Thursday, February 8, 2018

Neon Gods Chapter 1!!!!

Outside, the rain was relentless and bashed against the window. Booms reverberated through the walls of the dingy dust addled speakeasy motel. A single twelve inch television displayed snow as streams of bright yellow light spilled in from half closed blinds at the window.
On the bed, a man lay sleeping. Covered from head to toe in a bed sheet, sweat from his chest and forehead seeped into the cotton. As he gasped, the sheet rose gently off his face. Somewhere in the motel, a couple was arguing. Screams could be heard over angry thunder.
The man jolted awake and sat up.
“Father?” he grabbed the sheet, pulling it off.
Squinting and shaking his head, he heard the storm outside. It was so loud. Unbearable. Covering his ears he fell out of bed. He stared in bewilderment at the chaos on television. A large bang outside the door made him flinch. Father it hurts.
Covering his head, he tried to block out the sounds but they consumed him. He retreated to the corner of the room while sweat streamed down his face. A slow, guttural wail echoed through walls.
Shaking, he crawled on hands and knees to the door. He turned the knob and on wobbling knees stepped outside.
A woman was standing outside the next room. She glanced over and smirked.
“Go put on some clothes bum.”
The man blinked sweat out of his eyes. Lip trembling, he looked out in horror at the city street in front of him. As car horns blared and sirens sing past, the man stared at the scars on his wrists. Oh God no. He touched his face as if feeling it for the first time. Shivering, he wrapped his arms close to his body and noticed his teeth chattering. Father help me.
The man noticed a light emanating from above the street. Like a beacon, it blinked above as vehicles shot past underneath. The light. In the light with Father.  The man stepped out the motel door and into the road. He stumbled in the direction of the lamp. Barefoot on the slick street, he slipped and almost tumbled as a car narrowly missed him.
Then he was blinded. Unable to see through tears and the headlights of traffic, he dropped to his knees and began to pray. Hands in front of him, eyes closed to the world, he cried out. “Father!”
Suddenly, arms were pulling him out of the street. A beer bottle was thrown from a passing car and shattered in front of him.
“Come on!” A woman hissed. “You’re gonna get yourself killed!” Uncomprehending, the man shook his head. The pain like fire all over his body, he glanced down at his feet and hands. Oh God, where am I? The woman shrugged. “I don’t understand your language. You speak English?”
The man stared blankly at her. He slumped down to the ground. Dirt smudged, slimy and glistening, he knelt in a shallow pool.  Sheol. I’m in Sheol. The woman put a hand on his shoulder and he recoiled violently.
“Get away from me Shade! You are forbidden!”
He lurched back and stumbles.
“Hey asshole! I just saved your skinny ass from being road kill.”
The man stumbled backward. His eyes wild with fear.
“I don’t know what language that is but it sounds Jewish. Are you a tourist?”
The man squinted as if seeing her for the first time. “Jehovah.” He blurted and looked around him as if expecting something to come out of the solid black darkness and consume him. “Jehovah.” He repeated.
The woman nodded, looked at him strangely. “I’m Sarah. Come on, let’s get you inside.”

Neon Gods
For the alchemist, the one primarily in need of redemption is not man, but the deity who is lost and sleeping in matter. - Carl Jung


                       
Chapter 1


The edge of the cliff face jutted out like broken teeth. A long, steep climb, Detective Hank Dolan panted heavily and waved away mosquitoes. Hearing cars on the turnpike, he cursed the morning sun silently wishing he was still in bed. He had received a tip that a body lay nearby matching the description of a missing woman three months prior. He despised these assignments. They rarely turned out well. Hank closed his eyes and tried to feel the breeze that served as small comfort to the summer heat that would soon be beating down onto them. “It’s supposed to be in this general area.” Gregg said.
A relic from Hank’s better days, Gregg Summers could always be counted on to be there when needed. Round and cheeky, Gregg was the perfect opposite to Hank’s gangly and finch like stature.
Hank stepped into some thorny underbrush and grabbed a tree for support. Contrary to popular belief, not all of New Los Angeles is sprawling buildings, rail lines, and taxi-cabs. There are lush areas of green, small patches of unkempt vegetation. From above, the city proper reminds one of an upside down chandelier. Countless lamps and mirrored windows bounce light in all directions. But on the Hilltop, a hiking trail and shoddy camp ground where Hank now stood, short grassy outcrops were surrounded by clusters of dense, small trees. Twigs crackled underneath Hank’s boots as he worked his way off the trail.   
It’s not all ugly just most of it. Hank thought dryly.
He was positioning himself on a plateau overlooking the city below when Gregg called out.
“Dammit! Over here!”
Hank rolled down his sleeves and put on some latex gloves as he maneuvered to where Gregg was staring at his feet and glowering.
Just then the smell hit him. Putrid and wan, Hank felt bile rise in his throat. He shuffled over and together they gazed down at the body. There were lacerations on her back from being cut repeatedly. Her knotted brown hair covered in dirt and wet leaves reminded Hank of Ophelia.
“Do you think it’s her?” Gregg asked.
Hank grimaced and held his breath. “Possibly.”
He knelt down and rolled her to her side. Her ghostly, barren eyes had been olive. High cheekbones and pouty lips completed a wiry pretty picture. He gingerly lifted her left arm and sighed. There it was. The identifying tattoo that would make her his mark.
“It’s her.” He mumbled.
Gregg walked to the opposite side and leaned down. “Look at her neck.” He said. Dark purple bruising about an inch thick covered her throat. Splotches of blood and serrated skin indicated rope as the probable cause of death.
Gregg turned to stand then stopped, his eyes narrowing. “What’s in her hand?” Her broken, naked body had been turned in a way that Hank had initially missed the scourge.
“What the hell?” Gregg picked it up and scowled. “She did this to herself?” The rope had been braided into three prongs with wax balls at the ends. Each ball was covered in pieces of glass. Largely a Christian practice, Hank knew that flagellation was used as an extreme way for the devout to feel god’s love.
 Hank nodded. “The wounds on her back and legs, maybe.” Lifting her hand, Hank couldn’t help but notice her knuckles were bone white. “She’s still clutching it.” As he laid her hand back down, he noticed a piece of rope not attached to the scourge.
Hidden underneath her body and surrounded in brush, this rope was thicker and probably used to tow cars. “Wait a minute.”
He cradled the back of the woman’s head and lifted it just enough to run his hand in the brush under her. Together, they pulled four feet of frayed rope from under her body.
“Could be a cult. The city is nuts right now with all this talk of gods and goddesses.” Gregg remarked.
Hank had to admit that he brought up a good point. The flagellation alone spoke of Christian obsession. Perhaps she was a religious extremist who fell in with the wrong cult. Hank looked up to see Gregg staring at him. “What is it?”
Gregg cleared his throat. “You don’t think...maybe she was one of them?” Hank looked down at her face. They say the gods and goddesses are all beautiful. As if the fall from grace didn’t mar their physical countenance. And she was beautiful. Stunningly so. “It’s possible.”
Gregg circled back and bent down to examine the tattoo on her ribcage. “So she’s part of a cult and she’s doing this-” He points to her scourge marks. “-and her people, what, sacrifice her or something?”
Hank shook his head. “I don’t think so. It’s more likely a suicide. Plus, if there had been some ritual, the brush around here would be all flattened.”
He held up the noose then glanced at the broken tree branch resting next to it. “I think she came here to die.” Hank thought back to what his partner had said about the possibility the girl was Descended.
Gregg searching his face nodded. “They’re human now right? They do die.”
Hank’s eyes lingered on her face. He noticed the sharp contours and wondered if she too should be included in the case file of the serial that had been terrorizing New Los Angeles for the past year.
That would make twenty four now. Twenty four bodies.
“I don’t know that they’ll ever be human. But they’re here nevertheless.”

The billboard, a sprawling mosaic of reds and blues was plastered on the Basement wall just above where Sadie Fuller stood. Lilac and lemon.
That’s what Sadie thought about as she waited for the Basement doors to open. This personal mantra had been hers for as long as she could remember. Both an affirmation and source of strength, she’d repeat the phrase whenever she needed it. It was a part of her, like her phobias, like her dancing. It made her think of sun tea, of purple light and flaxen yellow. Lilac and lemon. She looked up at it. A glossy picture of the headliner. Three accent lights cascaded a dull glow on the face of Jesus Christ and his band mates. The Messiah’s dark sunglasses and grizzled face leered out in the typical rock and roll pose. Around the corner and still thirty minutes before doors open, ushers herded ticket holders in line.
Sadie called herself a fan, which she knew was not wholly true because she had never really heard Jesus Christ Superstar’s music. But the man was a Descendant, a god that fell to earth, along with all the other gods, less than two years ago. Jesus had become a bona fide rock star. Such facts were hard to believe, if belief was even a thing anymore. For Sadie it was hard to tell. Much of the human experiences of myth and religion had become strange or irrelevant after the Descendance. This was a depressing admission but faith had never been something she’d had a strong connection to. And now there was no need for it at all.
Still, she was here waiting in line for the concert. There was clearly some attraction she held with the former god. She assumed it was curious fascination and accepted it as much.
Sadie made sure her gloves were covering all areas of bare skin on her hands. She checked for any holes or tears in the cotton, stretching each finger until she was sure there was no risk of contamination. She seldom had any problems when she went out in public but then again she didn’t attend many rock concerts either. Sadie fingered the backstage pass that hanged around her neck. It would likely be a total madhouse after the show. Who knew how many of these passes had been sold? Patrick wasn’t saying. Her date for the evening, the aspiring businessman had made all the arrangements and refused any elaboration on how much it had cost. Sadie glanced at him then back at her shoes. He wasn’t unattractive. Deep set brown eyes and tall. A tattoo on his left shoulder blade. She supposed they looked good together. The kind of couple you’d see on a sitcom or daytime television show. They had met a short time ago at her job. She had taken his drink orders, an ordinary task she did a hundred times a night only this night she had been lonely and got taken in by his attention. She had agreed to tonight’s date before even knowing his name. Her intuition told her that nothing would come of it. She certainly wouldn’t be going home with him. (He seemed desperate to be coddled and that shit got old fast.) But she was here and rumors were the Messiah put on a helluva good show.
Anticipation grew in Sadie as they moved past a merchant kiosk strategically set up on the way to the Basement front entrance. She put her hands on a t-shirt and key chain, getting a feel of them through her gloves.
“Which one do you like best?” Patrick asked. His voice was a cheery tenor.
“Oh, you don’t have to. I was just looking.” Sadie said.
“I want to.” Patrick replied quickly. “What size do you wear?”
He picked out a black shirt, paid the attendant, then handed it over. Sadie held up a smiling visage of a large black woman pointing to a cross in the sky and saying in bold lettering: ‘Y’all motherfuckers need Jesus!’ Sadie giggled and fit the shirt on over her tank top. She was relieved to be covered a bit. She tied a knot at the bottom showing some midriff but made sure to turn away whenever Patrick’s hands got too close to her bare skin. She looked ahead in line and noticed that ushers had opened the doors. Finally. She thought. She had been doing great working though her phobias but that didn’t mean she was without moments of panic. Patrick had also gotten quiet and she wondered if he was getting bored as well.
As they got inside the vibe changed completely. The drab waiting was replaced with a sulfuric quality combined with the heat of vibrating bodies. The Basement wasn’t a large venue. Designed for an intimate show, the lobby was adorned with band posters and stickers. High bricked walls and three large green lamps overhead spilled a misty fog of neon light in the room. It reminded Sadie of an arcade. The crowd would be jam packed, she knew, hoping that she didn’t get in there and start to freak out. Sadie admitted that she was starting to wish she had stayed home. Am I already contaminated? She fingered her back stage pass. Getting these would be worth the waves of nausea that she could feel churning in her stomach. Directly ahead, she could see people entering the nightclub, inside the clangs of instruments being tuned drifted out into the lobby. Sadie moved that way and peered in, eyes squinting as she passed into the darkened room.

