slipping through the partially curtained windows. I watch him breathing for while. It's been a long time since I've seen him sleep. I sit up slowly, looking at the tubes in my arms. Dr. Patel bustles in waking up Mr. Gryphon. He sits up quickly.
“You...” he starts, seeing that I'm awake.
“Miss Turtle, so glad to see you're awake now. How do you feel?” says Dr. Patel stepping in front of him. The sight of her is reassuring.
“I'm all right. I feel tired but not bad. What are the extend of my injuries?” I say as I reach for a glass and the water pitcher on the table next to me. Mr. Gryphon grabs it first and pours me a glass. My voice is a little rough.
“You have no injuries. You were healed at the Source, all shiny and new,” she smiles at me. I accept the water from Mr. Gryphon and take a sip. The water is cold and tastes wonderful,
“Really?” even though I shouldn't be I am a little surprised. Dr. Patel moves around my bed, checking my pulse, checking my eyes. I look at Mr. Gryphon and we smile at each other. I feel a closeness and a love that I've never felt for him before. Dr. Patel finishes her quick examination.
“You'll do. Now I'll leave you two alone,” she says closing the room door on the way out. She is smiling.
He sits back in the chair, just looking at me. We don't move. We don't move until I see that tears are coursing down his face. He makes a noise, a whimper, and then a small hollow cry, then I am in his arms are we are crying together. There is no need to speak.
Later, we are eating dinner together. Everyone has come by to visit, everyone except for April. Mr. Gryphon told me she was the traitor in our midst, that she let Ravelle into my neighborhood. When she became whole again she fled out of the Garden, only to be confronted by the new angel Guardian who attacked her with his flaming sword. He knows this because he had hauled himself out of the pond and was lying on its edge when it all happened.
“Why do you suppose April turned like that?” I ask. This turn of events bothers me and I don't even know if it's the right direction for the story.
“I don't know. Being obliterated and then made whole again is a traumatic experience," he says quietly.
I push my food tray away. Mr. Gryphon takes it and puts it on the side table for the staff. He comes back, checks my covers then sits back down again in the chair by my hospital bed.
“Obliteration doesn't explain it. She smelled like Ravelle, made me nauseous, made me throw up. And I don't understand why she flaked away like that. Why didn't she disintegrate? All the angels and demons have.”
“I don't know. Maybe because she's an aspect of you,” my friend says.
I sigh. "She's always been so angry. I thought we'd finally come to a good place but I guess I was wrong."
"She did kill you not once but twice in that first story. And don't forget how we first met her: in one of your nightmares in the burned out landscape completely hell bent on destroying you," he said.
"I guess things haven't changed. Do you know in that first story she and I ended up in some blacked out purgatory-type place after she killed me and she was still trying to destroy me, even after death."
"Well, she's persistent. I'll give her that," he says. He reaches for my hand. His hand feels warm and fuzzy. It's lovely. I could tell him for the hundredth time that I love him and thank him for saving us but I decide not to. Instead, I hold out my arms and we hug each other.
I don't know. What I do know is I will continue to write these personal stories, as I call them, about these worlds and characters I have created on Mock Turtle's San Francisco Life because they help me delve into important issues going on with me, and because it's a lot of fun. Whether or not I will continue to post them is another matter.
Still, casting myself as the 'FailSafe' and going up against God himself seems a little crazy, even for me. Oh well. It's my head and imagination we're dealing with here so I'm just going to go with it.
Thanks for reading.
The entire purpose of this trip was to go to Nuremberg to do research for my novel. Going to Amsterdam and Bruges was just icing on the cake. I had difficulty explaining this to people because I don't like talking about my novel. I'm still finding the story and learning about the characters. Many famous writers suggest not talking about a story while you're working on it. I think the reason is because if you talk about it too much you may not write it down.
During the planning stages of the trip I told people why I was going to Nuremberg. Explaining that I was even writing a novel, much less what it was about, was very uncomfortable. I felt like I had to keep telling people that my novel was set in the 1830s and that all my research was going to concentrated in the Altstadt (Old Town), the historic center of the city.
One of the guys I worked with said he thought Nuremberg would have very bad energy. He said this after I returned from my trip. It's not true. Very bad things have happened there but the Altstadt has been beautifully restored and the streets were crowded with people who were shopping, eating gelato, and strolling around. There were lots of tourists and a ton of young people. The Altstadt has a major shopping plaza, including the best H&M store I've ever seen, and people were enjoying themselves. The city does not hesitate to embrace even the horrific, ugly, and painful aspects of its history so everything is out in the open. This includes the Nazis, its history of antisemitism from previous centuries, and the bombing of the city during the war where 90% of the city was destroyed.
Someone suggested to me that people were having negative reactions because I myself am uncomfortable with going to Nuremberg and people were picking it up from me. I don't think I can place much stock in this idea because I've been to Nuremberg before and took the time to educate myself about Nazis before I went. Also, it seems to me that the history of Nazi Germany is so much larger than me because it's taught in schools so I don't think people's negative reactions are coming from me.
I'd been to Nuremberg before for about half a day while on my 2008 River Cruise. I was hanging out with two other women I met on the cruise and had no chance to walk around on my own. It was during this river cruise that we had a comprehensive bus tour of the city, and where I saw most of the remaining Nazi sites. When I went back this time I felt like I didn't need to see those sites again. The primary purpose of the 2008 River Cruise was to go to Nuremberg to see how I felt being there and to see if I could travel there on my own. The rest of the cruise was some serious icing on that cake.
Because of Nuremberg's infamous history I watched a learning DVD from the Teaching Company entitled "History of Hitler's Empire" before I went on my trip. These learning DVDs are taught by college professors. I felt I needed a good overview of this history to keep my research of the city in perspective, and so it wouldn't distract me. The course was outstanding, particularly in showing the Nazi rise to power and the tactics they used.
