Greetings and salutations, fair reader! Welcome back to another offering of my new book: Left of Midnight! This post will only contain two micro-chapters this time but they are fairly long bits so nothing is being lost in this next reading! This should have gone up Sunday, but it was Labor Day weekend and I got caught up with family and didn’t think about this when I got home. Oh well. It happens. Lately, I’ve been more focused on a novella I’ve been working on but I will soon start up my writing for section three of LOM. For now, though, here is the next part and I hope you enjoy. Come back soon because there’s more to come!
THE GROUND SHOOK violently causing debris to separate itself from the ceiling. A rock fell on top of Neti’s stomach while he searched in vain for a modicum of sleep. In that one quick instant he found that sleep would not be coming for quite some time. Screams and shouts filled the halls of Urudiin convincing Neti to sling his legs over the edge of his stone bed and toss away his blankets. He grabbed his robe and stood up, his bare feet immediately numb for the cold floor. Another roar thrummed through the walls, the ground, and the ceilings causing the whole of the cavernous city to shake.
He hurried out of his small, bare room and out into a hallway beyond the entry to his abode. He saw several families in various alcoves along the corridors huddling together and praying. Many others were darting from one end of the great hall to another seeking out the elders and other wisemen to guide them through these troubling times.
Neti started down the hall perpendicular to where his room was located and stopped short as one of the elders was heading straight for him. Elder Urlumin. He walked fast, his face grim. Neti could see dust and small rocks in his thick beard as he neared, his striped robes furling out behind him in his pace.
“Denu Neti. We could use your guidance in the great hall.”
Neti frowned as Urlumin stopped before him. “It sounds as if the gods are fighting once more.”
“Aye, it’s a good bet. The people are frightened and they need solace from the priesthood,” Urlumin’s face dropped considerably despite already looking downtrodden. “They look to the elders, pray for sanctuary. Yet, our city walls shake and wail. Perhaps if the clergy were to pray for peace, the gods will cease their constant wrestling?”
Neti clasped Urlumin’s shoulder and squeezed. Urlumin had half a foot on him height wise, but the elder was a frequent congregant of his. And during the times of the great shaking, was oft wont to seek out Neti’s guidance. He hoped he was fulfilling his duties well. However, he wasn’t as sure anymore. The quakes were becoming more frequent and with greater urgency. Also, there was an unsettling feeling settling over his heart before waking and even during his more and more frequent services.
“Let us see if we can’t settle our people’s hearts,” Neti nodded and both he and Urlumin walked back down the corridor towards the great hall. There, hundreds would be gathered waiting for some sort of relief from the priesthood. “I must admit, I find the quarrelsome shaking of our city quite vexing. I know not why the gods battle and war in such a way. It is not our place to understand, of course. Yet, I would feel easier if they’d share their suffering with us. Perhaps there is some way we, as humble servants, can ease their burdens.”
“Elder Brahmin doesn’t believe the gods are doing this,” Urlumin said, his eyes downcast to the floor as they walked. “He believes it to be something else. He cannot understand why the gods would be punishing us like this.”
“Elder Brahmin often has difficulty recognizing the way of the lords,” Neti sighed. “They do not seek to punish us. Rather, they quarrel and seek to protect the best that they can. I feel that they are restless.”
“Restless? Aye. But why?”
“I believe they are quarreling over followers. Demanding more and more that only one is supreme over the other.”
“So, to cease this shaking, these constant times of uncertainty… we must lay our allegiances to one? Who would we choose? Who is the supreme?”
Neti chuckled. “If I knew that, I think I’d quite be out of my duties.”
They arrived at the end of the corridor where it let out into a massive room a hundred feet high with a stairwell at their feet leading down into the greater amphitheater. The voices of the fearful were already a growing cacophony but here was a din so loud Neti thought his ears might burst. The two of them walked down to the ground level where the majority of people were wailing and waving their hands in frustration and anxiety. Their voices intermingled in echoing waves of competing dominance. Yet their words were a mumbled and incoherent volley of noise.
