Old Habits

Note: It’s a hard habit to break, in my case, the having to live outside my writing, involved in real life. Ergo, my publishing schedules is invariably disrupted. Having briefly gone over this short before publishing, I can’t say it’s a great edit, but at least it’s somewhat legible and that’s good enough for me… hope it’s good enough for you. Now, this is the third, and we’re on the fifth day since I began this challenge, so I owe you guys 2 shorts more, 3 if we count tomorrow’s. I can compromise to post another today, and two more tomorrow, and maybe that way I will actually catch up. Now, in regards to this actual short, the story was inspired by a sad situation in my home country of Costa Rica where many elderly persons are being abandoned with nothing but a note stating their state of unwantedness. It’s terrible and I’m sadly sure that it’s something that takes place the world over. It got me thinking and, as my mind is wont to do, I segued from charitable thoughts to what sort of story might lay behind such terrible abandonment. While i may protray things a certain way in the story, I do earnestly believe abandoning your elders is a terrible thing in general, and you should go hug your elders right the f**k now, be they grandparents, parents, or some other manner of sibling or friend. Seriously. Do it!

 

 

He found himself in the street, ambling aimlessly, disoriented and hungry. He couldn’t quite remember why he was there, what his name was, where he was going, and all he felt was fear taking grip of his heart slowly, its cold hand closing harder until chills ran up and down his spine. A strange sadness grew in him and knotted his throat, tears threatening to flow over the dam of his eyelids.

A young woman, perhaps in her mid-twenties, approached him. She was fair-haired and had blue eyes like sapphires. Her smile was kind and warm, the warmest thing he could recall every seeing. It warmed him just so and gave him a strange sense of hope that almost pushed his tears out in relief.

Her soft voice like honey asked “Are you alright? Are you alone?”

“I don’t know,” he spoke in a voice so tremulous and creaky he nearly started at the surprise of hearing it coming out of him. He was… old? He couldn’t remember that, either. “I don’t know!” he repeated, and this time he did break into tears.

The young woman touched him, took him gently by the arms, handling him as though he might break. How he must look, he wondered, oh, how frail and brittle he must seem for her to treat him thus.

“My name is Amanda,” she said, her smile intensifying radiantly, almost obscenely so. “Come, I will take you somewhere safe where we can see to you and find out what your situation is. Come.”

He let her lead him off… to where? He could not guess.

 

*************************************************

 

The Wilsons had been good to him, to Aiden – that was his name, as he recalled it after a few days in their household.

They were a benevolent, well-to-do family with some means brought about by a long-running family business that spanned a few generations. They were old money.

When he had come upon Amanda, or rather she upon him, he had been wearing tattered clothes that could have easily been worn for months on end. He had been unwashed for some time but had been thankfully parasite and disease free, so it was unlikely that he had been on his own for more than a few weeks. He’d had no actual possessions save for the near-useless clothes he’d been wearing and a small gold pendant, the kind that would hold a pair of small portraits, but would not budge open when pried. It had been a wonder that he had kept it despite being on the streets and at the mercy of the vultures, as it were.

Aside from the few items on him, there was a note, covered in plastic so it would not deteriorate, where scrawled upon it in block letters it read:

DO WITH HIM AS YOU WILL. HE IS NO LONGER WANTED HERE.

He could only imagine what sweet, kind Amanda Wilson might have made of that terrible note, but he was glad she had made no more of it and taken him in. She and her husband, Roderick, had been a blessing on him. And their children, oh, the children! They had been a boon; instrumental to the slow but steady recovery of his memories or what little may remain of them in his addled brain.

Molly, Adrian, Ernest, Ronald, and little Holly; ages 10, 9, 7, 5 and 3; they were the life of the expansive household, the Wilson Estate, and had been Aiden’s companions since he was first brought in on that hazy, sunny day. Having had no living grandparents to speak of on either side of the family due to illness and old age, the children were immediately taken with him, making him their ad hoc grandfather right out of the gate.

He was sure they had been pivotal in his recovery, he clearly remembered being enfeebled and confused, what bits and pieces of memory he could summon from the time he was lost showed nothing of substance or note, but in the few hours after he was introduced to the little ones his brain seized upon their rambunctious energy and moxie as if feeding off of it, drawing health from them by sheer proximity. He had come to love them, he felt, though he wondered, did he have grandchildren of his own, out there in the wide world, where some family related by blood to him carried on, feeling now free of the burden he had represented?