Explanations of my reasons for going to Nuremberg reached its unpleasant peak while in Amsterdam. I got to chatting with a couple from Toronto and a guy from somewhere in the Midwest at the B&B. We talked about our travels and itineraries and they wanted to know why I was going to Nuremberg. I told them about my novel and they asked me what it was about. I explained the story and they had no qualms telling me the story didn't sound very interesting to them. I took this all in stride and remained relaxed about it while changing the subject. The rest of the conversation was fine. Some people just aren't interested in the same things as me. I also told them I loved Northern Renaissance art and they didn't really like that much either especially after I had to explain what Northern Renaissance art is.
While in Bruges I struck up a conversation with a watercolor artist who was painting a scene on the street. He spent some time explaining some of his watercolor techniques and how beginners can start painting. He asked me where I was going next and I told him. He was very offended! I explained to him I was going to spend all my time in the Altstadt and he calmed down a bit.
After that experience I stopped telling people I was going to Nuremberg. I just told them I was going home after visiting Bruges and Ghent. I'm hoping to go back to Nuremberg another time. If I do, I probably won't tell anyone I'm going back there.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
I'm standing on the edge of a stone pathway that hugs a huge black cliff. I can smell the water and feel the cold breeze. I'm a good 20 feet above the black water. It's a familiar place to me. During the story “The Coda” I fell into that water and sank down towards the Hadel Zone. I found this stone or the entire stone then and it guided me to my 36-year old self and out of this place. I look down and out and the water stretches way out. The cavern is massive, hundreds of stories high. I remember falling into this place, falling and falling. It's amazing I wasn't killed when I landed in the water.
Since I'm not in the mood for another baptismal swim I follow the path hugging the edge. The green light is a comfort and feels safe and secure. I don't know what I have to worry about. I still have the dirk even if I don't have Mithra anymore. Safeguards. I squeeze the handle of the dirk to reassure myself. The path skirts around and continues down another tunnel out of the massive cavern. I round a huge bend of massive stone, then I stop. Ahead of me is a twisted, rocky, narrow opening. I see a faint light, far away. I take a deep breath and try to stay calm. I know where I am now and already I feel the pull. Already feel the pain rises in me like flood waters starting to overflow. I turn to go back but I know I'm not going back. Oh, how I wish Mr. Gryphon were here. I need him so much. I close my eyes and then I'm scrambling into the twisted opening. The urgency, the beautiful anticipation is pushing me forward and I can't stop. I pull my way through the narrow twisting path, I cut myself and rip my clothes but I don't care. I keep going, shoving myself forward. I get out of the twisted area, not really knowing how and as soon as my feet hit the ground, I run towards the light at the end of the tunnel. I fall, again and again but I don't stop. I sprain my ankle and still I run on. The pain inside is unbearable now. I have to get to the light. I have to do it no matter the cost. I run limping along. The light gets closer and I'm not surprised that tears are pouring down my cheeks. I keep running until I'm crying so hard that I'm doubled over but still I can't stop. The pain and divine pull on me keeps me moving forward. I hobble towards the light as fast as I can. I feel like I'm dying and I can't see anything but the beautiful light as it gets bigger and bigger.
My mind is slipping away. When I reach the end of the tunnel I know I'll be almost out of my mind. I force myself to stop and the pain is so bad that all I can do is collapse. I'm lying in a ball on the dirt and stone floor, small jagged pieces of rock cutting into my cheek. The sharp pain pulls me back for a moment. I reach into my pocket and pull out the switchblade. I take the tip of the blade and shove it into my left upper arm. The pain is sharp, it feels good, and snaps me back to my senses. It doesn't make the longing go away but it takes the edge off it enough to allow me to focus a little. I attempt to stand up but can only limp forward, holding my bleeding arm. I walk towards the light. I keep limping on, squeezing my bleeding arm to sharpen the pain. I manage to make it to the end of the tunnel without running. The pain in my ankle is scaring me.
As soon as I walk out of the cave tunnel and into the pastoral scene in front me I collapse to my knees, overwhelmed. I sob and no amount of squeezing my arm will help. I feel a pouring of love and sweetness coursing through me, only a taste. I feel the pull wash away all the physical pains. I stagger to my feet and make my way towards my destination. I feel naked. I feel open and the promise of redemption and salvation floods every fiber of my being. I sob as if I'm meeting my destiny and then start rushing towards the wall.
The pastoral scene with it's perfect green fields and trees, the shine of the blue sky and scent of fruit and flowers is nothing compared to the wall which looms ahead of me. The garden wall. Paradise. For I am running to the garden of Eden. The place of humanity's home. Everyone longs for home and this is the place where we all want to return to. I can see the entrance ahead of me, the flaming sword blazing. As I run towards it I completely ignore skeletons of the poor people who made here but died trying to claw their way in. I round the corner where I expect to see the guardian angel, Michael. I stop, stunned.
In front of me, in full angelic battle gear, is my own Mr. Gryphon. He is holding the flaming sword. His eyes don't look right. I limping towards him, tears steaming, my eyes swollen. I keep wiping my eyes. Then I see that his great yellow eyes are clouded over, milky. He's blind.
“Stop!” he thunders. I whimper and do as he says. The sight of him is keeping the overwhelming pain and tears a little in check. He frowns and tilts his head towards me.
“You sound familiar,” he says, turning his eagle's ears to me. I haven't said anything yet but he's heard me cry often enough.
“Yes,” I say, my voice a whisper. He stops, lowering his sword. I am walk forward towards him. “It's me!” I say, choking. I want to throw myself into his embrace but I know I can't right now.
He continues to tilt his head. His claws show and he opens his wings to their full size. I stumble backwards.
“No, no. You are the Destroyer. You have the unholy weapon. I can feel it. I was warned about you so STAY BACK,” he shouts, holding out the flaming sword.
“No, no! You are my friend and protector. You follow me everywhere even when I'm not talking to you. You are here right now as I am writing this story! YOU ARE MY FRIEND!” I scream these last few words.
He twitches and frowns, shaking his head. “I don't have any friends. I've been here for eternity and will stay here. I am the guardian of this place,” he shifts, centering his stance. The sight of him is killing me and this fresh new pain is different from the visceral longing to get into the Garden. His wings are open, his claws out, he is holding the beautiful, terrible flaming sword. I know without a doubt that I can destroy him with my dirk but I feel like letting him destroy me instead. What would happen then? That arrogant prick promised me safe passage and Mr. Gryphon's head. Maybe that's what this is all about. Me getting his head.