There was a raised dais where several elders stood staring down at the people, trying to quiet them. Elder Urlumin walked up a series of stairs to get onto the dais. Neti followed. Soon the other elders were turning towards them and the gathered masses were slowly quieting as they saw Neti walk across the dais platform.
“Denu Neti,” Elder Telomi walked forward quickly to take Neti’s hand. His robes were as grey as his mane of hair. His great white beard trembled as he spoke, his hazel eyes sparkling with fear. “Please. What do we do? The shaking has never been so severe before. The northern catacombs and the bestiary have been destroyed! Collapsed by the gods warring!”
Murmurings followed this news and Neti felt his jaw slack. “Collapsed? How many were in there?”
“Nearly three hundred, Denu,” Elder Brahmin stepped forward, his arms folded into the sleeves of his robes. His hair was scraggly as the others, but less grey with hints of brown still tracing several long paths. His eyes were less frightened and more determined. As if he’d been proven correct on some great bet. “I fear we will have to consider the relocation event as we’ve previously discussed.”
“Oh, come now, elder. Urudiin isn’t lost quite yet I shouldn’t think,” Neti replied doing his best to keep his voice level. Elder Brahmin was his own height, but the respect he commanded was inspiring nonetheless. “The quaking has settled for the most part. The gods are at rest. For the time being at least. We’ve suffered through these sort of troubles before. The loss of the northern tunnels is unsettling, though. We shall have to refortify the supports.”
“All of our lives we’ve spent dealing with these sorts of chaotic events,” Elder Brahmin went on, “and you don’t think it’s past time to move on? The priesthood cannot guarantee our sanctity any longer. Not in these unpredictable times.”
“I pray now peace, elders,” Neti lifted his hands to face level and smiled. “The people are already frightened enough. Let us not speculate on matters we are not privy to. The gods are restless, of this there is no doubt.”
“You cannot honestly believe doing nothing is preferred over some sort of action?” Elder Brahmin unfolded his arms and let them drop to his sides.
“I’ve made no such indications,” Neti spoke and turned to those upturned faces gathered throughout all of the great hall. “Fear not, friends and family. Devotees to the benign good graces of our lords. This quarrel cannot go on indefinitely…”
“But what do we do?” several begged and leaned forward, their faces taut with stress.
“Yes, Denu, what are we to do then?” Elder Brahmin persisted stepping forward a few feet. His voice was low but full of the same sort of stress Neti could see clearly on the others all throughout Urudiin. He considered perhaps Brahmin wasn’t as calm as he let on. “If not vacate these premises out of an abundance of caution, are we to remain here to be buried alive praying the gods will cease their rivalries?”
“Mayhaps,” Elder Urlumin spoke, lifting a hand to stave off Brahmin’s growing ire, “if one of us were to head to the surface. Seek out the gods who struggle so… Perhaps we could beseech them to end this war of theirs? Maybe they’re unaware of the devastation they have wrought upon us?”
Neti looked to him, a quizzical rise of the brows upon his forehead. “You would ask one of us to seek out the lords and interfere in their machinations?”
“Aye. It would be far better a thing for one of us to represent Urudiin in these matters,” Elder Brahmin nodded staring at Neti. “One of us should go to meet with them. If there is a them to begin with…”
This last remark was so low only Neti and Urlumin heard him as the gathered congregation had begun speaking to one another in low murmurs. Neti let a shallow gasp fall from his lips as Urlumin uttered a forced laugh.
“Now, now, Elder Brahmin,” Urlumin said, “let us not speak of such doubts as you are so wont to do. For now, we must determine who will represent us.”
Elder Telomi and two other elders came closer. “I think it wisest that the Denu be the one to go. He is the father of our order after all. If his words cannot reach the gods, then no one’s can.”
“I see. So, is it the will of the elders that I should take on this task you would ask of me?”
There was a short discussion of the six elders among themselves with Urlumin, Telomi, and Brahmin throwing their support behind the idea. Two of the elders took a few minutes to agree while the third reluctantly only nodded his head. Brahmin smiled and turned to Neti at last.
“Indeed, Denu Neti. There is an agreement that it would be best for the Denu to represent Urudiin. Besides, if you are correct and this is simply a matter of a quarrel gone bad, then you should find success and end this campaign of terror at its source.”
