Cut and Run Chapter 1 Retcon Part 5 of 5
The trip to Salt Lake City was rough.
Oh sure, I did manage to get some sleep, and I got to enjoy a few more meals and snacks.
My sleep was fitful at best. Usually because some Mamono was lingering too long near me. All of this resulted in an insufficient charge of Mojo for my Taken bracelet.
Thus, that morning I faced a choice of either having it burning hot for a couple of hours, or keeping it on a low simmer for most of the day.
‘Borrowing’ again wasn’t much of an option, as the chance of my encountering another Incubus was spotty at best. It’s not like I could get away with lingering inside one of the sole-use restrooms.
Alas, I deemed my chances of getting an invitation from a Traveling Incubus, as exceedingly small. In the end, I chose the simmering option.
This resulted in the inevitable increase in the number of Mamono casually strolling by wherever I chose to seat myself. Whenever one of them decided to ‘rest her feet’ (sic), right next to me, I pretended fascination with the scenery. This helped me avoid any idle chatter. I lost count of the indignant huffs that resulted.
Rude? Yes. But such is the price…
Yet even that tactic of mine proved futile.
“Well Hello There!” said an insistent cheery voice. At that same instant, my body shook as someone plopped herself down into the empty seat next to me. I gulped nervously, and began sweating. Steeling myself, I gave a quick glance over to the newcomer and froze.
She appeared to be a diminutive version of a Succbus. Unlike an Alice with her characteristic innocent air, this creature carried an aura of ‘naughty child games’.
She was dressed in a dark cloth tank top and shorts. In addition, she had the tail and wings of a standard Succubus. But that was where the resemblance ended. Instead of head horns, she had a pair of furry cat-like ears, her wings were undersized, and instead of ending in a spade, her tail sported a fluffy ball of lavender fur.
‘Oh shit!’ I gulped, ‘A Familiar!’ I realized. However, that wasn’t what bothered me the most. Upon seeing her pigtail-tied hair, I felt an almost overwhelming urge to draw her into my lap and tickle her!
‘Danger Will Robinson!’ I realized. She’d hung out by me at least a half a dozen times in the last couple of hours. So, I knew I was going to have to tread extra carefully to navigate this minefield!
“Uh,” I began, “Hello?” I stammered nervously. Her already wide smile, widened even further in response.
“Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Olita.” She said, and left it hanging while her eyes bored into mine. I dropped my eyes and noticed that she sported a black nametag with purple letters that corroborated her name. Near the tag, in between her budding breasts, I noticed a shiny round medallion with the letters: CTD. What that meant, I had no idea.
‘Oh yeah!’ I realized. ‘Manners!’
“Uhhh, Ahem! My name is Allen.” I replied, trying not to focus on her bare midriff.
“I couldn’t help but notice you’ve been sitting alone all this time.” She began, batting her eyelashes. “I imagine that you’re probably really bored. I know I am.” She said in a cutesy voice.
“So, Uh! Really? Uhmmmm,…Why are you riding alone on a train?” I asked, trying to divert her attention. Which made her frown momentarily. Obviously, she hadn’t expected me to say that. She pursed her lips for a second and seemed to give her reply some thought.
“I’ve been on a business trip, doing some missionary work!” she shot back. “I’ve completed my latest job assignment. Now I’m returning to report my results to the Prophetess.” She said, leaning closer to me.
I tried to lean away in response, but I noticed that I had already sidled as far away as I could manage and still be polite. I then became aware that her puffball-ended tail had started creeping its way across the armrest towards me.
“Prophetess?” I asked, slightly curious. She nodded enthusiastically.
“I’m a Mormon.” She added. “I bet you didn’t know about the One-True-Church! How the Great Maou returned the Gospel to us all.” She said, falling into a rehearsed speech. I noticed then that her puffball tail had halted its inexorable advance.
“Really?” I said, looking around nervously for something that might help me escape this Succubus’ clutches. As luck would have it, there wasn’t anything.