I sag and fall to the ground. I'm not going to hurt him. I can't. I'd let him kill me before laying a finger on him. The Boss knows it, the bastard. I don't feel the devastating desire to get into the Garden anymore. The hell with that place. It's perfection and beauty can rot for all I care.
“Destroyer!” he shouts at me, “What do you have to say?”
“I...I can't hurt you. I love you. You are my friend so I will do as you say. I will stay back,” I get up slowly and limp backwards. He frowns, his eyes obscenely clouded. He sniffs the air. He still has his eagle ears turned towards me. I stay where I am and sit down again. The resignation slips over me, and I stay with it.
“Why aren't you leaving?” he asks, after a while. His sword is still slightly lowered.
“I can't leave. If you don't want to come with me then I'll just stay here with you. At a distance, of course,” I say, cradling my sprained, swollen ankle. The wound in my shoulder throbs but it's not bleeding so much.
“You're hurt. I can hear your limping and smell the blood,” he says, “and there is something oddly familiar about you. You've been here before, is that right?”
“Yes, the last time I was here I was with you. We were here just before the Fall.”
“Inside the Garden?” he asks. He's blinking rapidly now, something he does when he's surprised.
“LIAR! They told me you would lie. No one goes inside the Garden, not even the Boss,” he shouts, puffing out his cheeks.
“I'm not lying. Not in this context, anyway. And I do go inside the Garden. With you. We just visit and observe. Nothing else,” I say. I should be wondering what to do next but I know what needs to happen now. I don't question it at all.
“If that's true then why DON'T I REMEMBER???!!!” he thunders. His sword is trembling a little.
“Since when did you start speaking so much in capital letters?” The question slips out of me unexpectedly but I decide it's a legitimate one.
He opens his mouth and closes it again, unable to answer. He ignores the question. “You should leave. This is no place for someone alive or even dead for that matter.”
“I'm not leaving you. I've been to Hell and Heaven looking for you. I can't give up now.” I had stopped crying but now the tears are starting up again. “I can't.”
“How long will you stay here?” he sounds a little worried now. The Garden's warm, soothing breeze blows gently past us, bringing scents of fruit and flowers. I don't care at all.
“Forever. Until either you come to your senses or I die and even after I die, I suppose. We are bound together, you and I. We are a team.” I wipe my eyes. I'm mostly oblivious to the beauty around me. There is nothing more important now than him.
“That's reassuring. Truly it is but you have no reason to stay here. You're young and have the rest of your life to live. You need to go back where you came from.”
“No,” I say. He responds by advancing towards me, sword out.
“If you don't leave I will be forced to use this sword on you,” he is walking over the velvety green grass with measured steps. “No one is allowed to stay here.”
“Why all the skeletons then?” I ask. He stops walking and tilts his head towards me. “You must have let them live. They're up against the Garden wall. Looks like they were trying to claw their way into the Garden when they died.”
“I killed them. Ran them through with this sword. It's what I was made for. I am the Guardian,” he says.
“If I don't leave, you'll kill me too, isn't that right?” he is only a few feet away from me. I can feel the heat from the flaming sword. The shimmering metal flames with a beautiful fire, all purple, red, orange, blue, and gold.
“If you don't leave, I will be forced to use this sword on you, yes.”
“I'm not leaving so you better kill me now,” I say, still sitting, “You can cut off my head. I'm sitting right in front of you.”
He hesitates and slowly lowers his sword. “They said you, the Destroyer, would be cunning. That you would lie to me. You would say we were friends but I didn't expect you to say you would stay. If anything I assumed you would try to kill me.”
“I can't kill you,” I say, “We will be here together, forever, even at a distance. Unless you decide to kill me with that thing.”
“I know you're the Destroyer of all that is right and holy. Some even whisper that you are Satan, but you don't seem like a destroyer or the ultimate evil,” he says. He takes a step towards me, sniffing again.
I reach out my hand to him and he instantly swings the flaming sword at me, stopping it before it can cut off my arm. The flames are so close to me that they burn my skin and I fall to the soft, rich green grass yelping.
“I thought you were attacking me. Truly I did. I...” he stops talking and I'm crying again but just from the burning, unbearable pain.
“I...” he starts again and stops. His sword slowly slips from his hand and falls to the grass, still burning. He stands there, head tilted down. He takes another couple of steps, very careful steps, until I am lying at his feet.
“You are my friend. Please come home with me. I miss you so much. You belong at home now,” I have to struggle to get the words out as the burn on my arm subsides only a little bit, my voice cracks from the streaming tears, my throat tight.
He falls to his knees next to me and retracts his claws. His wings close softly. He lays his hand on my head, touching my cheek. He turns his head this way and that.
“I was born blind,” he says softly now, “but why am I seeing images now?”
“What are you seeing?” the pain won't go away but I know this moment is important so I grit my teeth and try to stay still.
“I think it's table with cups and saucers. And tea. And I'm sitting in a special chair. And...and,” he stops, a tear runs down his face, “And I think it's you I see. I hear your voice.”
“What am I saying?”
“You're saying 'Mr. Gryphon, why can't you be my boyfriend?' It sounds faint, far away,” there are no more tears from him but he still has his hand on my cheek. The feel of his golden feathers and the familiar smell of him fills me with comfort. I cry harder, the tears streaming and I'm whimpering.
“I don't know what that question means,” he says no longer looking at me. Instead, he's looks out beyond, straight ahead.
“I love you,” I say, barely audible now.
FWACK!!! And Mr. Gryphon's head goes flying and rolling over and over the carpet of grass. Without looking I roll and slam the dirk into the leg of the creature that cut off my friend's head. A high musical scream fills the air. Mr. Gryphon's body has fallen down next to me but already it's starting to fade in color. The musical scream goes on and I see the horrified frozen face of April as I struggle to my feet.