“Unless they are offended by my presence,” Neti sighed folding his arms into the sleeves of his robes. There was silence to this for a moment as even those gathered went speechless. Then Neti nodded. “So be it. I will take up this request and seek out our lords to sue for peace. I pray they will be amiable to our plight. Maybe they will even guide us to what you spoke of Elder Urlumin, that there is to be one grand lord who is supreme over all others. Though, what the likelihood of this is, I cannot say.”
“Denu Neti, you grant us a great relief,” Urlumin smiled and placed both hands on his shoulders and lowered his forehead to Neti’s. “I pray you will find success.”
The other elders repeated this gesture after Urlumin had released his shoulders and stood back. Neti bowed to each after every gesture and then looked to the congregation.
“As Denu, I will now leave Urudiin and seek out the surface,” a great murmuring filled the hall as he said this. Hundreds and thousands of voices echoing wall to wall only slightly muffled by the gathered masses in attendance. “With your leave, fellow Urudites.”
There was hesitancy at first, and then one by one all bowed low and clasped one hand into the fist of the other and a loud synchronous mutter returned. “Go in peace, Denu. Every success be your hallmark.”
Neti turned to the other others and made the same hand gesture as he bowed low and they reciprocated. He stood then and sighed.
“I will cleanse myself and make the journey. In my absence, Elder Urlumin will stand in my stead. Keep them safe and mindful of their duties. There is no need for fear. These are difficult times, but we will perservere.”
Brahmin grumbled. “I pray you are right. Safe journey, Denu Neti.”
“Safe journey,” the others repeated.
“I hope the word will be to our benefit,” Elder Urlumin smiled.
“As do I,” Neti replied with his own smile. Albeit forced. He gripped Urlumin’s shoulder, then passed between them into the room beyond the dais.
In here, a pool stood still and reflecting the minimal light cast from the torches on the walls and a source of light from above streaming through a long tube running far above. Neti stripped off his robes and walked into the center of the pool where he knelt to his knees. The water he sunk into came up to his waist. Its warmth surrounded him as he cupped his hands and drew on the water to wash over his face.
“I pray to the gods above that my actions are just and accepted,” he said in low tones full of reverence and not just a little bit nervous. “Favor me as I journey to the surface and seek out your presence. Favor me by allowing me entry to your court to stand before you and plead our cause. I cleanse myself of any impurities and beseech thee, oh lords of Urudiin, hear and understand our needs. I humble myself before you.”
Neti leaned back onto his haunches and stared down into the rippling water. He sat there letting his eyes follow the shifting patterns until the surface began to still and he could see his own reflection coming into a settled view. Once the surface stilled, he gazed down into his own bearded face. Semi white hair covered roots that were still a raven black. His eyes were a dark brown and his skin a deep reddish tan. His features had grown wrinkled over time, but he could still see that young man he once had been. A fierce warrior with infinite resolve who had helped bridge the conflict between Urudiin and the other subterranean city of Priici some dozen miles away or so accessible by only a long and wide cavern.
He smiled to himself. Once, everyone had just assumed that where they lived was all that existed. That there was no surface. There was only this world of cavernous networks and dark pools of water. Occasionally, there was light streaming in through tunnels in the roof. Light that was recognized as that from the gods above granting them passage through the dark. Only Neti had discovered more when he’d breached the surface world many years ago. Decades even. And had seen the tall and massive tower on the horizon. Its girth took up the breadth of a great sheath of land. He’d never seen anything like it and when he’d told his father of his find, his father immediately dropped to his knees and prayed that the gods would forgive his son for his transgression. His father had instructed him then that he’d laid eyes on the citadel of the gods and that he was to do penance for his crime.
But that was another time. In another age. Now, all knew of the Citadel of the Gods. And that was where he would have to travel. Of that, he had no doubt.
Neti was about to stand after a final clasping of his hands, when he saw his reflection darkening. It became a shadow with his features barely visible within it. Then his eyes started glowing a deep cobalt blue. Like tiny balls of light in the deep reflecting pool. A voice filled his head and he found himself growing ever more fearful and alarmed. His heart hammered in his chest, sweat gathered on his brow. All at once, the pool felt as a boiling pot roasting him alive. And the voice was a growing din thrumming all throughout the cavern despite the knowledge that he was more than certain only he could hear that deep, resonating voice.