“I would imagine she upset a lot of folk!” I smiled nervously. I could feel a drop of sweat beading on my left temple.
“Not as many as you might think. Other than the fact that our women hold the priesthood.”
“Oh my.” I replied noncommittedly, she nodded again as she began to really to get into the subject. I tolerated this, as it seemed to keep her distracted from other matters.
“Well for one thing, it gives the term ‘Relief-Society’ a whole new level of meaning. After all, it’s up to us women to keep the Sabbath Unholy!” She paused, and then she started laughing at her joke. I echoed that laughter unenthusiastically.
“Oh goodness!” I not replied, trying to keep her going.
“Which can be rather necessary, as our Men are still required,…” she paused and thought about it for a second, “No! DEMANDED,” she continued, “to have more than one wife.” She smiled to herself.
“Speaking of wives,” she paused and looked up at me through her eyebrows, “I couldn’t help but notice that you’ve not been near yours for a while.”
‘Oh fuck!’ I thought frantically. Quickly, I checked my bracelet’s Mojo level and was horrified to discover that it had almost totally dissipated. I’d need to recharge it soon, and fast!
“Ahhh!” I began, just a bit shrilly. “That’s probably because I’ve been on a REALLY LONG business trip!” I emphasized, trying to avoid eye contact. Which would be a bad thing to allow.
“It occurs to me that you could use another wife.” She said meaningfully.
“Oh, I don’t know about that! I don’t think she’d appreciate the thought of sharing out our marriage bed.”
“Perhaps you could suggest it to her? Tell her you could take your other wife along on your trips. You know, and see to your needs.” She began to grin in feral manner.
“I not sure if that would be a good idea!” I continued, “She’d probably be most,…”
“Oh let’s cut the bullshit Allen!” she interrupted gruffly, as she stood up and turned to face me fully, “You obviously are just an unattached male, traveling alone on a train!”
“You’re mistaken! I AM married!” I protested, but that was when she laid her middle three fingers of her right hand atop my lips. Then she muttered something I couldn’t hear. As she did, I felt my Mojo detect something in the ether.
“Husssshhhh!” she intoned.
If I had to hazard a guess, it was probably a ‘Charm-spell’. Because all of a sudden, I was starting to calm, as every one of my excuses began to evaporate.
Within a few seconds, I began to appreciate the better qualities of this fine femme, of whom I was so lucky to spend some time with!
“Hi!” I said, feeling a bit twitter pated. Her smiling countenance morphed into a distinct leer in that moment.
“That’s better!” she whispered huskily.
Somehow, somewhere, in the depths of my soul, an alarm went off and just for a second, I was able to shrug off her charm spell.
“I am married!” I protested suddenly. She drew back for an instant, blinking in confusion.
“If you really are, then you’d have a picture of her on you somewhere! Wouldn’t you?” she pointed out with a pout.
“Uhh, yeah, you’re right,” I stammered nervously, as I began patting my pockets frantically.
“I would.” Her pout transformed slowly turned into a triumphant smile the longer I kept on. As she opened her mouth to call me out on my bullshit, my hand patted something hard!
My jaw opened in surprise when I realized what it was! Deputy Doji’s phone. With a minimal effort, I changed my look of surprise into one of relief.
‘Oh!” I exclaimed as I fumbled it out, “There it is!” I smiled back at Olita. I noticed then that her smiled faltered and then her lips pursed into a look of disappointment.
“I can never remember where I put that thing!” I continued as I brandished it in front of her.
Olita looked sullenly down at it for a second and then back up at me.
“Why haven’t you been calling her? Real lovers are always talking!” she pointed out as her lips turned into a knowing smirk.
“Well yeah,” I nodded, bobbing my head, “I can see where you’re coming from.” I stalled.
“But she’s currently working, and she told me to never call her while she’s on duty. Unless, of course, it’s an emergency.” I paused to think about it for a second, and then added.
“Real lovers take their partner’s needs seriously. Don’t you agree?” I asked. Olita looked abashed for a second. Then her eyes narrowed.