Sadie stepped away from the low gate separating her from the band and turned directly into a kiss from Patrick. His hand on her behind, he smiled down at her. Just feet from a cabinet of speakers, her ears rang. She fixed her attention back to the stage, marveling on the Descendant. He was sinewy, tan and wore only a ragged pair of shorts. His long hair covering his face as he played, he seemed in trance or perhaps praying. Sadie probed ahead and could feel stage lighting warm the base of her skull. The band had kicked into a slow, melodic tune. Rising scales built in intensity until reaching a tone of exaltation then were improvised in peculiar phrases. Sadie saw the adoring reverence in Patrick’s eyes. The crowd’s reaction was similar. It was like being at a religious revival. Hundreds of arms reached out to the stage, trying to pull the Savior towards them. Audience members stamped their feet and shook their heads. It was the Lord’s prayer. It was a sermon on stage. The front rows felt like being underwater. Sadie’s ears popped and she swallowed to relieve the pressure. She straightened and put her hands out to the stage. Christ lifted his head for a moment, bringing his eyes level to hers. A crooked smile came to his face. Sadie blushed. She thought of the many people that traveled with the band, attending every show they performed. She could understand the attraction. No other concert was quite like this. And she knew it wasn’t just the music. They wanted much more than music.    The power of Jesus Christ was unknowable even as it came into your soul like milk and honey. We want you to save us but we don’t want you do die for us. Not again. This is what the concert was designed for. A new peace flowed through her. She closed her eyes, her body vibrated with a deep bass that rumbled through the venue. She took a deep breath and it was as if the noise of the crowd had disappeared. She was alone with the music and it was glorious. 

The halls backstage are dusty. Sadie Fuller thought as she meandered through the corridors of the Basement. Under blinking fluorescents and throngs of drunken groupies and roadies, the otherwordly quality of the music had penetrated into the chipped plaster and peeled wallpaper of the venue interior. 
Her long raven hair matted down in places, Sadie could feel sweat beaded on her forehead and neck. Her evergreen eyes darted up and around not settling on one particular thing for too long. At her side, Patrick walked a little too close, his arm brushing up against her as they wove their way backstage.
The area was a large open space littered with a bar and fold out chairs. To Sadie, the words ‘red room’ came to mind because blood red accent lights hanged haphazardly to the walls. She smelled stale cigarette smoke and spilled beer and resisted the onset of a headache. She tucked her hands under her armpits and cringed as people were shoved into her. There are too many people in here. Fans swarmed the dressing room door, their patience growing thin. 
Approaching a lanky, clearly drunk Sid Vicious lookalike, Sadie turned away as he grabbed her bare arm just under the t-shirt sleeve and pulled her towards him.
“You wanna candy flip babe? I got some pure liquid if you party.”
“Get off me.”
She pulled out of his grasp and looked down to see dirt marks on her arm and  her knitted glove torn at the left thumb. She gagged and felt her forehead get hot.
“Is there a bathroom around here?”
“We can go there if you want.” The man replied. Sadie turned to go and bumped into somebody that had basically been on top of her. “Fuck!” She turned back and he was within kissing distance. Sadie recoiled, pushing his head away. Then she noticed that what she initially thought as dirt on the man’s forehead was actually a round tattoo. She pulled her hand away as he grabbed the sides of his face. The man doubled over and cursed, staring up at her through hate filled eyes. “Bitch! The gods are impotent, who are you really here to see?”
“Bad batch?” She replied and ducked under a taller man’s arm toward the restroom.
Sadie took out an old 35mm film canister. She felt its cool smoothness and popped the lid. Inside was a small mound of cut white powder. It looked soft as cotton. She went to the bath stall and didn’t bother sitting. She stripped off the glove and dipped a blood red fingernail into the canister. A hard pull, delicious warmth on her face. Her breathing sped up, a gorgeous lucidity seeped through her pores. She dipped the finger in again, sniff, delicious warmth. She replaced the lid on the canister and dropped it into her bag.
The glove had a tear in it. Sadie thought as she furiously scrubbed her hands at the sink. The glove had a tear in it. It was probably torn all day. The entire time I was out. I’ve picked up something. I’m sick. It was torn all day. She frantically scrubbed until her thumb was grazed and raw. Her own words echoed through her skull like a curse. It echoed and echoed. An admonishment of her carelessness. Somewhere in her mind, she knew she was in the grip of an episode but couldn’t change the channel. Sadie clasped her hands in front of her and gritted her teeth. The voice never stopped. Had it happened during the show? Before? How could she have not known? She tried to calm her breathing, going through every exercise her doctor had recommended but the dizziness made her feel out of body. She thought she might vomit.
Sadie dug into her pocket, clutched a bottle of paroxetine and pried open up the cap. She tasted chalk in the back of her throat, popped a handful chewing them like candy.     
The glove had a tear in it. The glove had a tear in it. Sadie ripped herself away from the sink. How long was I standing there? Twenty minutes? Half hour? The glove had a tear in it. She went rigid and slowly turned the water off. There. Sadie counted to five then exited the restroom but knew she’d need to wash again soon.
Just then the dressing room door opened. As Sadie turned, a panting and soaked through Jesus Christ emerged carrying his acoustic guitar. His bandmates followed close behind, some holding instruments. Are we getting another encore?  The decimal level backstage shot to deafening. The reddish hues backstage looked strange on the Messiah. With his hair covering his face, the darkened room made black, shadowed sockets where his eyes should be. Sadie shook her head.   
In a fraction of a second, Sadie saw Jesus fall back, a reddening polka dot on his chest began to grow. Sadie blinked, unable to process what she was seeing. Suddenly, a panicked shout rang out in front of her. Then another and another. The crowd in front swelled and ebbed and flowed. It suffocated her, swallowed her in hot breathing and shrieks. She felt herself pulled in all directions. A hard shove sent her to her knees.
Anguished onlookers covered their mouths in disbelief. Out of the corner of her eye, Sadie caught a glimpse of shadows, dark silhouettes on the walls and floor. On a raised platform, she stood motionless. Her hands trembling. Finally, somebody yanked her arm, tearing the glove from her left wrist all the way off. She gasped and began to scream soundlessly. An inaudible wail. She tumbled forward and felt a sharp blow on her head then right leg. Her body burned but her thoughts were on the exposed hand that was now dirty, contaminated. She could feel the parasites worming into her skin, boring through muscle and into her blood. She fell. Her face slapped against beer soaked concrete. Then she was up and kicked again as somebody tumbled over her. Sadie scrambled to her feet and made her way down the long winding corridors of the club. She stepped on her own shoelace and veered hard into a wall. Groaning, she turned left and nearly ran over a young man holding his head and moaning. She made another left and was calculating her chances of actually getting out of the club in one piece when she saw a crowd of people at the exit climbing on top of one another like ants.
She could see outside light just feet in front of her but was unable to move in the jam of bodies. So close. I’m almost out.
By the time she reached the exit, Sadie was shaking violently. Her phobias jolted into something inhuman, she gasped in short choppy wheezes. She began to lash out at everything around her. A roaring in her ears told her she was close to passing out. She could feel herself getting lightheaded and spots were appearing in front of her eyes. There was no sign of Patrick. Had he made it out? She looked down at her new t-shirt and noticed it was torn and soiled. She gagged again, vomited in front of her.
When she burst out of the club, the cool air kissed her cheek. Sadie tried to focus on getting away from the doors but it was too late. Darkness was coming. She stumbled into an intersection adjacent to the club entrance and felt herself begin to fall. Then there was nothing.