No matter. He was confident all he needed to remember would eventually come back to him, as he had been able to recall so much in the past weeks. His last name – McDiarmid –, bits of his childhood growing up in a small, rural town that had a railroad being built… he was a little unsure about some of the details, as what he saw in his mind seemed to be far older than any age he could possibly be within reason – that was another thing, darnedest really, that he could not remember how old he was! –, and many situations seemed culturally anachronistic… but he chucked it up to his faulty memory.

He felt he was, somehow, happy, truly, finally. He wasn’t sure why he felt that last adjective, “finally”, weighed heavy, pregnant with significance. Another darned, odd thing…

*************************************************

 

Awakenings.

Awakenings are things of wonder, Aiden thought as the sun pierced through the drapes, now drawn so as to allow the sun’s full fulgurous glory into the room. Sometimes beauty, sometimes horror, but always things of wonder, he mused. One has beaten the night, after all, staved off death for one more evening after giving oneself up to the whims and terrors of sleep, bereft of real autonomy and any sense of agency. What a glorious victory we mortals earn every single morning after slumber!

He got up from the bed, his blue, two-piece silk pajamas wrinkled and hanging on his not-so-decrepit frame. His mind was aflame with activity, it was abuzz, it was churning like an ancient engine, digging deep into the recesses of his deepest memory coffers in an attempt to bring back what was hinted at in oneiric reveries during the dark hours of sleep.

It was strange, this mixture of feelings. He was feverish in his elation, his feeling of euphoria at being on the edge of revelation. It was good, was it not? He wondered, musing at the sense of foreboding and resistance, a growing little seed of dread that began to grow inside him as the knowledge lost to the years loomed ever nearer. Why should he feel reservations at recalling, at recovering all that was he from before his good fortune of having happened upon the Wilsons’ generosity and love?

Suddenly he became aware of his surroundings again; he had made his way downstairs to the ground floor as he was lost in his self-reflective avenues of thought without realizing it, his body taking him on instinct to where he could fully recover. He was at the door to the estate’s backyard.

He opened the wide double doors and stepped out into the glaring sunlight, its warmth maná from the heavens themselves, seeping into his being and reviving that which had been dormant, the memories of his former life flooding back into him.

He could still feel his mind divided; there were two persons in him. There was the Aiden who had been taken in by the Wilsons, stricken with fear and confusion, almost childlike and, in many ways, exactly that; and then there was the Aiden who was awakening now, recovering from the ravages of age that he had managed to fight off and delay through means better left unspoken, un-thought of until they were necessary to harness that which kept him longevous, eternal.

He was two persons at once, for the first time in a very long time, almost since the first time when he had still been young, or rather young for the first time, back when he had first split into the man he had been and the man he would become. The dichotomous debate was beginning anew, although the matter of debate, the question of who of the two was the true Aiden, had long been abandoned in favour of the adage that might makes right; that is, who was the real person was no longer an important subject, it was moot. Nevertheless, the simultaneous duality was a strange pleasure, a rare phenomenon that had been long inexperienced. It was welcome, to the Aiden who was now rising from a slumber long and dangerous.

He looked upon his surroundings while the younger Aiden within shrank slowly, filled with ever-growing dread. What a fine turn of events, the rising one thought, that we have turned up at such a bountiful place. The rising one had sequestered himself in one of the buildings under their name, knowing that the frail nature of their human brain was giving in to the ravages of time and he would soon lose full cognition like many times before over the last three centuries, hoping in a way that he could find a method to fully prevent the decay cycle but failing yet again. On that occasion he had gambled on the generally kind nature of humanity in modern times, as they had grown soft over time thanks to the commodities of technological advance, and would not likely just kill a senile old man walking the streets without a clue to what his current situation was, and scribbled the note to draw pity and, perhaps, a helping hand he could eventually leech some energy from.

When envisioning this plan, he had not hoped for such a wonderfully rich bounty! He had seen it happening in increments; a little energy here, a little energy there, and eventually a payload that would allow him to turn back the effects of time on his mortal frame once again. He had hit the motherload, this time. Oh, what fortunate turn of events!

He recalled the locket pendant and realized he’d still had it with him through it all. He fished it from where it hung around his neck, and deftly opened it by placing his fingers in just the right configuration. Ah, there it was, the old formula, and the little device. All was good with the world again, for him.