“So what does she look like?” she demanded crossly. I smiled as I pulled together my hamming skills.
“My little fuzzy lumpkins?” I asked, “My precious tiny honey bunny?” I opined, “Oh she’s quite the demure seeming sprite,…” I continued but Olita interrupted me.
“Her picture.” She said firmly, tapping my phone.
“Oh!” I said, feigning surprise. “Give me a second, would ya? The charge on it may have drained.” I smiled apologetically, as I began my fumbling attempt to turn it on.
During the whole process, Olita kept her glare on, along with a garnishment of suspicious frown. Finally, I managed to stumble it on and as it’s activation tones began, I turned to her and spoke.
“There we are it’ll just be a few more seconds.” I said with honey dripping from my voice. She didn’t reply.
Then I managed to find the appropriate app, I was relieved to finally locate and open the Deputy’s selfies files. The ones she had had me take back at the facility.
“Here she is!” I grinned as I showed her the first picture. Olita was quite crestfallen at seeing her.
“oh.” She whispered, barely glancing at the Green Ogre in front of her, “She seems,…nice.” She sighed in a quiet voice. I then used my finger to swash the pictures over one by one. As they did, Olita’s eyes got big when she noticed just how large Deputy Doji was.
“I thought you said she was tiny!” she squeaked.
“Oh don’t let her exterior fool you.” I said dreamily. “She’s really a big softie when you get to know her.” I paused as if something occurred to me. “Now that you mention it,…” I began, as I put a thoughtful fingertip to my lips
“I do believe that my Deputy did in fact hint about the possibility of a sister-wife.” I sighed heavily, “I don’t suppose you’d,…?” I said as I turned and faced Olita full on. As I did, all of the color drained out of her face.
“You did say ‘Demanded’, right?” I asked, interest lacing my voice.
Olita quickly jumped up out of her seat, then ran off down the aisle. I heard the train cab door open and slam shut a few seconds later.
I leaned back and looked admiringly at the phone Shooten-Doji had gifted me with.
‘Wow!’ I thought as I continued thumbing my way through her selfies. ‘She doesn’t look half-bad now.’ I mused.
After that, I didn’t have to put up with anymore pushy Mamono.
Salt Lake was a breeze. I took advantage of the layover and got some more grub, sadly there was no coffee available. I never caught any sign of Olita; and every other Mishie there gave me a wide berth.
I had no complaints about that.
Though just before the connecting train left for Reno, a strong wind blew up, and suddenly there was an overpowering stench of sulfur in the air.
I inquired about it and the information kiosk person informed me, that that was the smell of the Great Salt Lake.
“Bleh!” I reacted.
The Salt Flats west of the city were kinda fun to look at, at first. But that wonder soon palled. The train had to slow down for a bit, as the hazard of a swarm of Mormon Crickets made the tracks extra slippery.
There wasn’t much to say about Nevada.
It’s flat, then bumpy, then flat again. It consists mostly of scorched deserts with the occasional arid valley. Near some Podunk towns, I could see the first initial of that town’s name, displayed in white concrete on the hill above it.
‘wow.’ I thought, totally underwhelmed. I counted at least three signs that said, ‘Monster Girl City’ in the first hour. Which probably proved to be a headache for postal personnel.
Yet the further west the train went, the more I could feel something calling out to me. When the train tracks curved slightly, I looked off to the western horizon. Out there, I caught sight of the very tiptops of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. That’s when I realized what that something was- my long absent, Call of the Void.
It felt like I was coming home.
Even during the layover at Reno, my eyes kept wandering back to take in the grandeur of that majestic range. Night had fallen when I resumed my journey.
Gazing through the train’s windows at the mountains illuminated by the rays of a waning moon, my thoughts inevitably turned to my wife. I kept my thoughts to myself and didn’t engage my seat mates in conversation, despite their best efforts. Eventually they got the hint and moved on.