What the hell? Eli Fray thought. Standing slack-jawed at the entrance of the Basement, a herd of screaming people were flooding out of the Club at breakneck speed. All were disheveled and some had blood on their clothing. Most had a faraway, glazed look in their eyes.
Somewhere in the distance sirens were shrieking. Eli bent to help a young woman who had dropped to her knees, her sudden unexpected scream filling the parking lot. He had never seen so many bewildered people stumble around in a daze, their phones buzzing and voices calling out for loved ones. He  shuddered feeling wet and cold. 
When Sadie materialized through the doors she was bathed in milky light. Acutely unaware of her surroundings, she gazed around with a blank stare.  Wearing shorts and a blood-spattered t shirt, her ponytail was caked in dirt and cut hands were shaking wildly. “I’ve got blood in my hair.” She stammered. Then she fell at his feet. Eli scooped her up and pulled her to the curb. Laying her head on his lap, he opened his water bottle and sprinkled some on her forehead and face.
“Sadie! Sadie, wake up.” She stirred as police cruisers rounded the corner and officers spilled out with weapons drawn. “Sadie you have to get up, the police are here.”
Soon, tape had been set up around the Basement and statements were being taken. Witnesses wept and screamed. Some demanded to go home but it was obvious that nobody was leaving until NLAPD had interviewed everybody in the parking lot.
“What did you see son?” A graying officer asked as he knelt and glanced down at Sadie.
“I wasn’t there. I came to pick her up after.”
He lifted the lanyard. “She was backstage?”
“Yeah, I guess. I don’t really know.”
“I was backstage.” Sadie said weakly.
The officer nodded, giving it more emphasis than was needed. He held out a hand. “I’m officer Clement. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
Sadie burst out laughing, while Eli looked at her worriedly. “Nows not good for me. Can you call back another time?”
“Ma'am it will only take a minute. We’re trying to piece together what happened in there.”
Sadie turned to watch as other concert goers huddled together discussing what had happened. They appeared to be comparing notes.
“Somebody had a knife.” She whispered.
“Yes. There are reports of a stabbing. Did you see any more?”
“No, just one.”
Sadie kept her eyes moving unable to focus on one single detail. She didn’t want any of this burned into her memory. As it was, there were flashes she wouldn’t be able to forget. Images of blood and glass, tears and silent screams. Sadie put her hands to her eyes.
“Can she come down to the station tomorrow?” Eli asked.
From somewhere far away, Sadie heard a faint Yes and drifted off into a restless sleep.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Sadie chapter excerpt.

Here's a bit w/ our Protagonist. Sadie's just trying to figure all this out...like all of us maybe.


Sadie kept walking. Past McArthur blvd up 21st street and left towards the city museum. Although not really a slum part of the city, trash still lined the gutters and storm drains, the acrid smell of it wafted in the air. A spring in her step, the cooler day was welcome on her already lightly sunburned shoulders and neck.
Sadie sank into her own thoughts, remembering a melody she danced to the previous year. It had been a simple piano melody with violins. She hummed the theme, recalling the steps. She wished she knew the title and resolved to find the music.
How tempting it was to walk right past the museum onto a freeway onramp, cross the Bay Bridge and stroll right out of New Los Angeles. The thought unnerved her some. She had never considered leaving the city. Was she truly this unhappy?
"Hey you got any spare change?" A man asked her as she passed. He was slumped against a building, youthful face, cutting eyes and petulant mouth glared at her from underneath the brim of a baseball cap.
"No." She replied and kept walking. She waited until a few steps past before she exhaled.
Up ahead, she spied a bundle of blankets rested underneath the canopy of a local restaurant. As she came up on it, the blanket moved. Sadie bent assuming somebody had left their puppy in the shade while they went and got food. As least leave a water dish. She thought perturbed.
Then the bundle began to cry. A tiny wail as from a newborn. Sadie leaned over the crocheted blanket, her hands deftly uncovering the top of a baby's head. She looked further and big brown eyes stared up at her. 
"Hi there." Sadie said.
She looked up and down the wide street then through the restaurant window, placing her face right to the glass. Unable to see through the glare, she again fixed on the baby.
"Who do you belong to?" She asked.
The little boy squawked, kicked his legs out and began to cry harder.
"Alright." Sadie cooed.
She sat down, her back against the building and picked up the bundle, cradling it in her lap. She bent and kissed the little boy on his forehead. Her long arms around the baby, her fingers gripped the blanket tightly, securing the child from rolling out of her grasp.
"I'll stay with you until your mom shows up." She said.
Sadie had never held a baby before. She wasn't sure if she was doing it right. She had heard that a baby's neck has to be held secure so angled the boy in the crook between her forearm and bicep, brushing his soft, silky hairs onto his forehead.
"What is your name?" She asked.
The boy cried harder, clearly becoming more annoyed with the situation. Sadie looked around for some clue as to the mother, squinting into the restaurant window.
"Shit."
The baby's pudgy arms waved around as he bawled harder. Sadie shuddered. A feeling of exasperation creeping into her.
"Are you hungry?"
She sighed as the baby responded by screaming. She looked again inside the restaurant. The traffic on the sidewalk having changed. More people were around, bustling past her from both directions, as if just going to or leaving work.
Sadie could not understand why any mother would just leave her hungry baby unattended on a busy goddamn sidewalk. It was galling.
Sadie looked down at the face of the child, his deep set somber eyes stared back at her. Then, without knowing why she was doing it, she reached around, pulling her tank top to the side. She deftly slid her engorged breast out of the cup of her bra. Sadie shifted the baby higher up to her chest and angled his mouth onto her nipple.
The sensation was strange, even stranger the fact that there was milk to be had. As she suckled the child, Sadie reflected on what was happening. Not only was she sitting on a dirty sidewalk in the middle of the day, her fresh clothes getting contaminated, but she was breast feeding a fucking baby.
I'm losing my mind. She thought.
The child's legs kicked happily as he stared up at her. A woman approached from beside the glass door. "Oh, how cute." She exclaimed. 'How old is he?"
"How should I know?" Sadie responded. "I assume this isn't your baby?"
The woman gasped. "Oh my."
"Oh yeah."
Sadie nodded towards the door and angled her face towards the window. "Can you find out who's kid this is? He's about to bite off my nipple."
Just then a cook appeared. His short cropped brown hair tucked under a hair net. The man was cleanly shaved and smelled of too much cologne. "You can't sit here at the door." He began. "Are you feeding that baby?"
"Perceptive one aren't we?" Sadie shot back.
"You can't feed your baby here."
"He's not."
"I can see your breast right now."
"I mean he's not my baby douchebag. Go find his mom."
The man's eyes widened and he stepped back into the establishment. Just then, a shrieking woman with graying hair pushed him aside. A single braid down her back, frantic eyes welled up with tears. To Sadie, she appeared to be Indian, a single dot adorned her forehead. Her feet stumbling out of one of her flip flops as she lunged forward, she wore an azure blue dress that matched the blanket of the boy.
"My baby!" She screamed.
Sadie looked up suddenly, a jolt as if awoken to a loud bang. "Here!" She screamed back.
The baby continued about his business making strange little utterances as he ate. As Sadie pulled away from him, he waved his arms frantically and began to scream. Sadie wondered what the scene must look like to the frightened bystanders standing nearby. All three of them screeching and a baby being handed off like it was a diseased little football.
She backed away and tucked her breast back into her bra. As the mother cried for police, Sadie put her hands on her hips and glowered down at her. "You should be ashamed of yourself. Anything could have happened to that kid. Fucking idiot."
She walked off at a leisurely pace ignoring the strange looks that seemed to be coming from all directions. Sadie turned town down 35th avenue and nearly ran into a working girl standing outside the city theater. The woman hardly seemed to notice. She wasn’t the only one though. All around her, people just seemed off. She had the distinct impression that something had changed following the murder of Jesus Christ. As if a little fire in their souls had been snuffed out. She could still smell the delicious corn dogs sold at the corner food truck. The Farmers Market set up on two adjacent parking lots was still selling ripe fruits and vegetables. But something seemed wrong.
She knew she needed to get back to normal. To carry on with her daily activities. I need to pay rent. She thought absently. But it was hard. She didn’t want to do anything but walk the streets, to share in the solace of the anonymous. Because that’s what it was. Nobody was talking about it but everybody just wanted to be together in sorrow. An unspoken sharing of grief for the Descended Christ.   
Turning the corner onto Main street, she saw the bright pink sign of the Sin Eater just up ahead. A Gentleman’s Club she worked at part time, The Eater was a mixture of scantily clad dancers and watered down alcohol.
Upon entering, the first thing one noticed was the darkened room. It usually took a full minute before Sadie’s eyes adjusted to the dimmed lighting. The smell was a mixture of stale cigarette smoke and sweat. Luckily, Reggie had invested in state of the art central air conditioning that kept the place at a tolerable temperature in the summer.
She had started working at the club immediately after leaving home. Taking dance classes, she had worked her way through school. But the fear of auditioning and the phobias she carried with her made it a struggle. She still danced but not at the Club. It wasn’t that she felt too righteous to dance at a Gentleman’s Club. The dancers at the Sin Eater were talented and many could audition for work outside but she didn’t like the looks she got from the men in the crowd. Being appreciated for your craft is one thing. Getting leered at by drunken middle aged men is something else entirely.
As she held up a middle finger and smiled at the doorman, she habitually counted the number of dancers strutting on the main and side stages. Only four. Slow night. Glancing up, a bikini clad blond woman dipped in glitter and glowing on the main stage winked and waved at her. Freya had been a friend to Sadie from the beginning. She had helped her get the part time job and show her the ropes. Freya was also descended. The only deity Sadie had met prior to Dionysus, the Nordic goddess was somebody she trusted. Her golden mane and come hither smiles always airy, always bright. 
Sadie grinned and pointed to Reggie’s office at the back of the club. Freya nodded and shook her perfectly rounded rear end in that direction. Sadie stepped to the door and turned the knob. Finding it locked, she knocked three times and waited. Nothing. Knocking again, this time more forcefully, she gave it a kick just for good measure. Abruptly, she heard a click and slowly entered the room. Reggie stood there scowling. A brunette dancer, probably new, was straightening her top and trying to evaporate from the room.
“Dammit Sadie.” Reggie said with a slight edge. “What is with you and your timing?” He blew his nose and coughed. A short, pot bellied man who resembled a weasel, the contours of his face were always lost to the jowls that seemed to be his whole face. Sadie smirked.
“Did I interrupt something?” As the girl scurried from the room like a frightened rabbit, Reggie buttoned up his silk purple shirt and ran a hand through his salt and pepper checkered hair. They looked at each other for a few seconds.
“What are you doing dummy?”
“Conducting a job interview.” Reggie answered and motioned for her to sit. “You’ve been gone awhile. Everything alright?”
Sadie lowered her eyes. “Yeah, things are OK.”
Reggie pulled out a small keyring and opened up a cabinet in the corner of the office. He pulled out a small file with her name on it and sat down. “So it’s been five weeks since we last saw you. How much work do you want?”
Sadie leaned forward showing him a bit of her bosom and arched an eyebrow. “I need a couple of weeks.”
Reggie shook his head. “It’s been really slow Sadie. I don’t need extra help to be honest.”
Sadie folded her hands on her lap and looked into his eyes. “I need money.” Her voice cracked on the last word.
Reggie nodded. “Will you dance?” She cringed. “I’m your waitress all weekend.”
Reggie looking bemused, closed his eyes. “You’re always such a pain.”
“That’s why you love me.” Sadie chirped. Just then the door burst open and in came Freya beaming and covered in sweat.
Sadie laughed. “You lost all your glitter.”
Freya winked and put her hands on her hips. “Some guy in the front row said he wanted to lick it off.”
Sadie placed her hands on either side of Freya’s face and brought her in close enough to kiss. “Ew.” She said grinning. Freya slapped Sadie on her behind
“Are you back then? This place really needs some lady girl action!”
Sadie glanced at Reggie and shrugged. “He says it’s too slow.”
Freya scoffed. “It’s fine. Reggie you’re a bullshitter. She stays.” Glaring, she slammed the office door as she left.