“NO! NO!” I yell, the shock makes me fall down again. She doesn't disintegrate, though. She stays frozen in place, still screaming. I pull the dirk out of her leg and feel a wave of familiar nausea. Ravelle. The nausea roils in my stomach and I fall to my knees again and throw up. I look up at April again and she is peeling away, flakes of her being falling and fluttering in the breeze. My head spins and I bend over, throwing up again. My stomach craps and I get the dry heaves. All around me April is peeling and fluttering away in small flakes, swirling in the warm, beautiful wind. Her scream fades, breaks several times, then slowly fades away like a broadcast from a broken radio dying away. When I look up at her again, she's gone, a mass of shimmering flakes swirling on the wind.
I drag myself away from her remains Mr. Gryphon's body has already collapsed into powder but his head still remains. I grab hold of it. The wind is singing soft songs now, dreamy songs and promises float on the wind. The gate to Paradise is unguarded now. That won't last long. Once again, I struggle to my feet and limp towards the unguarded gate, then I look back at the pile of April's remains and grab a small handful.
I limp through the unguarded gate which closes behind me. I limp past all the beautiful animals and magnificent, if overgrown, plants and trees. I keep going, knowing my destination. The small path I'm on winds through the Garden and then opens up to a small pond. The water is shimmering silver in the light instead of blue. I'd bathed in two rivers flowing from this Garden but never at the Source. I step to the edge of the pond and holding Mr. Gryphon's head and April's remains I step right into the water.
There's a little drop off here, as I remember correctly, and I slip into the water up over my head. The water can't be more than 6-7 feet deep but I don't try to surface. Instead, I let myself sink slowly to the bottom. I let go of Mr. Gryphon's head and April's remains. The water is cold and when you look up it's an odd shade of aqua in the sunlight. I stop holding my breath and inhale the water. My body tries to choke the water out but still I inhale and try to swallow what I can. I struggle involuntarily. I need air but I still inhale and swallow. In a few minutes my self-inflicted drowning will be complete. The usual fear of the water flies through me but I pay it no mind. I sink further down to the bottom of the silver pond until I'm lying on the bottom. The bottom of the pond mud is soft and soothing on my skin. The beautiful little fish swim around me like the most beautiful neon tetras. The aqua tint of the water colors the thick pond plants in a strange light but I can still see that the plants are beautiful and perfect. I can't see Mr. Gryphon's head any more and April's remains have disappeared. The silver pond becomes my living tomb even if it is the most beautiful body of water in existence.
I'm still holding the dirk but am holding it lightly at my side. As I get closer I want so badly to bow down to him, to do anything for him, even to sleep with him. The desire courses through my body with surprising speed. I make a half-hearted attempt to summon my anger but it fails to appear.
His eyes are now a spectacular dark green. He smiles at me. Dazzling.
“Miss Turtle, so nice to meet you at last,” he holds out his hand. His voice is so beautiful that I ache. I stare in disbelief at his hand. For some reason I'm surprised that he would do such a common thing as reach his hand out to me. I reach out to clasp it and he pulls me closer until I'm pressed up against him. A shudder runs through me and I reach up to squeeze his arms, dropping my weapon. I have to touch him now. I need to.
I close my eyes and he wraps his arms around me. He's whispering things into my ear, things I don't understand or only half understand. It doesn't matter what he's saying now. All that matters is that I hear his voice. I drift along, feeling a wet humming in my body. I want to be there forever.
“Is this what they mean by being in the bosom of God,” I ask sleepily. He smells sweet and warm. Even his robes feel wonderful. They are like that silky feeling I had squeezing Heaven's white sands through my fingers.
“Yes,” he whispers, his hair flows over me as he tilts his head. I kiss him on the cheek. I can't help it. Human love feels nothing like this, pales in cold comparison. In all existence there can't be a love like this with a person.
“Well, if they went through all that for this then I'd do it too,” I say. I realize what I'm saying makes no sense but I don't care.
“You can stay here as long as you want. No one will take you away from me now,” he says. His arms squeeze me a little tighter and I gasp from the sensation.
“I'm so glad for that. So glad,” I say, letting myself drift. I hear a faint voice from somewhere. “Are services starting soon?” The words sound so strange to me. They make no sense. I don't hear them again for a bit and God (yes, it's him) holds me tighter. He smells perfect, like all the most beautiful places in the world. I take deep breaths to inhale the luscious scent. This is pure seduction, I know, but I don't care. God has stopped whispering in my ear. Instead, he just holds me. I'm on the verge of complete surrender. It feels wonderful.
“Services are starting soon” says the voice louder now. My eyes fly open. It is the voice of that bent, but kind old man in the church. I remember his cane, his white curling hair, and mostly I remember his clear pale blue eyes. Ravelle. The bitch decapitated him for no reason.
SNAP!! I jerk as my body pulls itself away from God. In one quick movement I scoop up the dirk and back away from him. God holds out his hands, still serene and lovely.
“Miss Turtle, there's no need to get upset. You were so relaxed and happy just a few moments ago. I don't see why you have to so stressed now,” he says, his lips glisten and his eyes turn a compelling shade of violet. “Come, let me hold you.”
“No, no,” I say backing away from him. I feel the great pull towards him but I know now that it's not real. It's manufactured love, like that rosy love of six months of compelling courtship.
“You don't really love me,” I say. The white room glows with a light softness, but I resist.
“Of course, I love you. I love everyone. I'm God, Miss Turtle, you hear me? I'm GOD!!!!” The last word is said with force and volume. My ears hurt and I feel the force of the word hit my chest like a very loud sound. “Why are you listening to the voice of someone who means nothing when I love you more than anything?” he asks as he advances towards me. I feel eerily violated as I realize that he could hear voice, that memory.
“He was a harmless little old man who probably went to church every day and look how you rewarded him!” I say, still holding the dirk. "You aren't capable of really loving anyone!"
“I am God, the very definition of unconditional LOVE!!!” he says ignoring my last comment. And God flies at me, slamming into me and knocking me down. He kicks me, and something in my side cracks, the pain sharp. He drops to his knees. God's beautiful face looms over me and I hold the dirk just in front of his beautiful right eye, now a shimmering gray. He freezes into place. I should slam the dirk into his perfect eye but I can't.