He looked out at the large yard, at the green, freshly mowed grass, taking in the scent and rejoicing in it, at the sheer pleasure of being alive and sentient. He turned his attention to the children… what were their names again? Ah, yes, Molly, Adrian, Ernest, Ronald, and little Holly. They sure seemed full of life, did they not? The rising one said to the one subdued within. Had the Aiden waning any eyes, they would have been wide with increasing terror at the realization of what would ensue, the poor children. Having control of the only pair of eyes shared between the Aidens, the rising one simply blinked and squinted at the bright little souls. It had to be done, you see, it was necessary.

As the waning one succumbed to the mechanisms of the shared mind, trapped in schemes of distractions devised by the rising one long ago, the echoes of cries of denial rang within the proverbial halls of that mind. The rising one was now effectively risen. He was dominant, as should be.

Now, it was time to do what must be done.

The 12 Shorts of Christmas

Admittedly absent form the blog for a good while – what with all this obnoxious editing and re-writing of my novel – I figured it was time for some much needed literary recreation. All the intensive self-examination that accompanies reworking a novel has me in a haze that can only be cleared up by going on wild storytelling tangents and non-sequiturs, the kind that keep the creative muscles fit and spry, if you will.

In keeping with the holiday spirit from a consumerist, Judeo-Christian standpoint – or rather flavor since I hold neither view personally – I will be posting 12 short stories everyday – one a day -, starting tonight and ending on they day after Christmas (I started late, shut up!).

Hope my dribble is still to your liking! Happy holidays!

It’s a Good Life

It’s a good life… life is good…

The man was walking through mostly empty, windy streets. Loose sheets of newspaper were being whipped around by miniature tornadoes, invisible but recognized by their tell-tale small-scale destruction. The city was bitter. The city was cold. The city was as it always had been.

It’s a good life… life is good…

There were so many things left in the past, so many beautiful memories… sometimes, it was enough that they were there – testimony that those events had taken place – to nourish the soul in light of abject poverty and abandonment.

Onan had been a family man, once. He’d had three beautiful daughters and a loving wife. That was in the distant past now. They had died, and he had lived, left with the crippling choice of ending his own life or moving along in an inertial course toward eventual death. HE had wanted it so bad, to die, to go with them… but he was left there, on his own, by himself, to wander and perchance speak with some other human being, the nourishment of dialogue, of empathy and compassion, of comraderie in the human condition.

It’s a good life… life is good…

He walked, dark beard, frizzled and dirty, face grimed, hair matted and more akin to a bird’s nest than human hair, he was a mess. Now and then he found those willing to help, though he never asked, no… it wasn’t pride, but rather a strange sense of honor, that one should not plead while being able to stand, that one should not beg while able to perform a task… so he worked as he could, where he could, when he could. Life could be tough, eking it out of nothing, ex nihilo nihil fit… but he was not nothing, was he?

It’s a good life… life is good…

They had died in an accident, and everything in his life had come tumbling down. His job, his friends, everything…

It’s a good life… life is good…

He knew he was to be patient… he knew he needed to be strong… but God, how much strength was required? How much longer?

He kept on walking, crumbling under the weight of tragedy and faith. Crumbling under the ravages of age…

It’s a good life… life is good…

Progress

Heart safely back in a box
A see-through affair never lost
And the time flows by the same

Soul tightly held in hand
Eyes firmly set forward, strong stand
The will is not something tame

In the mirror eyes stern stare back
Firing off a mental attack
Fictions and compromises dissolved
The evidence of crimes unsolved

Blackened the fabric, the soul
The heart within beats slow, feels old
Awareness of growing insane

Message kept to remember when
Another found beauty in one, then
These memories the night can’t detain

In the mirror eyes cannot tear but blink
As if in disbelief at the horrors I think
And the man in the mirror is the only voice
That can bless me with the burden of choice

Hazy

It was on days like this, when the sun shone bright and yet the rain would fall in a heavy drizzle, angled by the strong summer winds, that I would find my center and a sense of wellness and unbridled hope for the future. It had been a long time since I had felt that way.

Rainy summer days with skies hanging rainbows had come by the dozens, but it was my core that was somehow rotten, infected with some sickness that would not abate. Rather, whatever had invaded my innermost being had cast its roots deeper, pervading my being.

The year had grown cold, uncharacteristically so, in the early months and with it had come a grayness that permeated the general atmosphere. Constant rain that would vary between incessant drizzles to full-on deluges provided a constant backdrop of nature’s white noise, which made me feel like the world just wanted me to go to sleep, force me into some sort of hibernation.