Apollo excerpt

Did I introduce you all to Apollo yet? Here's a bit of an early #NeonGods chapter. Dig on it, feel free to email or message on social media. The manuscript is close to beta read and a line edit is coming. Then a publish for all my Descendants headed towards the City.




It was once said that the Greek god Apollo, offspring of Zeus and Leto was born clutching a golden sword. He came into being on Delos along with his twin sister Artemis. According to legend, he was a precocious infant. At his first taste of sweet ambrosia, Apollo transformed from a tiny baby into a grown man.
His second birth wasn't like that. Not at all. Apollo descended behind the wheel of a 1985 Chrysler Lebaron. Speeding down a busy street at half past six on a Saturday afternoon, the god gripped both sides of the steering wheel like he was trying to strangle it.
One or two other drivers noticed the erratic driving and screams, each shaking their head in disappointment. Always a fast learner, the god quickly extrapolated the break from gas pedal and got a feel for the steering. He came to a red light and noticed vehicles around him stopping. Lightly pressing the break, he coasted to a stop and smiled at his traveling prowess.
But the god had yet become acquainted with the automatic gear shift and as he threw the door open and stepped out, the Lebaron lurched forward with no one at the wheel. Around him, other drivers shrieked and pointed in his direction. Some cursed and held up various fingers of their hand. Apollo joined in. He stood and screamed in his native tongue, waving his hands furiously and spitting. He was always a fast learner. Meanwhile, the ghost car traveled unattended up the block and through an intersection before finally careening into the side of a building. Apollo watched it curiously. Where was he? He knew it wasn't Delphi nor his birth place of Delos. This was an isle of man and he was in front of the veil. 
He entered a narrow alley thrown into shadow by adjacent buildings. He could smell food somewhere close and supposed that meat was being laid on the fire. Up ahead, a small structure, lay at the end of the alley. Dark covered windows on both sides of the door, the shanty was was lit by a single bulb suspended like a fake sun. A wooden sign hanged just underneath it. On the sign was a word drawing. He recognized it as Greek immediately. The word meant fortune and luck. Tyche!
The door creaked open and a woman shuffled outside in slippers. She was thin as reeds, long wavy gray hair settled down her back. "I've been waiting for one of you."
The voice was high pitch and cracked. Apollo took a step forward and noticed the woman wasn't looking at him but at something to his right. He turned and saw nothing. Taking another step, he realized the woman had no eyes. Or more succinctly, her lids rested on sightless corneas. She stood still but waved at him in short, jerky movements.
"Get over here goddamnit! I told you you've been expected!"
Apollo had no idea what the woman was talking about but it was clear she was welcoming.
"Where's Tyche?"
"Ah, a Greek!" The woman said. "Come closer. I want to see your face."
Apollo stepped in front of her and took her by the hands. He placed them on his face and waited. She ran her fingers down his cheeks and cupped his chin, then placed her thumbs onto his eyes and ran them up to his forehead. She felt the curls of his hair.
"Which one are ya?"
Apollo removed her gnarled fingers from his face. He stepped beside her and entered the small establishment. It was as downtrodden inside. Lit by candles at each corner, the room was perhaps the size of a small Roman bath. He smelled incense and cat urine as he walked to the center of the room where a single chair and television accompanied a tiny desk covered by newspaper clippings. He wondered vaguely about the papers considering her sight but let it pass. The woman intuiting his question, stepped beside him, ran trembling hands over the headlines as if they were in brail. He bent and read aloud.: "Multiple sources confirmed. The gods have landed."
"Which one are ya boy? Zeus? Orpheus?"
"Apollo."
The woman squealed in delight. "Have you been awake long?"
"Not long."
Apollo allowed himself to be sat in a chair and was given a cup of tea. It was hot and tasted of cinnamon. He let each sip linger on his tongue.
I've been waiting for somebody to show up at my door." She croaked.
"There are others?"
"Oh yes, there are many."
"Where?"
Apollo downed the last of the tea. He placed the cup in her shaking hand.
"More?" She inquired.
Apollo shook his head and as he did, the woman seized his wrist. "With kind eyes you'll see them deity." Her gray face cut into him like a razor. In the dim light it was like looking at a steely metal mold. Apollo recoiled and noticed his senses dulled. The tea.
"Better a sip than a smoke as they say."
Apollo was reminded of the Pythia. Known as the Oracle of Delphi, the Pythia  had got her name from the python that he himself had slain. She had been a powerful prophetess, her mystical operations a supposed mystery.
"Enthusiasmos." He said quietly.
"Ah, you do see!" She beamed at him. Her yellowing teeth and wolfish grin cracked her face into something macabre. "It was always you, dear Apollo. You gave me sight!"
"When did you awake?" He asked.
"Oh, I didn't Descend child. I was born human. But when the stars fell, I witnessed their fiery descent. Your descent.
"You haven't told me where they are."
"Because I don't know!" She spat. "They're around, many from both sides of the ocean."
The woman sat a candle down on the table and struck a match. It took her a couple tried but she got the wick lit, using her index finger and thumb as a guide. She looked up and Apollo swore she could see him.
"There's a storm coming. A big'un."
"What have you seen Pythia?"
The woman cackled and opened the door. Apollo felt the cool summer breeze on his bare arms. Although a warm night, it still brought goosebumps. Or perhaps it was what she said.
"The storm." He prodded.
"Beware it child, the clouds are rolling in angry. Best to find shelter while you can."
Always a riddle. Apollo thought perturbed.  She closed the door leaving Apollo on her doorstep. Then the bulb overhead went black. He looked up into the clear night sky and thought of rain.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Neon Gods Chapter 1

Hello everybody, as I run through the editing process and prepare NeonGods for my betas, I've had a few DM's concerning the scene that gets the action running in the novel. More than one of these messages has been cautionary, a few have told me it's hopelessly blasphemous. This story couldn't and honestly shouldn't begin in any other manner. Still, I want to get an idea of what you all think, So I'm posting an edited Chapter 1 of the novel. It needs another run through but the sentiment of the inciting incident is evident. Feel free to message me or find me on social networking sites if you want to discuss. As it is, enjoy! -P-

 Based on true events


Act I
The Moon

The edge of the cliff face jutted out like broken teeth. A long, steep climb, Detective Hank Dolan panted heavily and waved away mosquitoes. Hearing cars on the turnpike, he cursed the morning sun silently wishing he was still in bed. He had received a tip that a body was discovered matching the description of a woman gone missing three months prior. He despised these assignments. They rarely turned out well. Hank closed his eyes and tried to feel the breeze that served as small comfort to the summer heat that would soon be beating down onto them. “It’s supposed to be in this general area.” Gregg said.
A relic from Hank’s better days, Gregg Summers could always be counted on to be there when needed. Round and cheeky, Gregg was the perfect opposite to Hank’s gangly and finch like stature.
Hank stepped into some thorny underbrush and grabbed a tree for support. Contrary to popular belief, not all of New Los Angeles is sprawling buildings, rail lines, and taxi-cabs. Just outside the city is picturesque landscapes and vineyards. As organic as its people, the city is layered with modernism built on the detritus of the past. From above, its symmetry reminds one of an upside down chandelier. Countless lamps and mirrored windows bounce light in all directions. The city sparkles and shines, its luster polished in the night sky.
It’s not all ugly just most of it. Hank thought dryly.
He was positioning himself on a plateau overlooking the expanse when Gregg called out.
“Dammit! Over here!”
Hank rolled down his sleeves and put on some latex gloves as he maneuvered to where Gregg was staring at his feet and glowering.
Just then the smell hit him. Putrid and wan, Hank felt bile rise in his throat. He shuffled over and together they gazed down at the body. There were lacerations on her back from being cut repeatedly. Her knotted brown hair covered in dirt and wet leaves reminded Hank of Ophelia.
“Do you think it’s her?” Gregg asked.
Hank grimaced and held his breath. “Possibly.”
He knelt down and rolled her to her side Her ghostly, barren eyes had been olive. High cheekbones and pouty lips completed a wiry pretty picture. He gingerly lifted her left arm and sighed. There it was. The identifying tattoo that would make her his mark.
“It’s her.” He mumbled.
Gregg walked to the opposite side and leaned down. “Look at her neck.” He said. Dark purple bruising about an inch thick covered her throat. Splotches of blood and serrated skin indicated rope as the probable cause of death.
Gregg turned to stand then stopped, his eyes narrowing. “What’s in her hand?” Her broken, naked body had been turned in a way that Hank had initially missed the scourge.
“What the hell?” Gregg picked it up and scowled. “She did this to herself?” The rope had been braided into three prongs with wax balls at the ends. Each ball was covered in pieces of glass. Largely a Christian practice, Hank knew that flagellation was used as an extreme way for the devout to feel god’s love.
 Hank nodded. “The wounds on her back and legs, maybe.” Lifting her hand, Hank couldn’t help but notice her knuckles were bone white. “She’s still clutching it.” As he laid her hand back down, he noticed a piece of rope not attached to the scourge.
Hidden underneath her body and surrounded in brush, this rope was thicker and probably used to tow cars. “Wait a minute.” He cradled the back of the woman’s head and lifted it just enough to run his hand in the brush under her. They pulled four feet of frayed rope from under her body.
“Could be a cult. The city is nuts right now with all this talk of gods and goddesses.” Gregg remarked.
Hank had to admit that he brought up a good point. The flagellation alone spoke of Christian obsession. Perhaps she was a religious extremist who fell in with the wrong cult. Hank looked up to see Gregg staring at him. “What is it?”
Gregg cleared his throat. “You don’t think...maybe she was one of them?” Hank looked down at her face. They say the gods and goddesses are all beautiful. As if the fall from grace didn’t mar their physical countenance. And she was beautiful. Stunningly so. “It’s possible.”
Gregg circled back and bent down to examine the tattoo on her ribcage. “So she’s part of a cult and she’s doing this-” He points to her scourge marks. “-and her people, what, sacrifice her or something?”
Hank shook his head. “I don’t think so. It’s more likely a suicide. Plus, if there had been some ritual, the brush around here would be all flattened.”
He held up the noose then glanced at the broken tree branch resting next to it. “I think she came here to die.” Hank thought back to what his partner had said about the possibility the girl was Descended.
Gregg searching his face nodded. “They’re human now right? They do die.”
Hank’s eyes lingered on her face. He noticed the sharp contours and wondered if she too should be included in the case file of the serial that had been terrorizing New Los Angeles for the past year.
That would make twenty four now. Twenty four bodies.
“I don’t know that they’ll ever be human. But they’re here nevertheless.”