Everything goes still. Existence stops. The soft whiteness of the room seems to harden into place. I can feel the big machinery of time, dragging to a stop. The flow of Existence is pulling at the machinery but then goes still. The sensation feels inhumanly unnatural. At the same time I feel guilty that I have so much power over the most powerful force in existence. I feel a scary exhilaration course through my limbs but then I check it. Odd that I never felt that way while wielding Mithra. God is still, his glorious hair hanging down over his shoulder. His eyes remain that gorgeous gray. He is beautiful, perfect but he is not real love. “Back away, very slowly,” I say to him. He does as he's told. I roll over and stand up slowly, wincing at the pain in my ribs, but I'm not holding the dirk out in front of me.
God stands up and holds out his hands. He looks like a very pure version of Jesus Christ in the the last supper. “What do you want, Miss Turtle? True love? Wealth? Name it and I'll make it happen.” I can feel time starting up again, dragging along until it starts to flow smoothly. The sensation gives me a queasy feeling, a bit like being in a building on rollers during an earthquake.
“The question is what do you want?” I ask, squeezing the handle of the dirk. I wince again. God makes a sign with his hand and heals my broken ribs then he puts his hands behind his back. I thank him. He nods.
“I want that dirk to keep with the sword. You know it's mine anyway,” he says. He frowns now and he's still impossibly beautiful. He must be heartbreaking when he cries.
“It's not yours. If it were you'd be able to use it,” I say. I am solid now, sure of myself. I'm not afraid at all. “Here's what I want: I want Mithra and I want a guarantee that neither you or your minions will ever come bothering my world again. If anybody wants to attempt to visit I'd be happy to receive them on an official visit. And I want Mr. Gryphon's head.”
“And what do I get in return, Miss Turtle,” he asks, his arms folded across his chest now. He's still frowning which would be intimidating to everyone else but not to me.
“A guarantee that the sword and dirk will be placed in a safe place, never to be used again unless there's an emergency,” I say. The white of the room is gentling down from the unnatural hardness from earlier.
“What kind of emergency?” he narrows his eyes at me.
“You know what kind of emergency. Like when you decide to become a megalomaniac and destroyer. Those times,” I say.
He glares at me, a decidedly disturbing thing to be the recipient of, but I stand my ground.
“What no millions of dollars? No unrequited love that becomes requited?” asks God. He shakes his head. “So many others would have asked for the world.”
“I don't need the world. As for love unrequited, well, I'm not afraid anymore. I've been there often enough. I'm willing to let the love unfold as it will or for the next one to come along naturally. Maybe even do what's best for me. Hm,” I'm looking past him, lost in thought. Am I really feeling as grounded as it seems?
“Miss Turtle!” he snaps and I look at him. I can see he's not used to be ignored like that.
“What's your answer?” I ask in turn.
“I want that sword,” he says, looming in front of me somehow. He's God after all and looms quite a bit I would imagine.
“Try and take it from me and I will start destroying your world like you sent poor Ravelle to destroy mine.”
“Ravelle was an idiot. Couldn't follow the simplest orders. I gave her authorization. I SANCTIONED her actions and gave her all the full permissions,” he says, looming even larger.
“You're an arrogant prick,” I say. His eyes widen and he chokes, slipping gracefully back into his formal size. “If you try anything everything you worked towards will be destroyed.”
“You should have destroyed me when you had the chance, Miss Turtle. No one bargains with me. No one,” he says, eyes glowing a scary red.
I hold the dirk out in front of me. “I don't want to destroy you. Someone needs to keep it all together. Seriously, can't you let go of your arrogance and just agree to my terms?”
“You are a mere mortal albeit a very powerful one, but you will die in the end. And I don't bargain with anybody.”
“Yes, but you do gamble, don't you?” I ask him, tilting my head, “As for my own mortality, I'm thankful for it. If I lived forever I would turn into a corrupt shit like you. Excess time corrupts completely.”
He seethes at me, not bothering to answer my accusation about gambling. “You have one week, Miss Turtle, before I set the dogs on you and your little world. One week.”
“I request safe passage out of this place, through all transfer areas, and into my own neighborhood,” I say standing up straighter.
“You have it. Now get out of my sight, you bitch,” he says, his eyes are fiery red still. I look at him one last time and then run out of the room to the elevator. I push the button to the ground floor and get off. Angels fall away from as I run past them. “Miss Turtle!” calls one of them but I ignore him and keep running. I run out of the White Tower of Heaven with its cloud covered top floors. As soon as I'm out of the building I'm in the middle of the city which looks quite a bit like my beloved San Francisco. I'm on a street of gold that looks like Market Street at Montgomery but way cleaner and studded with precious stones. Souls are walking by along with many angels. They stop to look at me but I stretch out my hand and a blue door appears, hanging in the air. I don't bother to check the sign on the door. I pull the door open and run through.
I walk towards the beach, looking around carefully for anything amiss. Mithra is safely sheathed in her scabbard strapped around my waist.
I hear an odd sound off to my left as I get closer to the shore. I veer from the path and walk through the lush grass and trees. Another odd sound. It sounds like a whirling machine sound, too loud for this place. I keep walking picking up the pace. As I get closer I can hear a sucking sound accompanying the whirling noise. There's a feeling of dread in my stomach and I start to run. I run the rest of the way to the beach and then I stop dead.
In the water about 10 feet from the shore is a giant steel door. It looks to be outfitted with some strange pump contraption at the base. The steel door is wide open and there's nothing but the purest white light beyond. The whirling, sucking noise is the sound of the sea being pumped into the white beyond. I unsheathe Mithra and walk fearlessly to the door, sloshing through the water. There are no birds around and even though the water is warm, I feel a coldness seeping into my heart. I approach the machine and am ready to take a swing at the door when I see in the white beyond, a flash of yellow. The familiar yellow of Mr. Gryphon's eyes! I re-sheath Mithra and when I get to the door I scramble over the machine, cutting my left hand in the process. The metal door doesn't move and when I get top of the pump I perch there for a moment, looking into that white light. I don't know where that is or what's going to happen if I take a leap. It's probably a trap but then I see the flash of yellow, and I can make out his yellow eyes just beyond. Without thinking, I leap into the whiteness, into nothingness.