I had lost my job the year prior but had managed to remain optimistic about my prospects. I kept sending out resumés to places I had always wanted to work at and even more to those I never considered or rather hoped I wouldn’t have to. Sheer volume should have guaranteed that at least some of the prospective places of employ would eventually get back to me with a positive.

The months accrued and lapsed into the following year and I had heard nothing back of any import. Always a reason not to hire me at the time; overstaffed, no openings in my specific area of expertise, overqualified, you name it. I had been doing some freelance work just to keep myself earning, producing, so as not to starve, but that, too, was a stream that was drying out. It was a little ironic, the imagery of water just pouring down from the heavens without respite, but where I needed things to flow a drought had overtaken the ecology.

The strange things didn’t quite start when my mood had already dropped to below zero, no. In hindsight, I can identify hints and insinuations of the otherness even when I was most busy toiling and networking and fighting to keep my head above water. It had been with me all that time, and likely even before.

There was something familiar about it and about my depression, something warm like the womb despite the biting cold. My house had become a fortress of solitude, like Superman’s, but unlike him and his super-powered outlook on life, I had become the king of winter, lost in a progressively darkening mood. There was, nevertheless, a sense of belonging, like I had always been meant to be alone like this.

I had plenty of friends, some more genuine than others, of course, but most of them at least passably good-natured. I’d had, until recently, a relationship of sorts with a woman, but the demands of the romantic ideals society and the media have conditioned people to subscribe to, and that she firmly held as ideals, did not meet well with my often taciturn ways and stark regard for the ritualistic indoctrination that was supposed by the institution of love. Romance, after all, can only be upheld for so long in the heart of the poet, burning like the sun, before it becomes steady warmth like that of a bonfire.

As a product of my inability to maintain the intensity of early courtship, things grew cold and distant with her. As well it should, I had no desire to share myself in the ways demanded by most in matters romantic. We spoke now and again, asked how the other was doing, friendly but guarded, though, I sensed, her concern was genuine like mine.

On most days, now, I would wake slowly, as if dragged away from a better place than the waking world. My eyes would take long minutes to adjust to the brightness of this world’s light, subdued and dark though it was under the layer of cloud that covered the sky.

The humidity of the season had brought with it a cold that would hurt to the bone, but after some time I grew somewhat accustomed to it. Rather than wear clothes to keep myself warm, I began to wear less and less clothes all together. It is a strangely welcome feeling, the burn of the cold seeping into my flesh, until a feeling of numbness comes over me and I am no longer afflicted by the cold but rather lulled by it. It also makes me impervious to the Other’s caresses.

I began to notice its presence in small ways. I would find my perception of the world around me faulty, catching glimpses of movement out of the corner of my eye, seeing objects move on their own one moment but they would stop just as my mind focused on them consciously, after it had registered that this was abnormal. I blamed it on my scatterbrained absentmindedness; I had been quite forlorn and lost in thoughts, fugues of intellectual wandering without any purpose or North. The rising incidence of these phenomena robbed me of any such notion, however. It was clear that I was not alone in my fortress.

It is hard to say exactly how it began to take a hold of me. What I can say with some degree of accuracy is that it has been nine days since it established its dominance over my body, and thus my interaction with the world at large.

Today’s rain and sunshine, the rainbows and gusts, they do nothing to alter my mood, my emotions perfectly balanced into a state of bland bleakness. Voices over the phone have increasingly become more distant, as if from a plane entirely different to mine, the connection and signal having to pass through so many layers of the universe that what finally arrives is a sound tinny and faint, a wisp of sound, really. Even today, as my mother called to ask about my health, I could hardly focus on her voice, let alone understand what the words she said meant, like there was nothing there to be conveyed. After a minute or two of ineffectual attempts at communication I simply hung up the phone. Who had paid the bill? It was truly a miracle that I still had working electricity. Perhaps there was an angel, somewhere, in human guise, who had seen to my basic needs, though my soul was clearly now beyond saving. It belonged to the Other.

I think about my situation and it seems to be quite fitting. It pleases me, in a strange way. I am no more than I expected myself to be, despite having so many ambitions and dreams, once. I have fallen by the wayside while the world moved on, unable and, perhaps, unwilling to exert the effort necessary to cling to the train, to snatch away some of its momentum, harness it, and propel myself to a new place, a new height, a new self… It really is quite fitting.