We await you in Babel… Aurite.
A scream was on Neti’s lips, but before he could let it out
AVERY AWOKE SCREAMING and flung himself forward from his slab of rock. He fell off in a heap and rolled over unto his side and then his back raising his hands before him in a defensive manner. His chest heaved, his brow was beaded with sweat, and he breathed heavily his eyes searching for the shadow that was threatening to engulf him. All around him was a great darkness. Yet, after a moment of panic, he took note of a light barely illuminating the back of the cave he was inhabiting.
Avery looked back with a jerk so quick his neck cracked painfully. He didn’t notice as he stared out the front entrance and saw the ocean waves lapping at the shoreline. It was past dawn and the sun was rising up over the horizon line. He leaned back onto his back and felt the granular stoned covered surface grinding into his bare backside. Avery ignored it as he tried to get his breathing back under control.
I was just there! It was my face! My face in the water! Old, yes, but my face! And that malicious… He froze and then his heart slowed considerably and his breathed stopped trying to hitch his lungs away from his body. A chuckle rippled through him as he relaxed. Finally. Just a fucking dream, Ave. Just a fucking dream. That wasn’t real and your dumb ass knows it, dipshit.
He rolled over onto his side and pushed himself up to his knees and clapped his hands on his lap. Now he started to feel that sharp stabbing pain in his neck and he reached up to rub it with rough quick strokes. Fuck my ass!
After another moment, he took in a deep breath. Exhaled. Then made to stand to his feet though forgot how short the ceiling was compared to his height and rammed his head into a stony outcropping above.
“Goddamnit!” He sat back down on his stone bed with an oomph and a sigh. “Okay. That’s it. I’ve gotta move. This has got to be the absolute worst hotel I’ve ever stayed at.”
He was quiet for a moment and then let out a long, hearty laugh. After he was finished and the chuckles had abated, he took a good look around his temporary home taking in his knapsack, parachute, damaged radio, and the makeshift stone door separating his cave room from the nightmare lake way down below. He stared at that door for a very long time. Then drew his eyes away from the formation and glared at the radio. His stomach growled incessantly and his eyes fell on his knapsack wherein remained some few strips of jerky.
Oh… fuck that shit. Nope. Need something fresh.
He stood up (at a stooped angle this time) and reached for his bag and radio. Then made his way back outside where he’d pulled a large stone over to become a sort of table. It’d been sopping wet when he’d found it under water at the edge of the beach a few weeks earlier. But it’d served its purpose well enough as he’d used it to try and fix the radio enough to make it broadcast further. It had to have been damaged in the crash, he figured. Had to have been. Elsewise, why had no one responded to his SOS calls? Why had no one replied to his maydays? No. It’d been damaged. That was all that was too it.
Avery plopped the device down on top of the stone and knelt down to open up his knapsack wherein he found his toolkit and pulled it out. He placed it alongside the radio and then paused for a moment as he looked up into the sky. The sun was rising higher but the skies had a slightly ominous ‘I’m about to unleash holy hell’ sort of look to them as there were dark clouds moving about. Not necessarily spreading across the whole sky. Yet. There were still patches of clear blue, after all. But it was enough to hamper his spirits further as he yanked out a screwdriver and some clamps and began poking and prodding inside the inner radio connections. There would be a burst of static here and there. At which point he’d trigger the mic and begin his standard, ‘This is flight lieutenant Avery Wilkes of the 205th fleet. Does anyone copy? I’ve crash landed on an island in the Marshalls. Anyone copy?’ And, of course, only silence in return.
Avery growled and pounded the side of his fist on the stone top.
‘You always were so bad at that,’ a voice said from behind him.
Avery turned at the sound, his fists raised high in defiance. And he was thirteen again. Kneeling in the garage of their home in Juno. His sixteen year old brother, Janus, stood in the doorway leading into the house, his eat shit grin wide on his face.
‘Fuck you, Janus! I’ll get it working!’