When I wake up I'm in a soft, solid place. I feel warm and cozy, protected. I snuggle into that softness and smell the very reassuring scent of my old friend. I sigh in relief, allowing myself to drift off again. I can hear the sucking, whirling noise still so my beach must not be far away.
When I finally open my eyes, I don't see the gold of Mr. Gryphon's fur or feather, instead it seems I'm wrapped in the black wings of a creature. All I can see around me is black feathers. I can feel the thing breathing and muttering. It feels warm but when I try to get up, the creature shifts, knocking me down. I crawl to one of the wings and try push my way out but they won't budge. I move around, pushing and shoving and get myself to get myself into a sitting position. I push and shove at the feathers until I finally find a small opening. I push the black feathers aside and can just see the pure whiteness beyond. I try to look left right, above and below but there's nothing but whiteness. The sucking, whirling sound seems to have disappeared. I work my hand through the crack and the air feels cold and clean, like those foggy nights in my beloved city. I try to shove more through the crack but it won't get wider. The thing I'm sitting on, shifts and growls, then it shakes, rattling me around in it. I pull my arm back inside and grab hold until the shaking stops.
Of course all my things are gone. I'm still wearing my clothes but my backpack, weapons, Mithra, and my body armor is gone. A lot of time seems to pass and I spend my time both trying to make the crack larger with no success, and listening. No one comes. There's no explanation. I am simply a prisoner. I know I shouldn't have taken that leap but I just had to. Who knows what that really was anyway. Maybe a hallucination, his actual head. I shake my head at these thoughts.
Not knowing what else to I stretch out my hand, willing a blue door to appear. "Heaven," I say, choosing my destination. The blue door appears slowly but never solidifies. It fades in and out, like a flickering film image. I throw myself against the door, but it disappears and I land on the soft feathers. I reach for the door handle as it appears again but I can't grab it. The door fades away.
I try again, and again but it doesn't work. It seems impossible but someone has managed to disable this ability of mine. I sit down and try to think. I flex my right hand, trying to get a sense of how far Mithra is from me but there's nothing. I open and close my right hand again but there's no momentary pain. That's not a good thing.
After a while I feel around the creature's body, not bothering to enlarge the opening. I probe and pinch but its feathers are so thick that it's hard to reach skin. Eventually I locate the area where the joint should meets the shoulder of the thing, if it has a shoulder. I probe and pinch until the thing starts. I pinch again and the thing shifts. Having found what I was looking for I straighten out my legs and stretch for a while. My back is bothering me from sitting for so long and my hips are tight. I spend time opening up my hip muscles and stretch out my back. When I feel more limber, I remove my left boot and fish around inside it for the hidden pocket. I'm really happy I insisted that the boots be made this way even though my 36 year old self said it was overkill.
I pull out the switchblade and open it. I locate the vulnerable spot below where the creature's armpit should be and stab the switchblade into it. I pull it out and stab again. And again. The creature is shaking me, throwing me to the opposite side of my feathery prison. I crawl back and stab the spot again and again as quickly as I can. The creature is roaring now, the sound vibrating beneath me. I move to the crack in the wings and shove them a little wider apart. I locate the joint where the elbow should be and shove the switchblade into it. Everything tilts but I managed to grab hold and stay where I am. The creature tilts again before I can stab it again but the crack grows larger. Wasting no time I pull myself through the crack, struggling and fighting. I'm halfway out into the cool, clean air and I stab the elbow joint again. The wings separate again and I make my second leap out into the whiteness.
I fall for a long time, the feeling is terrible. I can barely breath from the wind rushing past me. The air is getting colder and there doesn't seem to be an end to the mist. I'm yelling too, yelling and coughing. I turn upside down and try to right myself. I don't want to land on my head. Falling and falling in the white mist until it suddenly parts and I see that I am above Heaven's ocean. The sea is dazzling blue but I'm so high up that I'm going to shatter my limbs when I hit the water, if I survive at all. Still I fall, but the blue is rushing up to meet me. I have a coughing fit from the yelling and then I start retching. The cold seems to be seeping into every fiber of my being.
Whamp! Something grabs me in mid-air, knocking the wind out of me. An angel, of course. I don't look at it. I think about stabbing it with my switchblade but wait. The angel smells good, all green grass and soft flowers of spring. It's blond hair flows past in waves and curls. I look down and see a perfect white hand holding me. I let the familiar anger spread through my chest. The ground gets closer but we never land. Instead, we swoop up towards the cloud topped White Tower that Ravelle had bowed to when I was here last.
“Miss Turtle, you should not have done it,” the angel's voice is beautiful, reassuring but the rebuke gets my blood boiling. I don't reply.
“We're going to destroy your world, all that you love, even in the real world. You'll spend the rest of your life locked up in a room after your entire world has been dismantled. The armies are assembling now,” it says, sweet smelling golden hair blows briefly in my face.
“Funny that you need your armies to stop me especially when I'm unarmed,” I finally reply, my voice hoarse. The White Tower is getting closer. I can see where we're going to land.
“Your world is nothing. All that you love is nothing,” the spit of the words from the angel sounds odd with its beautiful voice.
“You're dead,” is all I say in reply. The angel shakes with laughter, the sound high and musical. We reach the landing and the angel drops me to the stone floor. It lands close behind me. I turn quickly and slam the switchblade into its eye and then into its other eye. I can see its blue eyes and pale, fine features. It shouts, not in pain because angels don't feel pain, but in surprise as sweet smelling amber liquid flows out of the ruined sockets. I run down the nearest stairs without looking back.
I run as fast as I can and duck into the nearest wooden door. I just need a little time. A little bit of time. I open and close my right hand, hoping against hope. There's a slight tingling and then the momentary pain blooms briefly. I sigh with relief. I hide underneath a large beautiful table and concentrate. My throat hurts and I feel cold from falling in the air but I don't waste time. I focus and relax. Pain blossoms in my right hand but fades away. I focus again but nothing happens. The wooden door opens and I can smell the angel.