The billboard, a sprawling mosaic of reds and blues was plastered on the Basement wall just above where Sadie Fuller stood. Lilac and lemon.
That’s what Sadie thought about as she waited for the Basement doors to open. This personal mantra had been hers for as long as she could remember. Both an affirmation and source of strength, she’d repeat the phrase whenever she needed it. It was a part of her, like her phobias, like her dancing. It made her think of sun tea, of purple light and flaxen yellow. Lilac and lemon. She looked up at it. A glossy picture of the headliner. Three accent lights cascaded a dull glow on the face of Jesus Christ and his band mates. The Messiah’s dark sunglasses and grizzled face leered out in the typical rock and roll pose. Around the corner and still thirty minutes before doors open, ushers herded ticket holders in line.
Sadie called herself a fan, which she knew was not wholly true because she had never really heard Jesus Christ Superstar’s music. But the man was a Descendant, a god that fell to earth, along with all the other gods, less than two years ago. Jesus had become a bona fide rock star. Such facts were hard to believe, if belief was even a thing anymore. For Sadie it was hard to tell. Much of the human experiences of myth and religion had become strange or irrelevant after the Descendance. This was a depressing admission but faith had never been something she’d had a strong connection to. And now there was no need for it at all.
Still, she was here waiting in line for the concert. There was clearly some attraction she held with the former god. She assumed it was curious fascination and accepted it as much.
Sadie made sure her gloves were covering all areas of bare skin on her hands. She checked for any holes or tears in the cotton, stretching each finger until she was sure there was no risk of contamination. She seldom had any problems when she went out in public but then again she didn’t attend many rock concerts either. Sadie fingered the backstage pass that hanged around her neck. It would likely be a total madhouse after the show. Who knew how many of these passes had been sold? Patrick wasn’t saying. Her date for the evening, the aspiring businessman had made all the arrangements and refused any elaboration on how much it had cost. Sadie glanced at him then back at her shoes. He wasn’t unattractive. Deep set brown eyes and tall. A tattoo on his left shoulder blade. She supposed they looked good together. The kind of couple you’d see on a sitcom or daytime television show. They had met a short time ago at her job. She had taken his drink orders, an ordinary task she did a hundred times a night only this night she had been lonely and got taken in by his attention. She had agreed to tonight’s date before even knowing his name. Her intuition told her that nothing would come of it. She certainly wouldn’t be going home with him. (He seemed desperate to be coddled and that shit got old fast.) But she was here and rumors were the Messiah put on a helluva good show.
Anticipation grew in Sadie as they moved past a merchant kiosk strategically set up on the way to the Basement front entrance. She put her hands on a t-shirt and key chain, getting a feel of them through her gloves.
“Which one do you like best?” Patrick asked. His voice was a cheery tenor.
“Oh, you don’t have to. I was just looking.” Sadie said.
“I want to.” Patrick replied quickly. “What size do you wear?”
He picked out a black shirt, paid the attendant, then handed it over. Sadie held up a smiling visage of a large black woman pointing to a cross in the sky and saying in bold lettering: ‘Y’all motherfuckers need Jesus!’ Sadie giggled and fit the shirt on over her tank top. She was relieved to be covered a bit. She tied a knot at the bottom showing some midriff but made sure to turn away whenever Patrick’s hands got too close to her bare skin. She looked ahead in line and noticed that ushers had opened the doors. Finally. She thought. She had been doing great working though her phobias but that didn’t mean she was without moments of panic. Patrick had also gotten quiet and she wondered if he was getting bored as well.
As they got inside the vibe changed completely. The drab waiting was replaced with a sulfuric quality combined with the heat of vibrating bodies. The Basement wasn’t a large venue. Designed for an intimate show, the lobby was adorned with band posters and stickers. High bricked walls and three large green lamps overhead spilled a misty fog of neon light in the room. It reminded Sadie of an arcade. The crowd would be jam packed, she knew, hoping that she didn’t get in there and start to freak out. Sadie admitted that she was starting to wish she had stayed home. Am I already contaminated? She fingered her back stage pass. Getting these would be worth the waves of nausea that she could feel churning in her stomach. Directly ahead, she could see people entering the nightclub, inside the clangs of instruments being tuned drifted out into the lobby. Sadie moved that way and peered in, eyes squinting as she passed into the darkened room.
Sadie stepped away from the low gate separating her from the band and turned directly into a kiss from Patrick. His hand on her behind, he smiled down at her. Just feet from a cabinet of speakers, her ears rang. She fixed her attention back to the stage, marveling on the Descendant. He was sinewy, tan and wore only a ragged pair of shorts. His long hair covering his face as he played, he seemed in trance or perhaps praying. Sadie probed ahead and could feel stage lighting warm the base of her skull. The band had kicked into a slow, melodic tune. Rising scales built in intensity until reaching a tone of exaltation then were improvised in peculiar phrases. Sadie saw the adoring reverence in Patrick’s eyes. The crowd’s reaction was similar. It was like being at a religious revival. Hundreds of arms reached out to the stage, trying to pull the Savior towards them. Audience members stamped their feet and shook their heads. It was the Lord’s prayer. It was a sermon on stage. The front rows felt like being underwater. Sadie’s ears popped and she swallowed to relieve the pressure. She straightened and put her hands out to the stage. Christ lifted his head for a moment, bringing his eyes level to Sadie’s. A crooked smile came to his face. Sadie blushed. She thought of the many people that traveled with the band, attending every show they performed. She could understand the attraction. No other concert was quite like this. And she knew it wasn’t just the music. They wanted much more than music.   Hope fell like falling snow and made everybody who bore witness something more. The power of Jesus Christ was unknowable even as it came into your soul like milk and honey. We want you to save us but we don’t want you do die for us. Not again.
This is what the concert was designed for. It was a religious ritual meant to increase our comprehension of faith itself. And Sadie did feel redeemed. A new peace flowed through her. She closed her eyes, her body vibrated with a deep bass that rumbled through the venue. She took a deep breath and it was as if the noise of the crowd had disappeared. She was alone with the music and it was glorious. 
The halls backstage are dusty. Sadie Fuller thought as she meandered through the corridors of the Basement. Under blinking fluorescents and throngs of drunken groupies and roadies, the otherwordly quality of the music had penetrated into the chipped plaster and peeled wallpaper of the venue interior. 
Her long raven hair matted down in places, Sadie could feel sweat beaded on her forehead and neck. Her evergreen eyes darted up and around not settling on one particular thing for too long. At her side, Patrick walked a little too close, his arm brushing up against her as they wove their way backstage.
Spread out before her was every facet of the rock and roll experience. Half-naked women mingled here and there while booze addled fans and friends waited for the messiah to emerge from his dressing room. 
The area was a large open space littered with a bar and fold out chairs. To Sadie, the word ‘red room’ came to mind because blood red accent lights hanged haphazardly to the walls. She smelled stale cigarette smoke and spilled beer and resisted the onset of a headache. She tucked her hands under her armpits and cringed as people were shoved into her. There are too many in here. Fans swarmed the dressing room door. Their patience growing thin as it got hotter backstage.
Approaching a lanky, clearly inebriated Sid Vicious lookalike, Sadie turned away as he grabbed her bare arm just under the t-shirt sleeve and pulled her towards him.
“You wanna candy flip babe? I got some pure liquid if you party.”
“Get off me.”
She pulled out of his grasp and looked down to see dirt marks on her arm and  her cotton glove torn at the left thumb exposing a tiny bit of creamy skin. She gagged and felt her forehead get hot.
“Is there a bathroom around here?”
“We can go there if you want.” The man replied. Sadie turned to go and bumped into somebody that had basically been on top of her. “Fuck!” She turned back and he was within kissing distance. Sadie recoiled, pushing his head away. Then she noticed that what she took as dirt on the man’s forehead was actually a round tattoo. She pulled her hand away as he grabbed the sides of his face. The man doubled over and cursed, staring up at her through hate filled eyes. “Bitch! The gods are impotent, who are you really here to see?”
“Bad batch?” She replied and ducked under a taller man’s arm toward the restroom.
She took out an old 35mm film canister. She felt its cool smoothness and popped the lid. Inside was a small mound of cut white powder. It looked soft as snow. She went to the bath stall and didn’t bother sitting. She stripped off the glove and dipped a blood red fingernail into the canister. A hard pull, delicious warmth on her face. Her breathing sped up, a gorgeous lucidity seeped through her pores. She dipped the finger in again, sniff, delicious warmth. She replaced the lid on the canister and dropped it into her bag.
The glove had a tear in it. Sadie thought as she furiously scrubbed her hands at the sink. The glove had a tear in it. It was probably torn all day. The entire time I was out. I’ve picked up something. I’m sick. It was torn all day. She frantically scrubbed until her thumb was grazed and raw. Her own words echoed through her skull like a curse. It echoed and echoed. An admonishment of her carelessness. Somewhere in her mind, she knew she was in the grip of an episode but couldn’t change the channel. Sadie clasped her hands in front of her and gritted her teeth. The voice never stopped. Had it happened during the show? Before? How could she have not known? She tried to calm her breathing, going through every exercise her doctor had recommended but the dizziness made her feel out of body. She thought she might vomit.
Sadie dug into her pocket, clutched a bottle of paroxetine and pried open up the cap. She tasted chalk in the back of her throat, popped a handful chewing them like candy.     
The glove had a tear in it. The glove had a tear in it. Sadie ripped herself away from the sink. How long was I standing there? Twenty minutes? Half hour? The glove had a tear in it. She went rigid and slowly turned the water off. There. Sadie counted to five then exited the restroom but knew she’d need to wash again soon.
Just then the dressing room door opened. As Sadie turned, a panting and soaked through Jesus Christ emerged carrying his acoustic guitar and followed by the band in tow. The decimal level backstage shot to deafening. The reddish hues backstage looked strange on the Messiah. With his hair covering his face, the darkened room made shadowed sockets where his eyes should be. Sadie shook her head.  In a fraction of a second, Sadie saw Jesus fall back, a reddening polka dot on his chest began to grow. Sadie blinked, unable to process what she was seeing. Suddenly, a panicked shout rang out in front of her. Then another and another. The crowd in front swelled and ebbed and flowed. It suffocated her, swallowed her in hot breathing and shrieks. She felt herself pulled in all directions. A hard shove sent her to her knees.
Anguished onlookers covered their mouths in disbelief. Out of the corner of her eye, Sadie caught a glimpse of shadows, dark silhouettes on the walls and floor. On a raised platform, she stood motionless. Her hands trembling. Finally, somebody yanked her arm, tearing the glove from her left wrist all the way off. She gasped and began to scream soundlessly. An inaudible wail. She tumbled forward and felt a sharp blow on her head then right leg. Her body burned but her thoughts were on the exposed hand that was now dirty, contaminated. She could feel the parasites worming into her skin, boring through muscle and into her blood. She fell. Her face slapped against beer soaked concrete. Then she was up and kicked again as somebody tumbled over her. Sadie scrambled to her feet and made her way down the long winding corridors of the club. She stepped on her own shoelace and veered hard into a wall. Groaning, she turned left and nearly ran over a young man holding his head and moaning. She made another left and was calculating her chances of actually getting out of the club in one piece when she saw a crowd of people at the exit climbing on top of one another like ants.
She could see outside light just feet in front of her but was unable to move in the jam of bodies. So close. I’m almost out.
By the time she reached the exit, Sadie was shaking violently. Her phobias jolted into something inhuman, she gasped in short choppy wheezes. She began to lash out at everything around her. A roaring in her ears told her she was close to passing out. She could feel herself getting lightheaded and spots were appearing in front of her eyes. There was no sign of Patrick. Had he made it out? She looked down at her new t-shirt and noticed it was torn and soiled. She gagged again, vomited in front of her.
When she burst out of the club, the cool air kissed her cheek. Sadie tried to focus on getting away from the doors but it was too late. Darkness was coming. She stumbled into an intersection adjacent to the club entrance and felt herself begin to fall. Then there was nothing.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Excerpts of Chapter 1...