‘Yeah, when you’re old and grey and worthless to everyone around you, you turd.’
Avery felt his face flushing as he stood up, his hands fists at his sides and his demeanor one of complete contempt. ‘You can talk all the shit that you want to, “big brother”, but one day I’m going to be a renowned ham broadcaster!’
Janus laughed, his hands on his stomach. ‘You? Come on, now, Avery! Who ya tryin’ ta fool? You know precisely jack and shit about electronics. Despite how often you fiddle with those things.’
Avery looked down at the radio on the makeshift table of milkcrates and wooden slabs and the anger growing inside of him was ever more potent than ever. He turned to look back at Janus.
‘Well, maybe that’s true. But at least I did one thing that you didn’t!’
‘Oh, yeah? And what would that be, squasher?’
Squasher. He always hated that nickname. It suggested he was a squat little nothing who would amount to nothing. He hated it. Despised it. Despised Janus for ever creating the word. Avery turned to the radio and grabbed it and tossed it out onto the driveway. Only it was a driveway no longer. It was a beach on an island with a dark overcast engulfing it in every way. Avery found a thick branch from some tree from somewhere and sometime. He picked it up and raced to the smashed radio and started ramming the thick branch as hard as he could into the unit.
“I… didn’t… go… and… get… myself… KILLED!!” Avery kept slamming the branch into the device until it was nothing more than bits and pieces and the branch was shredded wood. And even then he refused to stop. “You joined up! You went to Pearl! You got dead! Mom wailed! Dad couldn’t give a shit! You left us! Left us! Left us! And you got murdered by goddamned JAPS!”
Avery tossed the remains of the branch to the side, his chest heaving in exertion, his face harboring a snarl so rage filled he was afraid his head would never look the same again. But the rage was there. The fear was there. The hate was there. He looked up towards the cave and saw nobody. But he thought he could remember his young brother smiling at him in that way of his. He always gave him so much grief and picked on him to no end. Yet, in the end, he only had nothing but love for his young brother. And this fact alone made the tears burst forth and Avery fell to his knees. A scream shot forth and he pounded his fists onto his thighs. They burned with the heated strikes and he knew that bruises wouldn’t be far behind.
“You left us!” he screamed, his eyes moist and blurry. “You left us and then I left mom! Just to go chasing after you! But it was too late then, wasn’t it!? Oh, yeah! The great hero Janus! Proving his merit! And what did I do? Get lost on a deserted island where nobody is looking and ever will look!”
He leaned over and let his torso drop face first into the sand, the sobbing wracking his chest. He shuddered ignoring the first drops of a misty rain covering his bare back.
‘You remember that time out back behind Missa’s?’
Avery jerked up and stared at the cave again. Janus still wasn’t there. But he could have sworn he could see him. And then he recalled a time when he was sixteen and Janus was nineteen. Just before his elder brother shipped off for training in the Navy. Yeah. He remembered Missa’s.
Janus had come to get him after their father had left them. Their parents had had a huge fight. Well, father Eddie was never their birth father. But he’d been the only father they’d known after their mother had left their real father. He’d been a drunk and a fool and unemployed. Never really looking to the future let alone showing interest in his family. She’d took off, met a man named Edward out near Anchorage, married him (she’d never been married to their birth father, Gil), and they’d settled in Juno. Janus had been six at the time, and Avery only three. But Eddie had taken care of them as if they were his own.
That was until he’d become a cheating, angry gambler who’d been let go for anger issues. It was right about that time he decided Toronto was looking real good. Told their mother, Myra, goodbye, and just left. And Janus had gotten this idea in his head that if he joined the military he’d be able to support his family by sending money back home. And it had worked. For a time.
Of course, that was neither here nor there. Now it was just about Janus taking Avery down the path along the hilly terrain and through the woods towards Missa’s house, oh my! And there they found themselves a nice little nook to watch her amazing display of getting nude and readying to bathe. Avery himself never understood why the young woman wouldn’t just close her curtains. However, it was a little known secret amongst a select group of bird watchers that she was, in fact, an exhibitionist.