I take one final gaze at the outside world, feeling in my soul that I am soon to expire from this mortal coil. Where will I go? I do not know, but wherever that is, I hope I am left alone to sleep a dreamless dream. No music, no feeling, no scents, no sights… no warmth, just nothing.

I can feel the Other’s pleasure as my own. For a moment here and there I might question whether my sense of calm and acceptance is truly mine or just a projection of the Other’s will, a subjugation of my own. The thoughts are fleeting, though; ephemeral like human existence may seem to a greater being.

I glimpse images, as I have for days now, of people who seem important for a moment, poignant. I catch memories and feelings that scream at me about life and moments joyous… but they slip always, like dreams that fade the more you try to recall them.

Sahaykwisā

 

               Sahaykwisā had spent well oven an hour in preparation for the ceremony. Official rites were not something the pontiff enjoyed, but that was beside the question; it was yet another duty in the myriad of official requisites for those in such revered positions. Daryn knew this well about Sahaykwisā.

                They had spent the previous night together, Sahaykwisā and him, or was it she and him? Daryn couldn’t get around the proper pronoun for a two-spirit, a Hwame, ‘hwa’. Hwa and him. Sahaykwisā and Daryn. To him hwa was just love, his it… to put it in cliché terms, the one.

                He was patient, Daryn was. He had learned to be so after many years of wading in the waters of service to the many dignataries of the UN council. International Relations and Public Relations were not all that different, he found out soon after beginning his tenure as one of the official escorts for the officials he was routinely appointed to in the political summits. His position was officially known as Appointed Ensign, but such a title offered little information as to the extent and gamut of duties and services he was obligated to provide for the officials he was assigned to.

                “Love, would you come and look at me?” came a sweet, smoky alto voice from within the boudoir. “I’m not sure about this blazer…”

                Sometimes, being Appointed Ensign meant little more than being a personal assistant in strict terms. Other times, as with Sahaykwisā, it ran the spectrum from personal confidante to surrogate parent. He promised himself, every time that he found himself in a compromising and ridiculously unusual situation, that he would one day write it all in his memoirs and make a fortune from the sales. At the current rate, he would be able to publish something positively meaty by the time he was forty.

While he had a loose definition of duties with a dozen of the political figures with whom he had worked over the years – he had a stable set of political figures that always requested Daryn as their Ensign whenever possible, having established himself as both capable and singularly reliable – with Sahaykwisā things had always been different.

Daryn was only a year into his service when he was appointed to the Mojave nation’s chief representative and thought nothing special of the assignment. He was not prepared for the electric shock of looking into Sahaykwisā’s dark eyes.

A little over thirty, Sahaykwisā had been the leader of the Mojave since the age of sixteen, having proved to be particularly gifted political and martial intellect. The first two-spirit, Hwame, to be seated as chief in over a century and, by the time Daryn was assigned to Sahaykwisā, a consummate leader of one of the most powerful nations of the modern world.

For about five years Sahaykwisā and Daryn had been meeting under political, strictly professional circumstances, with the former always requesting Daryn as Ensign ever since his first appointment. Daryn simply never forgot the brief time he served under Sahaykwisā, and those dark, piercing eyes, and would be filled with a strange ball of emotions whenever he received the always-anticipated missives advising him of his appointment to Sahaykwisā.

“It suits you,” he said, smiling, once he had walked from his post by the sitting room’s door and entered her chamber. “It accentuates your shoulders.”

Each time they met, their relationship seemed to deepen despite a very rigid set of formalities and rules of etiquette carefully observed. In every measured gesture, in every formal reply, decorum seemed pregnant with further meaning and unvoiced intentions. Every excuse to look at each other’s face was a new and glorious opportunity to gaze deep and drink of the other’s eyes.

With every new appointment, they seemed to share more of their emotions, veiled through ceremony and ritual. In every space away from prying eyes, in every hiatus from duty, Sahaykwisā would in near-whispers inquire about Daryn’s opinions on seemingly random issues. The first time this took place it took Daryn aback, something about a particular species of lemur becoming extinct and what he thought of the subject. After initial reservations and making apologies beforehand, he answered truthfully, that he did not like the idea of any life form simply being taken out of existence, never to be seen again, that he found it profoundly tragic. This seemed to sit well with Sahaykwisā. Many, many more such questions followed over time, as well as proffered options from the great chief.