The edge of the cliff face jutted out like broken teeth. A long, steep climb, Detective Hank Dolan panted heavily and waved away mosquitoes. Hearing cars on the turnpike, he cursed the morning sun silently wishing he was still in bed. He had received a tip that a body was discovered matching the description of a missing woman. He despised these assignments. They rarely turned out well. Hank closed his eyes and tried to feel the breeze that served as small comfort to the summer heat that would soon be beating down onto them. “It’s supposed to be in this general area.” Gregg said.
A relic from Hank’s better days, Gregg Summers could always be counted on to be there when needed. Round and cheeky, Gregg was the perfect opposite to Hank’s gangly and finch like stature.
Hank stepped into some thorny underbrush and grabbed a tree for support. Contrary to popular belief, not all of New Los Angeles is sprawling buildings, rail lines, and taxi-cabs. Just outside the city is picturesque landscapes and vineyards.New Los Angeles breathes with the seasons. As organic as its people, the city is layered with modernism built on the detritus of the past. Like Jerusalem or Rome, NLA’s history is right underneath all who walk its streets. From above, its symmetry reminds one of an upside down chandelier. Countless lamps and mirrored windows bounce light in all directions. The city sparkles and shines its luster polished in the night sky.
It’s not all ugly just most of it. Hank thought dryly.
He was positioning himself on a plateau overlooking the expanse when Greg called out.
“Dammit! Over here!”
Hank rolled down his sleeves and put on some latex gloves as he maneuvered to where Gregg was staring at his feet and glowering.
Just then the smell hit him. Putrid and wan, Hank felt bile rise in his throat. He shuffled over and together they gazed down at the body. There were lacerations on her back from being cut repeatedly. Her knotted brown hair covered in dirt and wet leaves reminded Hank of Ophelia.
“Do you think it’s her?” Gregg asked.
Hank grimaced and held his breath. “Possibly.”
He knelt down and rolled her to her side Her ghostly, barren eyes had been olive. High cheekbones and pouty lips completed a wiry pretty picture. He gingerly lifted her left arm and sighed. There it was. The identifying tattoo that would make her his mark.
“It’s her.” He mumbled.
Gregg walked to the opposite side and leaned down. “Look at her neck.” He said. Dark purple bruising about an inch thick covered her throat. Splotches of blood and serrated skin indicated rope as the probable cause of death.
Gregg turned to stand then stopped, his eyes narrowing. “What’s in her hand?” Her broken, naked body had been turned in a way that Hank had initially missed the scourge.
“What the hell?” Gregg picked it up and scowled. “She did this to herself?” The rope had been braided into three prongs with wax balls at the ends. Each ball was covered in pieces of glass. Largely a Christian practice, Hank knew that flagellation was used as an extreme way for the devout to feel god’s love.
 Hank nodded. “The wounds on her back and legs, maybe.” Lifting her hand, Hank couldn’t help but notice her knuckles were bone white. “She’s still clutching it.” As he laid her hand back down, he noticed a piece of rope not attached to the scourge.
Hidden underneath her body and surrounded in brush, this rope was thicker and probably used to tow cars. “Wait a minute.” He cradled the back of the woman’s head and lifted it just enough to run his hand in the brush under her. They pulled four feet of frayed rope from under her body.
“Could be a cult. The city is nuts right now with all this talk of gods and goddesses.” Gregg remarked.
Hank had to admit that he brought up a good point. The flagellation alone spoke of Christian obsession. Perhaps she was a religious extremist who fell in with the wrong cult. Hank looked up to see Gregg staring at him. “What is it?”
Gregg cleared his throat. “You don’t think...maybe she was one of them?” Hank looked down at her face. They say the gods and goddesses are all beautiful. As if the fall from grace didn’t mar their physical countenance. And she was beautiful. Stunningly so. “It’s possible.”
Gregg circled back and bent down to examine the tattoo on her ribcage. “So she’s part of a cult and she’s doing this-” He points to her scourge marks. “-and her people, what, sacrifice her or something?”
Hank shook his head. “I don’t think so. It’s more likely a suicide. Plus, if there had been some ritual,  the brush around here would be all flattened.”
He held up the noose then glanced at the broken tree branch resting next to it. “I think she came here to die.” Hank thought back to what his partner had said about the possibility the girl was Descended.
Gregg searching his face nodded. “They’re human now right? They do die.”
Hank’s eyes lingered on her face. He noticed the sharp contours and wondered if she too should be included in the case file of the serial that had been terrorizing New Los Angeles for the past year.
That would make five now. Five bodies.
“I don’t know that they’ll ever be human. But they’re here nevertheless.”

Lilac and lemon.
That’s what Sadie Fuller thought about under the stage lights. This personal mantra had been hers for as long as she could remember. Both an affirmation and source of strength, she’d repeat the phrase whenever she needed to focus.
As she whirled in her dance routine, she let herself go free. Lilac and lemon.
She smiled as sweat and stage makeup trailed down her neck. Forty five minutes earlier, she’d thought that a blue tint would bring out the olive in her eyes. Now she realized that bluish streaks were slightly embarrassing
Modern dance was tricky. It didn’t have the meticulousness of ballet and wasn’t as hard physically, but still required a freshness of originality. Imagination was the key and if there was anything Sadie had in spades, it was a vivid inner world.
When she was little, while all the other kids were watching tv or playing outside, she’d sit quietly for hours making up worlds and friends. Her guardian David would sit next to her and ask what the story was about. Sadie would then plunge into a detailed description of her friends and their world. She always had a mother in the story. And there were brothers and sisters. Their appearances would change based on the story but they were always there.
Now she imagined a full house hanging on her every move. She spun and leapt. Could feel their eyes willing her not to stumble. She soaked it all in.
Lilac and lemon.
As Ravel’s Bolero came to a conclusion, she soared through one more twirl and flopped down on the edge of the stage. She heard one solitary clap in middle fifth row.
“You know, one clap is more insulting than no claps at all.”
From out of the darkness, a voice replied. “I’m trying to be a supportive friend. Maybe if you had the balls to dance for a real audience, I wouldn’t be here on a Saturday.”
Sadie brushed a flyaway out of her eyes. “Eli, you’ve got nothing planned today or any day. Next time, be a dear and give me three claps so I know that you love me.”
“Yeah I’ll get right on that.”
She’d known Eli Fray for the past two years now. Having met at school, the two had become fast friends. And now more often than not, Eli was the dutiful friend to Sadie’s waif.
She leaned back and closed her eyes but could still feel the heat of the stage lighting behind her eyelids. She stretched her back and kicked out her legs as Eli scooted in beside her.
“What’s up?”
He smiled sheepishly. “Oh nothing.”
Sadie frowned. “Out with it. I always know when you’re brooding. You brood really good.”
“I brood good? What does that even mean?”
Sadie smiled.
“Anyways, you going to the show this weekend?”
“Yeah prolly. He promised me backstage passes.”
“What did you have to promise him?”
Sadie glanced at him. “I’m not going to give him any, if that’s what you’re worried about. I’m just going to the concert.”
Eli scoffed. “So you say.”
“Damn, Eli! Am I a whore now?”
Eli averted his eyes. “No.”
“That’s right. Besides, I was going to ask you to come pick me up after. Just so he doesn’t have to drop me off. I don’t know if I want him to know where I live.”
“Is he kind of creepy?”
“No. I just don’t like unwanted visitations.”
Eli laughed. “Unwanted visitations. You make him sound like a ghost or alien.”
“Shut up. I’m just going to call a cab”
Eli stretched his feet. “I’ll be out front waiting. Don’t be late.”
She rolled over and opened her eyes to the stage lights. As the glare filled her vision, she inhaled deeply. Lilac and Lemon.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