‘Come, sit down. Let’s chat. Show’s about to begin,’ Janus had said then smiling.
Avery joined him among some dense shrubbery as they sat on a few solid stones and got ready for a cheap view. The stars were peeking out in the skies above. It’d been a clear evening that night. Crystal clear. Not a cloud in sight. The fading blues of the day were giving way to the black void of dusk and a cool breeze blew across their faces. Avery looked to his older brother. A handsome young man with raven hair cropped short. His deep brown eyes reflected the reddish hue of dusk and the street lamps from the neighborhood just below them giving him almost a twinkle in his irises. Janus’ reddish skin was almost pale in this light and Avery got the sudden sense that his time with his brother was nearing its end.
And as if sensing this revelation, Janus spoke without looking to his brother. Only kept his eyes on the window on the second floor towards the corner of the house down the hill. There, the young woman, Missa, came into view and walked across her bedroom. She had yet to begin stripping herself of her long denim dress and blue angora sweater. But Avery’s attention was mostly focused on Janus. Mostly.
‘You have to understand something, Ave,’ Janus started with a sigh. ‘I know you don’t agree with my reasonings. But I’m a man now, you know? And I’ve got to do something for us. The world’s changing all around us. It’s like… well, it’s like it’s something it was never meant to be.’
Avery shook his head, his eyes glancing at the bedroom window where Missa sat on the edge of her bedroom brushing out her hair. Her focus was on the mirror across from her in back of her dresser. Neither of them could see that from their angle but the window itself was large and offered a view of most of her room.
‘I don’t understand. How do you mean?’
‘Don’t you feel it, Ave? Don’t you feel the strangeness in the air?’ Janus shook his head slowly, his eyes never leaving that window. He wasn’t smiling. There was only the serious reflection of someone who’d seen something he couldn’t quite explain to anyone else. ‘I think… I think we’re somewhat lucky. But not completely. I had a dream the other night. In this dream, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and all of the land went to war against them and the agents of the Nazis.’
Avery let loose an incredulous and quick chuckle. ‘That would be absurd. How crazy would anyone be to attack one of the largest naval stations in the Pacific? Sounds like nerves.’
Janus returned with a subtle chuckle of his own. ‘Maybe. However, that is not what struck me as odd. It was the fact that we lived in a place called… San Francisco.’
‘Search me. I have never heard of it. Even stranger, we were raised in a place known as a ‘reservation’. Have you ever heard of a reservation, Ave?’ Avery shook his head in response and Janus turned to look at him then. ‘Nor have I. Yet, I think that was meant to be where we started life. For some reason, we never lived that life. It is because of this revelation that I know my decision is the right one.’
Avery leaned forward pulling his eyes away from the window where Missa was now going back and forth between her private bathroom and her bedroom. The light in the bathroom went on and they could see the top of the bathtub through the open window there.
‘You think running off to join the Navy is the right decision? We need you here, Jan! Mom would go crazy without you here! Always worrying if you’re alright!’
Janus nodded. ‘I know. I’ve already spoken with her about it. She doesn’t like it but understands. In her own way. I told her I’d try to make you understand as well. There is a great tragedy coming. One that cannot be stopped in any world. And the tremor in my bones tells me this time it will lead to something far worse than what has come before. Or what might have been. When the time comes, you will understand as well. I have no doubt about this. But it begins with me going.’
Avery leaned back and braced his hands behind him on the stony rise rolling up the hillside and stared back at Missa’s window. She’d begun taking off her sweater. She was doing this slowly. As if she needed to take her time pulling it off for some unknown reason. When the sweater came off, he could see her white bra clearly and how large her breasts really were. Her flesh was a light peach color. She tossed her sweater on her bed and then ran her hands up and down her biceps. Avery shook his head.
‘You think it will really happen, don’t you?’ Avery asked hesitantly. ‘That the Japanese will bomb Pearl Harbor. What if they ship you there, Jan? What if you’re in the line of fire?’
Janus sighed. ‘It may come to that. If so, please, understand that it is what must be. However, even so, it is in my future to join this cause. To fight against the arms of tyranny that seek to engulf this world of ours. If we won’t fight, we have no right to say this is unjust or that. We accept that these overlords are our lords and accept our fate to kneel before them.’