“That wasn't very nice of you,” it says, “I know you're under the desk so you better come out now.” I relax and settle myself. I let my anger flow and then drain way. I breath gently.
I let my body and mind unfurl. I lean back against the dark, beautiful wood of the desk. My eyes soften, my hands unclench and open. I hear the angel leaning out the doorway, shouting in angelspeak, such a beautiful sound, no doubt telling everyone my location. I breathe and the pain blossoms slowly at first in my right hand, then steadily. I let the pain flow without resistance. The pain increases through the joints of my right wrist and hand and then the pain is gone and I close my hand around my new weapon. The angel is coming around to my side of the desk. I wait.
The angel grabs my legs and drags me out from underneath the desk just as another group of angels crowd through the wooden door and into this room. As soon as I'm out in the open I slam the dirk into the angel's stomach. It staggers backward, eyes wide and screams. It's body shimmers and the screaming gets louder, a vibration, and the screaming stops abruptly as the angel's energy is destroyed. It vanishes slowly, leaking away from existence.
I stand up, slowly and leisurely. The other angels are backing away from me. There are about 10 of them.
“Easy there, Miss Turtle. Easy,” says one in the front. It has flowing brown hair, velvety brown eyes, and beautiful latte colored skin. I take a step towards them, holding out the dirk, the black blade shimmering. They stare at it and then at me.
“Get out of my way,” I say, stopping now. I'm standing in the middle of the room now.
“Where did you get that?” asks another angel. It looks as fresh as spring, like the one I'd just destroyed. “No one said anything about another sword, did they?” The angel looks around at the others but none of them reply.
“It's not a sword, it's a dirk and it's part of the package, a guarantee. I'm the FailSafe! You think whoever came up with this idea would have just left me with one sword?” I shake my head. “But none of you would have come up with that anyway. No imagination.”
“Imagination is highly overrated. Most people use their imaginations to come up with stupid or destructive things. They don't use it to really create something,” says the same blond angel looking superior.
“You are right, but it's far better to have an imagination than to be a vacant pretty thing like all of you. All you know how to do is take orders. At least the guys downstairs are interesting, they have some sense of rebellion, of another way of seeing things,” I say. I begin to walk forward again.
“Blasphemy!!!” shouts the blond angel, its beautiful blond hair shining like white gold.
“Shut it. If I hear that word once more I'm destroying all of you. Now GET OUT OF MY WAY!!” I shout. I walk forward towards them, dirk out to my side.
The angels run out of the room. I walk slowly and easily out and walk down the hallway. A few angels follow me, keeping their distance. I take my time. The White Tower here in Heaven is surprisingly like the one in Dis. It's an office building with lots of beautiful furniture and art but still an office building. Beautiful lighting and classical music plays. I'm sure those composers would be happy to know that their compositions ended up on Heaven's Musak system.
I'm not sure where I'm going but I trust that I will know when I get there. There are no angels other than the ones following me at a distance in this part of the building so I decide to turn at the nearest elevator bank and press the up button. I wonder why there are even elevators in this building. Angels don't really need them, but no matter. The angel with the latte colored skin edges closer to me, just inside the where the elevators are.
“Miss Turtle, you probably have a destination in mind. I can help you, really. You just have to promise to spare me is all I ask,” it says, bowing low. I feel the glaring from my eyes, a sharp penetrating sensation.
“You're disgusting. You'd change your alliances just like that, eh? The Boss won't like your sudden change of heart,” I say.
“But, but,” the angel starts, then stops and then it takes another step towards me. “But you're going to destroy The Boss, aren't you?” The angel is twisting its robe in nervousness.
I hear the elevator ding and the doors open. I do not reply. The angel smirks for a moment and I turn without looking, slamming the dirk into the nearest body. The angel standing behind me is holding a sword out in mid-swing. Shimmering, vibrating, screaming, then suddenly nothing. I don't hesitate. I shove the dirk into and out of all the angels in the elevator. Again, shimmering, vibrating, screaming, and nothing. Soon, the elevator is empty. The smell of sweet nectar is strong and there are splatters of amber liquid on me, on the walls, and on the shiny floor.
All the angels who were following are crying now. I look at the latte skinned angel, holding open the elevator door. “The Boss, where is he?”
“Top. Penthouse. Code 666999,” it says through sobs. The doors close and I press the button at the top. The elevator whooshes upward silently. I wonder if the angels are going to try to kill me by cutting the elevator cables but nothing like that happens. It figures. They don't have much imagination for this kind of stuff. The elevator pauses and a sweet voice says, “Please enter your code on the keypad. Please enter your code on the keypad.” I enter the code and wait. The elevator moves upwards again then stops. I hold out the dirk and the doors open.
I hear the door open behind me but do not turn around. Nick comes to stand next to me. He looks splendid in his white shirt, jeans, and glasses.
“That's a nice view,” he says, shading his eyes as he looks out to sea.
“Yes. Thanks for coming. I need to talk to you about this next part of the journey, Nick. We should sit.” I indicate the table laden with good tea things.
He follows me to the table and sits down. I pour him a cup of tea. Our fingers brush as I hand it to him. I ignore the tingling.
I pour myself cup and then pause, looking at him. “I think you should leave, Nick. You've been here for far too long and there's nothing you can do now. The Boss is going to unleash his fury on me, this place, it's going to be tough going.”
“I noticed everything is being rebuilt and reinforced. Do you really think he's going to come down here?”
“I hope not, but it's best to be prepared.” I can see the color of his skin through his white shirt, something I've always enjoyed. “I'm going up to that neighborhood. Hopefully, he won't have to come down here.”
“What are you going to do there?” He reaches for the teacup and takes a sip.
“Talk some sense into him. He wants the sword but only I can wield its power. To him it would be like holding a bronze handle.”
“Why you?” he asks, folding his arms across his chest. Another fresh breeze blows by ruffling his hair.
I sigh and lean back in my chair. “I guess because this is my world, I'm the Chosen One. The sword is very old. Carbon dating places it in the middle of the Bronze age. At the Met it was only a handle. I first learned about the sword from a couple of angels. They came to get me, brought me to the museum, and told me about the sword. It's name is Mithra.”