I awoke with a jerk when we arrived at Sacramento. I’d been unaware of when I’d fallen asleep.
Blearily, I got up and exited the train. The chill midnight air greeted me as I stepped onto the platform. I became aware of the scents of grass pollen along with the tang of salt water in the wind.
After retrieving my backpack and ensuring my precious cargo was intact, I made inquiries about how to get to Yosemite. The train station personnel there were weary, yet helpful.
I ended up approaching a member of that legendary bohemian bus service: The Green Tortoise. As I approached the verdant painted ex-school bus, I heard a voice call out to me.
“Hey dude,” that voice, droned affably, “How’s it going?”
Turning to the sound of that voice, a pungent cloud overwhelmed me in a fog and assaulted my nose, leaving me in tears. It smelled much like a Skunk-Mamono. I waved my hand to clear my sight.
“Sorry dude,” that voice spoke again, “My bad.” The smoke finally cleared enough for me to see whom it was speaking.
It was a Matango variant. She had the characteristic mushroom cap for a top, but instead of the usual red with white spots, hers sported a yellow tinged white. Over her pale flesh skin, she wore tie-dyes and jeans. Her hair was a dirty blonde.
She was sitting on the curb with a guitar on her lap and a joint in her hand. Beyond her, a number of scruffy looking humans and Mamono were queued, shuffling onto the bus.
“No sweat.” I replied, as I crouched down next to her. She tilted her mushroom head and semi-focused her eyes on me.
“What can I do you out of?” she asked me lazily, her eyes blinking languidly.
I told her what I was about, about my trying to get to Yosemite. It took me a while to get the point across to her, seeing as her mind kept shifting into and out of reality. Thanks, no doubt to the marijuana she was constantly sucking on. It turned out she was the owner of the bus.
“I can get you as far as Mariposa,” she slurred, “after that you’re on your own.”
“I think I can handle that.” I replied, as the last of the people boarded. “Got enough room?” I asked.
“Hey no prob dude, I think I can squeeze you in.” she smiled at me teasingly. Sensing no guile on her, I smiled warmly back.
“I’m afraid that I don’t have much in the way of money,” I began as I pulled out my now much depleted wallet. She waved it off, smoke trailing from her joint.
“No worries, dude. You just share what you can, if and when someone needs it.” She replied as she got to her feet. “But there is one solid requirement.” She said as she swayed a bit.
“What’s that?” I asked. She reached out and almost touched me.
“Before you leave. You gotta sing.” She said cryptically. She smiled again at my look of puzzlement.
“You gotta sing us all a song, just one!” she said, “But you don’t sing it from up here.” She said as she gently tapped me on my forehead. “You gotta sing it from here.” She continued as she lowered her hand down to my chest, and tapped me on my sternum. “From here. You sing from your heart, from your soul dude.” She smiled. I smiled back.
“I think I can do that.” I said quietl
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Allen. What’s yours?”
“My name is Psilo, but you can call me Janis.” She blinked.
The bus didn’t have any seats. Instead, we all sat on the floor atop some old mattresses. The interior smelled of sweaty bodies’ overdue for a washing, along with the pungent reek of marijuana and of course the inevitable patchouli.
Janis took turns driving with a bubbly little Umi Osho whose name eluded me. When the Umi Osho drove, Janis played her guitar to whatever song suggestion was presented. Then one by one, every one of us sang.
Some of the songs were mainstream, like the first one I heard: ‘All I want is You!’ by the Cars.
The others were more obscure; Folk and Filk music mostly.
A Lizardman, sang something called: The March of Cambreadth. Despite it being a song glorifying war, we all soon joined in stomping our feet and waving our fists.
A Salamander immediately followed up with her rendition of “Ode to Pennsic War IV” A ballad devoted to the difficulties of wielding a broadsword in the woods. Which left everyone there in stitches when she finished.
Well, nearly everyone. The Lizardman just glowered at the Salamander the entire time.