“What are you doing here? In case I wasn’t clear, I don’t feel comfortable with you in my city.”
Apollo sat back, his eyes nearly closed.
“I would have thought being all-knowing would include security cameras.”
Still nothing. Hank smiled and leaned closer. No signs of being beaten or roughed up at all. The officers had been gentle when they took him in. Hank’s long experience on the force made it easier to identify which suspects had been resisting prior to being cuffed. Nothing about Apollo indicated any of the telltales of taking a few kicks to the abdomen or ribs. He wore a clean track suit an tennis shoes.
“So this was you then?” Apollo asked.
“How do you mean?”
The eyes that frowned at him were level, as if Apollo was more disappointed than angry. He glanced around the room.
“All of this.”
Hank nodded his head once. “I had them pick you up after rechecking the tape. Who are your friends Apollo?”
Apollo turned his attention to the one way mirror on the wall. He stared at his own reflection, narrowing his eyes as if unfamiliar with his own face.
Maybe he isn’t. Hank thought.
“It is uncanny how close our faces are to before.”
Or I could be wrong. Hank mused. “How do you mean?”
“Our features are similar. Not exactly right, but pretty close. Isn’t that strange?”
“Do you think that means something? Is somebody the great architect?”
“Did somebody do this to us you mean? Zeus? No, this is beyond him.”
“Maybe not Zeus.”
“Some other? Open warfare would be the result.”
“Perhaps that is why they stay hidden.”
Apollo nodded but didn’t respond. Once again, his eyes drifted to the mirror on the wall. Does he know how many officers are looking back at him right now? The Descendants were a rare commodity. It wasn’t a stretch to assume that this was the first interrogation of one of them.
“What were you doing at the Basement Apollo? Many of my colleagues are saying you were there to make sure you cleaned up the whole mess. Maybe to make sure you didn’t leave anything behind that might identify you. Did you  kill Jesus Christ Apollo?”
“Jesus Christ has killed more gods and goddesses than any other in history…and mortals too for that matter.”
“So you shot him.”
Apollo looked startled. “No, I didn’t shoot him! But I can’t really say I mourn for him either. He wasn’t part of my family.”
“I would think you’re all kin now.”
That wasn’t what Apollo wanted to hear. He turned his nose up as if smelling something spoiled. Hank kept finding himself studying his mannerisms and facial expressions. It was almost like a mask. Their faces were unfamiliar to even themselves, regardless of what the god purported. Every emotion was hard to read. It as as if Apollo’s eyes rested behind a hardened fleshy caricature of the human face. Hank found it repellent.
“You didn’t answer me.”
Apollo took a sip of coffee and stared down at the cup.
“I was doing what you’re doing. Trying to figure it out.”
“Processing the scene?”
“Yes.”
“Except you just told me you couldn’t care less who killed him. So-”
“That doesn’t mean I don’t want to know! I might be next after all.”
Hank paused. “We saw three maybe four other bodies moving about in there as well. They weren’t as dip-shitted as you and steered clear of the cameras. So, who were they?”
“I have no idea.”
“Really.”
Apollo looked sharply at Hank, who had stood up and was leaning against the back wall. He placed his hands behind his back and stared at the god shackled to the desk.
“Do you ever want to get out of that chair? We don’t necessarily have to run you through the usual indictment and litigation process. You’re not technically an American citizen. We can throw you in a hole Apollo, forever and ever. We put ourselves through hell all the time, what do you think we’ll do to you?”
Apollo opened his eyes and was looking at him. For the first time, Hank caught a scent of fear from the god. But there was something else. A raw animosity. Apollo was a lion in a cage that was tired of being prodded. He could erupt into violence before this was over.
“You think I’m lying? Go back an check your tape. I hid form them too. I had no idea who they were so I thought it best to stay hidden.”
Hank knew he was telling the truth. The security monitor had shown no interaction between Apollo and the mysterious shadows. Still, he had hoped Apollo would provide a name or possible description of who they were. In his seat, the god had paused and appeared to be plotting his next move. Hank edged around the chair to make sure that the cuffs were still tightly secured around his hands. Satisfied, he sat back down.
“I know the Tengu came to you.” Apollo said.
For a second, Hank felt as weightless as if he’d fallen backward in his chair. His shock was unmistakable and Apollo picked up on it immediately. “Word get around Officer.”
“Detective.” Hank whispered.
“Whatever. Tell me, do you think the Maharishi-ten is without an agenda? How much did you sell your soul for to the Japanese goddess? Do your fellow officers know of your exploits with her?”
Hank suppressed the urge to smash his fist into Apollo’s face. “Do tell.”
Outside the door, rumblings could be heard. Hank knew what Apollo had said was now rippling through the precinct. He also knew that had been the god’s intent. Hank must be cautious now. How much did the god know? He knew of the Tengu and Japanese gangster goddess. He knew she had hired him and that they had met up. But beyond that, what else was there?
“I don’t know what she wants with you nor do I care but just know, you can’t trust her.”
“I don’t trust her.”
“Her every move is designed to ensure the survival of her lotus.”
At Apollo’s words, Hank felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Lotus?
“And what is that? Lotus?”
“I think you already know Officer. After all, she’s your friend.”
“Tell me how you know she made contact with me.”
“She hasn’t yet. Not really. She came to you through her Tengu courier.”
“And?”
“And the underground railroad runs deep Officer. This city is has many lines of information. But you’d have to leave the comfort of downtown in order to find it.”
“You mean No Quarter. Are the Descendants living in No Quarter?”
Apollo shook his head. “I couldn’t say.”
Hank studied the god for a moment. “The Maharishi’s lotus?”
Apollo sent his gazer back to the mirrored wall. He scowled at his reflection. “The lotus must stay in fixed positions. She can’t wander all through the night ensuring the prosperity of her enterprises.”
“Her business. Is it drugs Apollo? Is she running narcotics?”
Casually, Apollo sat back in his chair and laid his hands on the table, palms up. When he did not speak, Hank cleared his throat.
“Well?”
This time Apollo didn’t break his silence. Hank almost smiled. While not giving anything detailed, the god had revealed much about the Descendant population in the city. He would have to take another look in No Quarter. If there was anywhere in the city that a murder suspect would try to hide, it would be there. Too bad Hank had worked that slum for the past seven years and knew all the hiding places.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Ariadne and Dionysus...some backstory