These appointments, and the particulars thereof, had become a kind of ritual for Daryn, and they were something he always cherished and enjoyed. His assignments to Sahaykwisā became the main reason he enjoyed his job. Then just a few months ago, on the week of his twenty-eighth birthday, Sahaykwisā made a visit to the Summit and had expressly requested someone else be appointed other than Daryn.

“How long before the ambassador arrives?” Sahaykwisā asked him, even though hwa was aware of the time. Perhaps hwa just liked hearing a reaffirmation of time from Daryn.

At first, Daryn had tried to tone his reaction down. He was shocked to find that something that would appear trifle should be affecting him so. It placed his emotions about Sahaykwisā under the glaring, unfailingly harsh light. He managed through no small effort to remain professional, stoic, and place an inquiry as to why he was not given his usual appointment, if there was any feedback as to why. He was given none, and found the absence of it even worse than if Sahaykwisā had said something lacked in his performance as ensign.

Daryn tried to run into Sahaykwisā in the few days that the Mojave entourage had been at the Summit, but he found his efforts thwarted at every turn, either by some urgent order of his superiors or seemingly random events. He suspected this was all intentional.

“Exactly fifteen minutes and twenty six seconds, love,” Daryn replied in formal tone despite the pet name crowning the sentence.

Sahaykwisā and the entourage had departed after the conference was concluded and the day of his birthday arrived soon after. Thinking that perhaps Sahaykwisā’s customary birthday gift might prove his fears unfounded, he spent the entire day forlorn, lost in thoughts of the Mojave chief, unable to be fully present in mind for his celebration. His few friends seemed to enjoy themselves regardless, for which he was thankful; he did not relish the thought of having to lie away any questions about his mood.

When his birthday had ended and no present from Sahaykwisā had shown, he found himself emotionally crushed. For the first time since he had began his service Daryn took three days of sick leave, which he summarily spent in drunken introspection. He had been idly considering the idea of taking an indefinite leave when a new missive marked as urgent had popped up in his personal comm. Oscillating between outright deleting it without even eyeing a word of it and actually readings, he served himself another glass of scotch, emptying the second bottle of the day. He was nearing depletion of his once-priced stash, until recently comprised of choice bottles of rare vintages all gifts of dignataries for his exceptional services.

“Let us go, then,” Sahaykwisā moved closer, a full three inches taller than Daryn, and cupped his face to place a tender kiss on his mouth.”I am glad that you are with me now, love. I am so glad.” Those dark, almonds stared out at him from Sahaykwisā’s face communicating emotions bigger than he could ever hope to hold inside his own heart.

Finally, Daryn had decided to take a gander at the communiqué and called up the display on his wall-screen. It was official, from Central Summit. He was officially transferred as personal detail of Sahaykwisā for lifetime tenure, if he accepted, read the letter.

He was taken aback, scarcely believing what he had read, despite reading it over and over without blinking until he thought his eyes would burn right out of their sockets, tears welling. Line by line by line, he read ad nauseam.

                He couldn’t believe, even though it was his salvation, his reason to come back to life. His Phoenix Down. He was effectively brought back to life by the insinuation hidden behind the official missive.

                Thus he had been brought into Sahaykwisā’s circle. There had been a great many unusual demands, improper demands, made from Daryn throughout the years as an Ensign. Absurd, affronting, some requests downright ludicrous. Sahaykwisā had never asked anything of him other than his presence and a few words. However, with hwa it had recently become something else, after the previous night.

                                                **********************

 

Hwame. Two-spirit. A person who is both male and female at once, spiritually, though sometimes physically as well. Among many of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, especially in the Northern regions of the continent, before the arrival of the European invaders with their retrograde ideologies, a two-spirit or Hwame was a person who is held in high esteem and normally appointed to prestigious and powerful positions. In the wake of the cessation wars that racked the former United States of America, many of the native peoples banded together and reclaimed their ancestral lands with the help of their then-estranged brothers in Mexican territory. The retaking of their ancient homes coincided with a spiritual revival of their traditions and some of the views and concepts which had long been forgotten came back into the collective psyche of the peoples, disseminated by the shamans of each tribe.  The Hwame, therefore, became something important to the peoples again, no longer viewed as an aberration as it was in the views of the white man who had poisoned their culture.

Hwames were rare, however. So when one is identified, from childhood, they are brought up under very strict regimens and must fulfill very high expectations. They are both privileged and burdened. The hopes and desires of their people ride on their shoulders, never entirely their own persons but belonging to their nations.