Avery frowned. ‘You’re being overly dramatic again. You know what I think? I think it was just a dream. You’ll go join. Sure. But they’ll have you running laps and manning desks over in Akron for the duration of the war. Mark my words. And the Japanese will never bomb Pearl Harbor. That would be too foolish. Even for them.’
Janus laughed. ‘I pray to Tatanka that you are right, little brother. I will gladly man a desk if that means the horrors I was shown do not come to pass.’
‘You saw other horrors than the bombing of Pearl?’
Janus was quiet for a long moment as both got distracted by Missa slowly pulling off her dress. First, she pulled down on the zipper in front. She took her time. Then, she wiggled the dress off, her hips gently swaying back and forth to force the article to fall to the floor. Then she stood there for a moment, her hands rubbing her hips in a repeated sliding manner.
‘What was I saying?’ Janus mumbled.
‘Horrors…’ Avery returned almost inaudibly.
Janus looked to him and chuckled. ‘Hey, she doesn’t sleep around. Despite what your eyes might tell you.’
‘No, dipshit,’ Avery laughed. ‘The horrors of war you saw in your dream.’
Janus let the chuckle fall away and he turned back to the window. ‘Something I hope doesn’t get used. Once, it might have been only a couple of times. Now, I fear the cloudy rage of death will be utilized considerably more often and with greater vehemence.’
‘I don’t understand you…’ Avery frowned.
Missa reached behind her back and popped the clasps on her bra. Her breasts fell out of their harness and sat on her chest pert and at attention. The areolas were a dark pink and her nipples erect. As if she were cold. Or excited. This they could see even from their vantage not even seventy feet away. Their eyesight always was good. Particularly when it got darker.
‘You don’t have to,’ Janus spoke in a low tone. ‘At least, not yet.’
They went silent then, watching Missa roll off her underwear and stand there completely naked. She was a natural blonde, Avery could see, and that was fine by him as she strode back and forth between bathroom and bedroom once more, her hands massaging her round and smooth buttocks and her bosom swaying enticingly in the motions. Then she walked to the bathroom and turned to her window. She cupped her right hand to her brow and looked out, her breasts pushing up against the glass. Avery wasn’t sure about Janus, but his jeans had certainly gotten tighter. He could have sworn he noted a grin on her face as she turned to the tub, twitched her rump twice, and then slowly stepped into the tub and lowered into the water that was steaming into the air of the bathroom.
Avery and Janus both leaned back and braced their hands behind them, an audible sigh escaping their throats. They looked to one another and laughed.
‘You know,’ Janus started, ‘she does that every night. Gets butt naked and looks out her window. It’s like she wants people to see her. I think she does. Rumor has it she does. You can look, but you can’t touch sort of deal, I’d wager.’
‘She’s obviously excited about the prospect.’
‘She offers up that wide brilliant smile of hers and it’s like you just melt.’
‘I saw her smile, alright. It’s one I will never forget.’
They both laughed at one another then. They paused mid-laugh when they heard a grunt from the other side of the path and the rattling of brush. Then there was a sighing ‘oh’ followed by silence. Avery looked to Janus and they burst out laughing again.
‘Just don’t go over there,’ Avery said through teary eyes.
‘No shit. Might step in something,’ Janus put in and they both laughed harder then.
‘Fuck you both,’ came a response and then motion disappearing back up the trail.
Janus clapped Avery’s back and neither could stop the laughter for a full minute. Then they both wiped their eyes with the backs of their hands.
‘Oh, just wait until she towels off,’ Janus chuckled seeking his breath back.
‘I don’t think that guy could,’ Avery heaved and sighed. ‘This is good. …I don’t want you to go, Jan.’
They both let their breaths get caught up and Janus sighed. ‘I know. I’m sorry, Ave. It just has to be this way.’
‘If you say so.’ Avery looked up into the sky and saw a streak of light heading towards earth. It then darted upwards and downwards then back into the sky as if a meteoroid was making a ‘W’ in the stratosphere. ‘Holy shit. Did you see that?’