Janis seemed to know every tune by heart, and played them all with gusto. Not everyone could sing decently, I know I sang off key more than few times. Most of us probably shouldn’t have sang, but we did anyway and left our eardrums painfully sore afterwards.
You know what?
I enjoyed every second of it.
We did hit a snag when Janis wouldn’t listen to reason at one point. She chose to take a side trip down state Highway 120. I tried to warn her about how steep the incline was for Old Priest’s Grade, but she just waved me off.
“Chill dude, I can handle this!” she said with confidence at the bottom. An hour later, when the bus finally wheezed its way to the top. Janis pulled off at the widening and turned the bus off.
Eventually it stopped dieseling and shuddered to a halt. It was very overheated and needed to cool down for a while.
“Sorry dude.” She glanced over apologetically at me, as she opened the main door. “I guess I should’ve listened to ya.” She shrugged as she got off. As she went, I noticed the temperature dial had pegged itself into the red.
Well there wasn’t anything else to do, so we all followed her off and found a comfortable spot to sit. When the singing continued, I felt a wave of melancholy pass over me. It did as the spot reminded me of all the times I’d spent with my wife, Chiara, near here.
Running with that thought, I approached Janis and told her I was ready to sing my soul song. I told her what it was: The Moody Blues version of ‘Nights in White Satin’. Everyone there eagerly settled himself or herself into a semi-circle around me.
Why that one?
Because it was the song, my wife and I enjoyed. It was ‘our’ song. One that we had slow danced together many times to when either celebrating, or making up after a fight.
I nodded at Janis to begin, and once I was ready, I jumped in.
“Nights in white satin,..”
“Never reaching the end,..”
“Letters I’ve written,…”
“Never meaning to send,…”
And so it went and as I sang, my Mojo stirred itself awake. Bit by bit, and then all in a rush, I remembered the precious times I had with my wife. Now forever lost.
At first, I sang the song with just my voice. But quickly I began to sing it with my soul.
I sang about the feel of her hair in my fingers.
About the joy I felt of seeing her belly expand with our child.
About all of the times, I savored the scent and feel of her as we snuggled in bed.
Of the times we fought and made up after.
Of her laughter, and her anger.
Of her tears, and of her smiles.
I sang of them all.
Then, when the inevitable howling moved in,
I conveyed the depth of my loss.
Of my anger,
Of my discontent.
And of my determination.
I sang it all.
Finally, after what seemed an awful long time, that song, and mine as well, came to its inevitable conclusion.
I stopped, wiped my tears away. I breathed deeply in and then out. Then I looked around.
Everyone present was silent, and I could see nary a dry eye. Off in the distance I could hear a number of coyotes awooing in spirit.
Janis approached in the darkness, and looked beseechingly at me for a moment.
‘She knows.’ I realized. So, I looked back at her with my face resolute, determined to stay the course. This made her sad. She dropped her eyes and nodded resignedly.
“The bus is cooled. It’s time to go.” She said quietly. We all boarded and departed.
No more songs were sang that night.
The numbers of our party slowly diminished as we meandered down the Golden Chain highway; one or two of us would part company at random towns along the way.
Mine was the city of Mariposa. Janis pulled the bus into a parking lot of a convenient ‘Stop & Rob’. After I shouldered my backpack, I stepped down onto the tarmac and smelled a familiar scent that tickled out a sense of familiarity.
Looking around in the rays of the false dawn, the only thing to mar the silence was the sound of Janis’ bus, and the occasional yowling of a domestic house cat. Behind me, I heard the heavy sound of Janis’ mushroom feet as she exited her bus.
Turning around, I noticed that she was standing just a few feet away from me, her mouth twitching as if she wanted to convince me to join her on her journey south. I had to admit that I was tempted.
We looked at each other for a moment. Then she came to a decision, stepped over twice and hugged me tightly.
“Goodbye Allen.” She whispered tightly after a bit. I didn’t answer. She let go of me suddenly. Then climbed back in.