Over the decades since the indigenous peoples gained sovereignity, Hwames have come to be recognized as a third gender, given the third-person personal pronoun “hwa”, so that the stalwarts “he” and “she” – and perhaps even “it” – no longer caused confusion. The UN made it official thirty years after the emancipation of the Mojave nation.

                                                **********************

 

            The events of the previous night had been something beyond Daryn’s wildest dreams. Having arrived at the Mojave capital’s airforce base in Death Valley, he had been greeted by familiar faces from the Mojave Nation’s delegation, many of which had accompanied Sahaykwisā as part of her entourage when at the Summit.

            No time was wasted in getting him to Sahaykwisā’s house, a stone carved manor of sorts, minimalistic for the most part, yet opulent in its simplicity. He had never seen pictures of it, no one outside her inner circle had.

            He was bidden to go inside by himself, to enter into hwa home. “Hwa is expecting you, mind, do not delay,” said one of the familiar faces whom had ridden along with Daryn in the luxury vehicle.

            He hesitated for a moment before taken the few steps to the front door and looking up so that the security camera could scan his facial features. A second later the unassuming wooden door was opened by the automatic mechanism that managed the basic functions of the house. He walked in.

            No sooner had he stepped more than ten steps into the spacious living room when Sahaykwisā’s tall figure came into view, a smile unlike any he had seen before beaming on hwa face. Dumbstruck and frozen by both relief and excitement, anticipation, Daryn didn’t move until hwa walked up and took his hand, a conspiratorial look and a mischievous turn to the grin.

            Sahaykwisā led him into hwa chamber and there sat him down on hwa bed. Hwa was wearing a green, silk robe that hwa began to undo. Daryn felt the breath catch in his throat as he realized what was about to happen.

            The spectacle unfolded before his eyes as if in slow motion, his mind seemingly slowing down time so that every single detail could be recorded and saved and cherished, ever at a thought’s reach.

            Sahaykwisā’s robe, it’s chord loosened and undone, was now partially open, hwa’s breasts outlined, their curves teasingly revealed, a dark-tan toned stomach with lines that inevitably drew his sight to the bulge scarcely hidden by the silk thong.

Sahaykwisā’s eyes never looked anywhere but to his face as hwa removed the robe first from one shoulder, than the other, while it somehow still covered hwa breasts. Slowly the robe slide down as if held only by the rigidity of hwa nipples, dark areolas hinting at their magnificence, until it lay on the floor.

Sahaykwisā stood proud and regal, elegant, with an inviting smile before him. He became aware of the tightness of his own trousers and stood, no longer able to bear the distance between their bodies. Hwa removed his shirt swiftly, expertly, and in seconds he stood naked before hwa.

They kissed, for the first time, and it was fire and ice on his lips, flowing through his veins. His every heartbeat a triumphant thrum of a sensation he had never felt before. Embracing, feeling hwa naked body, the firm warmth of hwa breasts and the even firmer steel of hwa cock touching his own.

Hwa long, dark, thick hair smelled of vanilla and spice, both soft and strong, and it made him yearn to taste every inch of hwa body. He bit the neck gently and felt Sahaykwisā’s breath catch in staccato cadence, hwa hand gripping the hair on the back of his head while the other stroked his manhood. He moved down to hwa glorious breasts, the smell of them driving him insane with ravenous desire.

He lifted hwa, though hwa was taller he was the stronger, and gently placed hwa on the bed, laid down. Sahaykwisā’s eyes were burning for him, a new light shining like the sun, and he went further south and place hwa steel in his mouth, tasting the sweet discharge on its head as hwa moaned the deepest, most sensual moans Daryn had ever heard.

They made love for hours, plunging inside each other one time after another until their bodies were sore and they could listen to their desire no longer. When they held each other for their bodies were spent and, despite the fires still burning, they could no longer act, they spoke of love and all they meant to each other.

Sahaykwisā apologized for the recent slight; it had been something hwa devised to confirm or deny hwa feelings about Daryn. Hwa had been miserable despite appearing cold and distant, the very semblance of diplomacy as always. He told hwa of his bleakness, how dead he felt, how lost. Hwa smiled sweetly and, looking into his eyes with those dark, almond pools of hwas, said that they were now together until their time on Earth was done, and perhaps even beyond.

                                    **********************

 

            The conference was already underway by the time Sahaykwisā and Daryn, along with the usual hangers-on and political aides, arrived at the auditorium. Hwa was not pleased with being late but would have to suffer through the minor slight, taking hwa place on the long desk by the podium. It would be hwa turn soon.