‘Hmmm?’ Janus groaned and glanced at Avery. ‘See what?’
‘That light in the sky. It like came straight down to the horizon, darted back up, then down, then up… and flew off into space.’
‘Just a trick of the atmosphere, Ave. A meteor striking through the air is all. Sides, why you looking skyward when the real show is earthbound? There’s this thing she does with that towel you just have to see to believe.’
Avery looked over to Janus who kept his own eyesight on the windows downhill. His heart beat in quickening succession then and a fear and trepidation overtook what jovial feeling he was experiencing for a long moment. Avery knew that he’d remember this moment, this night, for a very long time to come.
“You son of a bitch!” Avery shouted standing up out of the sand and raising his hands into the air. “You knew all along! You knew what would happen if you left! You knew! Damn you all to hell!”
Avery paced the head of the beach for a long moment and then stared back out to the darkening skies. The sun was still visible on the horizon. But its slow march upward would see it disappear behind more storm clouds soon enough. He paused then, staring off into the sea roiling once more under the changing weather.
“You knew…” Avery sighed and let his bare arms drop to his sides. “So… why am I here then? What do you want me to do? Anything? Or just lose my goddamn mind?”
A feeling of being watched entered his consciousness and Avery turned back to the cavern a dozen feet away. There was something full of hate about the place. Something that made him feel unsure of himself. And that something was driving him mad, he was sure of that.
“Not any more. Oh no,” Avery said and marched up towards the cave and entered it in a low crouch and went to gather up his belongs, shoving them into his knapsack.
The radio was a complete loss. No one was coming for him anyway. He had no idea where he was going to go, or what he was going to do. All that he knew was that he had to get out of there. And had to get out now.
‘What do you think you’re doing?’ Janus’ voice came from behind him.
He stopped packing for a moment but didn’t look. He felt that if he turned around, he’d see the silhouette of his brother, a ghost from a safer and saner time, standing in the entrance, the dimming sunlight a halo around his form. That was something he didn’t want to see and went back to shoving stuff into his bag. A grimace adorned his visage.
“I’m getting the fuck out of here,” he grumbled. “After that, who the fuck knows.”
Or there’s that damnable Jap… Avery stopped again, the thought having come to him unbidden. Yes, the other pilot. He had no idea if the man survived or not but he had a sneaking suspicion that he had. And if he found the Japanese pilot, what then?
Avery shook his head, strapped up his bag, then turned towards the entrance, his head downcast and still afraid that he’d see Janus standing there. Young and vibrant. Not a corpse in his head. A dream of death. He marched right out and into a heavy breeze. The salty water was coming to his nose in force now and he knew the coming storm was going to be a strong one.
It rains too much around here. I need a better real estate agent. He turned away from the cave and up the beachhead towards the forest beyond. Janus’ voice caught him up short once more.
‘For what it’s worth, you did everything right…’ It said.
However, he wasn’t so certain it was Janus anymore. He was starting to believe it was one of two things: some dark entity trying to sway him from a path of salvation, or his mind slowly going mad. There was a part of him that was praying it was the former. To go mad on a deserted island that may or may not have his fellow adversary still alive upon it was a proposition too far.
Avery forced his feet into motion once more. If he was lucky, he’d find some other source of shelter before the gale force winds and pelting stone shaped rain began bombarding him bodily again. The storms here were just too… Violent. Everything is too violent. Yes. That’s what it is. Violence… Janus… Keep me sane from the violence of it all…
Alright, and this brings us to the end of another offering up of Left Of Midnight. Don’t worry, this book is going to be self published once I work all the kinks out of it! The fact is, it’ll just be too long for traditional publishers and there’s too much I don’t want to cut out that I feel is important to the story itself. Blame the artist in me for not wanting to short change the picture I’m painting. Even so, it’ll be nice to see it in print even if I’m the only one buying it.
Thanks for reading, if you made it this far, and come back soon! It won’t be so long the next time!
~Timothy S Purvis
PS: I won’t be leaving any artwork below this time out. I just don’t know what I want to put here. However, if you like the artwork included at the end of my posts, please leave a comment below saying if you’d like to continue seeing something included at the end down in the comments below!