"We all hope you have a wonderful life here." The crewman told the slender, fawnlike princess who stared horrified at the desolate island that was quickly growing larger with every passing moment.
"Well, I'll tell you. If he wanted to hide me from the world, this would be the place to do it. I think I'll pass, you can take me back to the labyrinth.
"Can't be done." The crewman choked. His gaze fixed ahead, a twitch below his left eye was the only indication that the woman, was, in fact, staring him down.
He had said it would be a place to themselves. He had said they would make a life together. Well, isn't that what they always said?
"What is this island?"
The crewman swallowed hard. "Dia?"
"Dia."
"Yes, princess."
She fixed the crewman with such a look of disgust that he immediately wished he were below deck.
"I've seen a lot of islands but nothing as empty as this. I'd rather be on the water. Can you arrange that? Where's Theseus?"
Ariadne marched across the deck with an overfull, splashing goblet of wine in one hand and a dinghy oar in the other. The crewman watched her go. They all wished her well, or more accurately, wanted to wish her well. The princess was just difficult. The lady looked as though she would never really be at home anywhere. She walked with purpose but did it like somebody ready to stop and change directions at any moment.
The crew unloaded the ship directly on the beach; telling Ariadne that she'd have to trudge her collection of various size cases up to where she planned to stay. They were short for time and the weather was coming in. Ariadne took the news like a sailor: stoically nodding, she began to curse wildly and hurled a suitcase over her shoulder. She was used to times like these. It had been her thread that allowed the good for nothing out of the labyrinth.
Perhaps she should have taken in with the minotaur? Of course Theseus was handsome. All the girls said so. His brown hair and dark eyes. The way the dimples creased his face every time he smiled. The vacant look he'd given her when she had tried to calmly explain how her thread would lead him out of the maze. Oh yes, he was crafty. But not a hero.  Ariadne had seen more heroism from the crabs she was currently stomping on her way up the beach.
But he had promised to marry her. And she had come along. Truth be told, she knew they weren't a good match. Although they were of comparable age, Theseus was young. Very young. More than one she'd remarked about something just to turn and see his beautiful bewildered face gazing at her blankly. It took Ariadne all of ten minutes to figure out what the gods had exchanged for his good looks. But she remained steadfast, even a little eager. They were to start a life together. Nevermind if it was alone, on an island, out of sight of even the gods. They could make it work.
She placed her dresses on a pile of banana leaves, careful to kick any creature, winged or clawed that came too close. She showered under a waterfall and sat eating a mango. She scanned the area and noticed Theseus still at the beach and staring out at the open sea.
She put her coal black hair up and marched over wearing nothing but an agreeable smile. Ariadne stood in front of him, a hackneyed look of disgust darkened her features.
"What am I doing here?"
"Princess, this is an island called-'
"Princess knows it's an island Theseus. But what am I doing here? I didn't just show you out of a maze to end up barefoot and pregnant on some gods forsaken rock. I swear I'll hang myself if we're to stay here for more than a few days."
"Princess," Theseus stammered.
The crew were all starting to look at them now. A few gawked, her nakedness was something they had all wondered about on those long nights at sea. Theseus turned his head away and she grabbed him by the chin forcing his eyes to her. "Take me out of here right now." She said. "Or tell me what we're doing."
Theseus licked his lips, his mouth opened and closed like a goldfish. He tried to summon the authoritarian tone of a hero or even the amiable voice of a husband but failed at both. What came out was a pitying croak followed by muttering. Ariadne squinted as if he'd just gone all out of focus.
"You don't know do you?" Ariadne said softly. "This better not be something from the pythia."
"The prophetess speaks for Apollo, Princess."
"Yeah, we know. Did she tell you to sail me out here? I swear Theseus, I'll cut-"
"No this wasn't the oracle." He interrupted.
"A few days." Ariadne softly said. She then turned and walked away.
She was awake early the next morning. She put on a blue dress, and walked out to the beach. The view she got was more than a little jarring. Backlit by the rising sun, her husband's ship, indeed the entire fleet, were sailing away.
Ariadne blinked once then looked away. Watching the boats drift farther away was a succinct reminder of how cowardly Theseus did things. It was not enough to abandon her, he had to do it in secret. He was scared. She walked back to camp and sat on a pile of banana leaves. She ate a mango. She slept again for awhile then woke to what she thought was a cat yowling. After a long pause, she walked back to the beach.
Ariadne had no doubt that Theseus was gone. He had meant to sail her to this island and leave her. That had been the plan. He wanted to to be rid of her. That was fine. Perfect.
An hour after Theseus sailed off, Ariadne bend and began to pray to the gods. She got nothing but silence. It was an eerie quiet, even the breeze coming off the ocean had become still. Her ears outstretched, she called out to the gods. Still nothing. Ariadne gritted her teeth, on the verge of screaming. The hot, caked sand under her feet, she switched the prayers for curses and spent the next forty five minutes cursing every god and goddess she could think of, even the unimportant ones.
Again she thought she heard the yowling of a large cat somewhere in the jungle and sprinted out to the surf. She wasn't sure why she thought the ocean would be adequate protection but given the choice of drowning or being torn apart by a jungle cat, she'd take the water. The she saw it. Stepping out of the brush perhaps a hundred paces from where she had slept, a large cat emerged. It looked to be a cheetah. It was hard to be sure. The feline noticed her straight away. Its muzzle rose in the air and sniffed. Ariadne stood up straight, fully prepared to make this cat swim if it thought to make her a meal. But it didn't approach. Nor did it eave. Instead, it ate her breakfast, yawned, and put its head down to sleep.
Ariadne felt this was a personal affront. "Hey!" She called out from the water line. "Shoo!" Digging her nails into her palms, she took a few steps towards the beach then swan dived back to the water when she saw a second cheetah come out of the brush.
She waited patiently, clicking her teeth and now frigid from having her barefeet in the water for hours. She inspected and found them wrinkled as raisins. I can't stand here all night. She thought. She walked up the beach. She planned to find a safe place to sleep then build another camp in the morning. Her plan went awry immediately. The cheetahs got up and followed her down the beach. They're stalking me! / She picked up a rock and hurled it at the pair who were matching her in stride. One of them shrunk away. Ha! See?
She yelled and spat and thrashed around until the second cheetah sauntered off then prepared a camp. She had to trudge back and forth to retrieve her belongings and by sun down was in need of another shower. Ariadne dipped her head underneath the waterfall, letting the cool force of it massage her forehead and scalp. She was stiff from the anxiety of being abandoned, her knees ached and the shadows forming around her as night approached were thick as fog.
Then she heard screaming. Eyes wide, she stared into the darkness. She heard something pop, like a twig breaking and yelped. She thought of the cheetahs and made to build a bigger fire. It would be enormous, large enough that even the gods would see it from on high. Before long, she'd built a blaze that was nearly out of control. She stood in front of it, feeling the heat dry her tresses.
Then she heard something that was so out of place she questioned her own senses. Off in the distance but growing louder was the crashing of cymbals. Ariadne knew the sound from her time in theater and was sure. She craned her neck, stepped a few feet into the darkness of the jungle and listened as the sounds got louder. But there was something else. Tambourines? Yes. She also heard tambourines echoing through the trees. Perhaps the island wasn't abandoned after all. Maybe she could still make it out of here.
Ariadne sat on a large tree that had been blown over during a recent storm. She folded her legs underneath her and ate a mango. Then, to her shock and horror, both cheetahs steps languidly out of the shadows and approached the fire. Ariadne gulped a large piece and looked about her for a large rock or stick.
Each had their eyes on her. The large cats were even larger up close. Each one easily as tall as Ariadne's waist. She rose up on her knees and was reaching for a giant crab when the cymbals and tambourines exploded only feet from her camp. Ariadne screamed and clasped her hands to her ears. She opened her mouth and was drowned out by the whooping and hollers of perhaps two dozen men and women emerging from the trees in a procession.
Ariadne stood with her mouth ajar, mango still stuck to her lips. It dropped and onto the ground. A cheetah came and snatched it up, purring as it curled up just on the edge of camp. Then out of the shadows, a man materialized. He was tall and thin, long brown hair fell into his face as he fought to keep from spilling an abnormally large wine goblet. He stopped, his eyes roaming up and down Ariadne.
"Are you real?" He asked.
"Is that a bucket?" She replied and nodded towards the cup in his hand.
"If it was a bucket, it still wouldn't be large enough." He said, almost too seriously. "Silenus! Come fill my bucket!"
A large bear of a man stepped forward. He began to pour an obscene amount of red wine into the half empty glass. "Boy, if you walk into a tree, we're leaving you."
"Certainly not. Besides, I have found the spirit of the isle to look after me."
Ariadne frowned.
"Isn't that right?" He prodded.
"Dionysus stop." Silenus replied.
Ariadne held out her hand. "Give it to me."
Dionysus handed the goblet over sheepishly. Ariadne took a sip then handed it back to Silenus who handed it then back to Dionysus. The switching hands happened so fast that Dionysus was puzzled to find the cup back in his hand.
"Oh."
"Dionysus, is it?" Ariadne said cooly. "You're named after the god is that it? A name amongst of friends?"
There was no pause. Dionysus said. "Yes, something like that."
As he said this, two woman coiled around his legs and stared up at him adoringly. The wind that had been a slight breeze picked up into gale force winds. The cymbals and tambourines began to clash in crazed dissonant ways. The whoops transformed into shrieking. Ariadne stepped back and covered her ears. She felt a pressure on the base of her skull. It was a compulsion. She wanted to rave. She could feel it in her bones, the sinew of her muscles wanted, or needed to dance. She dug her nails into her palms, resisting the urge to leap and wail. Around her, madness had taken over. There was fighting and fornication. Even the sex was violent, a wild bucking and animal screams.
Then as quick as it came on, the wind died. And so with it the pressure on her skull. She looked around as everybody awoke as if out of trance. She saw them stumbling, offering bewildered apologies and filling their cups with red faces.
"They're ashamed." Ariadne said.
"No, they're not."  Dionysus countered. "They're blessed."
"Blessed in madness? The grace of insanity really isn't grace...or a gift."
Dionysus inclined his head towards the fire. Its crackles sending up steady bursts of light like stars. They rose and winked out while the god stared and Ariadne bit into a mango.
"A signal fire?"
"I assume you have a boat?"
"There's no need for a boat."
Ariadne took a deep breath. She felt the god's eyes on her and suddenly wondered of she was naked again. The god smiled. He leaned in until their foreheads were almost touching. "It wouldn't be out of place here." He whispered.
Ariadne suppressed a smile. "You smell like cheap wine."
Dionysus took a long look at the mortal woman in front of him. Flaxen hair and freckles, hazel eyes and long, sinewy limbs. She would be enormously pretty if not for the scowl that just filled her whole face. She was a half naked walking scowl. Still, the god was perplexed. One, she was alone on a desert island and didn't seem terrified, in truth, she was barely preoccupied with the matter. Two, she wasn't in the least impressed at being approached, rather loudly, by a god. This second matter was really the most pressing. Why wasn't she impressed? Had she met other gods? Was this a regular event for her? She'd even be extraordinarily strong in resisting his compulsory nature. She wasn't immune, he knew. She had wetted her lips while in the heat of him. He knew her appetites had been awakened. But she remained cool. That steely scowl dropping for only an instant.
"What are you doing here?" He asked.
"None of your business."
"You do realize the island is uninhabited?"
"Are you following me? You and your...cats." She inquired.
"It wasn't hard to see you given half the island is on fire." He replied tonelessly.
She turned. For a split second Ariadne was backlit by the flames and Dionysus felt his knees go weak because he saw something else in her. Something he hadn't noticed before. He saw a white light on the surface of her skin, a ripple of heat. She was all but naked and encased in light. And then he knew. He looked out at the water, his unease now apparent.
"What?" She asked.
"Theseus doesn't know. He abandoned you but he doesn't know."
"Doesn't know what?"
"The strangest, most obvious truth."
Something in his voice caused Ariadne to take a step toward him. She caught herself involuntarily and stopped.
"When he turned his back on you, he turned his back on Aphrodite."
He meant to convey indifference, something suggestive of apathy but warmth in his voice betrayed him completely.
"Dionysus, what do you mean?" She asked.
The god perked up at the sound of his name. "He transgressed the goddess, turned his back on her."
"But I'm not-"
"No, but she was with you. Love was with you."
He waited for her to deny it.
"He had other ambitions." She said unevenly.
"I know."
The procession had now circled around and was making its way down the shoreline with Silenus at its head. The booming and pounding of cymbals echoed down the beach and Dionysus grinned from ear to ear. Behind Ariadne's head, a snake had perched on a branch, its flicking tongue at her bare shoulder. Dionysus could see the serpent as it slid past her arm and coiled around her midsection. Perhaps it was his incredulous giggle that brought Ariadne around. She arched forward, her left arm barely missing the serpent as it slithered down the side of her body.
"What is it?" She asked.
Dionysus made his way to her side, trailing a finger down her shoulder and the back of her arm. When she glanced down, Ariadne stood as rigid as one of the palm trees that towered overhead. She looked up and into the eyes of the god, Dionysus thought she looked endless. An enduring fire alone on a beach.