            Daryn, in the meantime, found a good spot away from the eyes of the crowd – which was comprised mostly of other diplomats like Sahaykwisā and select members of the world press – that offered a great vantage point from where he could keep a good eye on hwa and detect any possible threat from most directions. It wasn’t perfect, but there never was a perfect position under any situation in real life.

            There were a few other persons with him, likely stage aides and security detail. Daryn, having reached the highest point in his life the night before when he saw into Sahaykwisā’s eyes and found his soul’s home, could not disassociate himself from the growing feeling of irritation at Sahaykwisā having to attend this conference. He knew, logically, that it was hwa duty as chief of the Mojave Nation, but still he could not shake the feeling. It grew, like some monster in a dark dungeon.

            He listened to the current speaker, some African country’s prime minister or somesuch, as he delivered a terribly cliché address on the subject of the diamond trade. The cause, Daryn agreed, was a dire one, but the manner in which the speaker appealed to the attendees was, for lack of a better word, bordering on bathetic.

            There was something about the man’s voice, as well, that made him feel quite bothered. He was feeling splenetic, if not outright pugnacious, and he knew it was irrational of him to feel this way about a man he had never seen before advocating a fair and deserving cause. He wondered what the hell was wrong with him, why his current mood?

            It was then that he began to notice that the small, pudgy, balding man next to him was muttering under his breath. It was hard to discern at first but he was clearly saying something and he had a look of deep concentration on his face. The little pudgy man with the terrible combover was sweating quite profusely and appeared to be staring at nothing in particular in the space a few feet in front of him.

            Echolalia, he thought; he’s repeating every word the speaker is saying. Odd little man, likely suffering some sort of psychotic breakdown or perhaps just displaying some extreme kind of nervous tick, he thought. Daryn considered calling for a doctor or paramedic, was about to get the pudgy man some attention, when the crowd exploded in applause. The African speaker had concluded his address and it was now Sahaykwisā’s turn on the podium.

            Hwa rose and walked regally, as always, to the podium and began to address the attendees in the sprechgesang-like style of oratory Sahaykwisā had become known for. An articulate style that used the cadences and rhythms of words in such a manner that it would act in songlike manner to pull at the listener’s heart strings, in a manner of speaking. It never failed to stir emotions.

            Daryn felt his apprehension grow, which he found most troubling; he had always found Sahaykwisā’s oratory to be soothing, at the very least. Something was wrong. Something was wrong.

            He realized that he was feeling heavy, his muscles weighed down by gravity doubled, tripled, and he moved as if in a hazy dream. The pudgy man next to him, in the throes of echolalia’s mimicry, was turning a shade of red. Then he understood, he saw, he observed; the man was not mimicking, the words trailing hardly a second after Sahaykwisā spoke them. He was keeping up, delivering the muttered rendition of hwa speech on tempo, verbatim.

            He felt the sudden urge to tackle the little man with the combover, to punch him, anything to cease the mutters, to halt his terrible, horrible noise. He didn’t know why, but he didn’t fight it. He moved, or attempted to, but his body was as heavy as before. He was useless. He wanted to cry out, to scream, but nothing, not one part of his body, would obey him.

            Silence. The onset of something, signaled by the swift removal of sound from the world, vacuumed into nothingness. The absolute absence of sound, then the return inexorable thereof, in all its horrid, inevitable fury…

            And with sound, burst Sahaykwisā, and the crowd, and the diplomats and the press, and only the pudgy man, the handful of people around him, and Daryn would were hole. Everyone but them, everyone had become a flesh-and-blood star gone nova, a gore-laden star, the universal constant of entropy recreated in wet, warm detail.

                                    **********************

 

            Daryn woke up, drenched in sweat. He was in his tent. It had to be the middle of the night, judging by the darkness. He had dreamed of it again, the day of the incident.

            In Death Valley there was always a strange sense of the maritime, in an undead, ghostly sort of way. Being so far below sea level, perhaps, had that effect. Or perhaps it was the ancient past of the place, having likely been covered in water millennia ago. Perhaps the ancient spirits of the fauna and other, stranger beings haunted the valley, restless.

                The orgone was strong, here. The powers of the Earth itself and the ancestors of the Mojave, among other peoples that inhabited this land. He would find the way to avenge Sahaykwisā. He would find a way to learn how to kill the pudgy-little-baldy. He would find the way to make hwa proud and perhaps, someday, join Sahaykwisā in the next world.