“The Boss sent them?” Nick asks. He's eating a cucumber sandwich.
“No, apparently they did all this on their own which is very unusual. Angels by their very nature are obedient, most of them don't question their orders. I never knew why they did what they did, probably the same old reasons. Both angels were destroyed by the sword when they tried to take its power for themselves,” I feel a wash of sadness thinking about that ending.
“That must have been some story,” says Nick, watching me closely.
“I don't really know how the story goes to be honest. I only know one major scene from it because that's all I wrote of it. The ending just came to me right before I told you.”
He cocks his head, “You're really weird, Miss Turtle.”
I smile at him. “And I would like to know how your mind works since you are a writer yourself.”
He looks away, frowning. I've hit a nerve. I back off.
“So I think you should leave, Nick. It's the best thing. You can't do much more now and I have the sword so I'll be fine,” I say as I pick up a crumpet. I bite into it. It's not too sweet and has a fine crumble.
Nick leans back in his chair. “And here I thought I was a stand-in for your Mr. Gryphon.”
“Of sorts,” I smile, “I thank you for all you've done for me and this world of mine. Your job here is done, Nick. Like it is in the real world.”
“There are some odd things going on in the real world, Miss Turtle. I know you'd talk to Mr. Gryphon about them and he's not here. Do you want to talk about it?” he says carefully.
I sigh. “No, not really. I'll say only that while it was a selfish act of sorts it was really more about trust and being open. I'm clear and grounded in my feelings even if they aren't reciprocated. We'll see if this is where that story ends. Now it is time, Nick.”
He only looks at me. I'll miss his glasses and big hands. His eyes, oh yes, and I'll miss his eyes filling themselves with me.
“Can I keep the ingot? As a souvenir, I mean,” he asks.
“Of course you can,” I stand up. The others are coming now. They've known that it is time to see Nick off. He looks at them all and then looks back at me.
“Tell me about the sword, before I go. I think I've earned the right to know,” Nick stays seated.
The others are gathering around us now. No one says a word. I do owe everyone an explanation.
“Well, the sword as I said was made sometime in the middle of the Bronze age or so they think. No one knows who made it or how it got its powers. I think the only place that has the fullest explanation is in the Archives in Heaven.”
“Have you seen these Archives?” asks my 36 year old self, her eyes wide.
“No, I heard about them from the two angels. They broke in and found out about the sword there. And about me.”
“What about you, Miss Turtle,” asks Nick.
I look away, embarrassed that I've assigned myself such an important role but press on with my explanation. “I'm what's referred to as the 'FailSafe.' The person or entity capable of keep the deities in line should the time come for that. It was built into this system. By whom I have no idea. Not even the two angels knew the answer to that.”
I glance around at everyone, they are still standing there, waiting in rapt attention. I reach for the teapot but Nick picks it up for me and pours me another cup of tea.
I finger the cup for a moment before picking it up and sipping. I put the cup back down but not in its saucer. “The sword has the power to destroy energy itself by absorbing it. This makes it the most powerful weapon that has ever existed. The sword is capable of destroying everything by absorbing its energy, even angels, demons, and God. The catch is that the black blade must be borne out of the FailSafe's own energy. The process is very painful but it makes me and the sword one entity. No one else can use the sword. If they grab the handle the blade will disappear.”
“So why would the Boss want the sword anyway if it can't be used by anyone other than you?” asks one of the Librarians.
“I think it's because he figures if he is in possession of the handle it can't be used at all.”
“What happened to the two angels?” asks Nick. His lovely brown/green eyes are filled with me again. A familiar warmth courses through me.
“Near as I can tell they tried to manipulate me into using the sword for them. In the end, they turned on me and I had to destroy both of them.” I stare into my almost empty teacup. “They said they were my guardian angels sent from Heaven.” Tears well up in my eyes. I wonder if I'll ever write that story down in its entirety.
I look up again. Nick is watching me. “That's pretty much everything. I don't know much else.” My right hand aches for a moment but the pain passes quickly enough.
“Thank you, Miss Turtle. I'm ready to go now.” Nick says, standing up.
I stand up too and just look at him for a long time. He steps forward and takes my hand, giving it a squeeze, just like he did a year and a month ago. I lean into him and kiss him on the cheek.
“Goodbye, Miss Turtle. I'm sure we'll see each other again in the real world.”
“Yes, I hope so. I hope at some point you and I can actually be friends,” I gather myself together. “Thank you for your help and thank you for your help in the real world. I hope, well, you know.” He smiles at me and then turns to the others. As he is saying his goodbyes and shaking hands with everyone I watch him. He really does need to go back home. He must have a ton of things to see and to do there. I do know that I'm glad he was here even for this short duration.
He comes back to me, taking both of my hands. He leans down and kisses me gently on the mouth. I slip into his arms and he holds me. I snuggle deep into him, knowing this is the only time I'll be able to do that. I inhale his scent and warmth.
He gives me one last squeeze and pulls away. “Tell April I'm sorry I didn't get to say goodbye. Good luck with everything. I know you'll get everything back, Miss Turtle. I know you will soon.”
I blink tears away, “Thanks.” It sounds watery and girlish. I turn away from him and stretch out my hand. The blue door says “xxx.” He pulls open the door and I can see the dimly lit shower room beyond. He steps through the door and turns back to me. He tosses me the ingot. I catch it. “I think you'll be needing that more than me.” He smiles at me and waves at the others then he's gone.
The others turn away to leave but I am still rooted to my place long after the blue door has faded away. I haven't really lost him because I never had him in the first place but it aches all the same. I only wish I could tell him this story in the real world so he could see his role in it.
Two days go by and I am getting ready for the last leg of the journey. Mithra sits on a special sword holder in my chambers, the blade glowing an odd shimmering black fire. It looks unnatural, wrong somehow. No one wants to go near it.
With help from the weapons division of my Library I'm being carefully outfitted. Some strong but lightweight body armor, a rifle, and my semi-automatic. I know I'll be ready for whatever is coming. Oddly enough I don't have any real idea of what this part of the story is going to be like. I don't even know exactly what's going to happen next. So strange.