Never once did she look back. Neither did I wave as the bus roared its way down the street. I waited until the buses’ brake lights had blinked out in the distance down the hillside, before I moved.
I crossed over to the other side of the street and began walking north along highway 140 to Yosemite.
After a short while, I stuck my thumb out in the hopes of hitching a ride. I didn’t have long to wait, as an old-style pickup truck pulled to the side of the road ahead of me. I caught up to the driver and he turned out to be a genuinely uncorrupted old guy.
“Where ya headed?” He asked me genially, his watery eyes smiling at me.
“Yosemite Valley.” I answered.
“Hop in.” he said simply, waving me over.
He did most of the talking along the way; I just made the appropriate noises. He didn’t seem to notice my reticence as he rambled along. I think he just wanted someone to listen to him for once.
Halfway to the Park’s entrance, the real dawn began. What happened next was memorable.
With the morning’s light in full swing, the truck’s windshield pristine view suddenly ended with the sound of a butterfly colliding with it.
It left a yellowish smear mixed with the remains of its orange and black wings. Like a triggered avalanche, that lone butterfly rapidly turned into several, then dozens.
All around us in the air along the road, danced thousands of butterflies swarming and circling each other in a courtship display.
Every two to three seconds, the sound of another butterfly’s life coming to a sudden end, resonated in the truck’s cab.
“Well ain’t that a sight.” The Old man frowned, not slowing in the slightest. “Weird too.” He added.
“How so?” I said, speaking for the first time.
“This only happens every few years.” The old man said, gesturing with one hand off the wheel. “Strange thing of it be, it’s so much later than usual.” He drawled. “Normally happens along about April.”
“I guess love makes everyone do stupid things.” I quipped. The old man snorted with laughter once.
“Ayup!” he agreed with a knowing nod. He then lapsed into silence. Only when the roads became slick with the countless bodies of amorous butterflies, did he decide to slow down.
We began climbing upwards in earnest the closer we got to the park. During one particularly steep incline, I noted a small graveyard off on the side. It’s entrance had an arch over it with some foreign words written on it: De reis is beëindigd, it said. I asked the old dude about it.
“Oh that?”, he said as glanced back at it. “That’s a graveyard for some Dutch gold-diggers. It means: ‘The Journey Is Ended.’” He explained.
“Thanks.” I replied. ‘Apropos.’ I thought.
He dropped me off at the entrance to Yosemite Park. It being so early, there wasn’t anyone manning it. Thus, I got to avoid paying the entrance fee. Which would’ve been problematic, as I had a bit of a cash flow problem by then.
I didn’t waste any time reminiscing. Instead, I just continued stomping towards my intended goal. I walked along El Portal road steadily until it became Southside Drive. I ignored the few vehicles that passed. All of whom came too close to me, naturally.
Finally, after what seemed to be forever, I reached it.
It was a bit anticlimactic; after all of the difficulties I’d endured to get there. I contemplated the scene, casting my gaze across the water littered with large chunks of granite, trying to decide where precisely the best spot would be to deposit the ashes of my greatest treasures.
Occasionally I could hear the sound of a fish jumping out of the lake to gobble a low flying insect, and plopping itself back down into the water. They were relentless in their quest to relieve their hunger.
‘Kinda like Mamono.’ I frowned.
Finally, I made my choice, then made my way around the rim of the lake towards it: the spot where Tenaya creek emptied into the lake. Once I arrived, I pulled out my family’s metal urns for the last time. The I set them upon the muddy ground atop a convenient downed tree.
I sat with them for a while, trying to come up with a suitable eulogy, tears threatening to overwhelm my sight. But in the end, all I could come up with was: “I’m sorry.”
It wasn’t much, but to me it spoke volumes. Just as I was about to pour my wife’s ashes, I was prevented.
“HEY!” came an annoyingly grating voice. “DUMPING OF ASHES IN THE LAKE IS NOT ALLOWED!” That asshole shouted. A blazing fury replaced my grief in that moment.
Before I could turn and see who this fucktard was, they continued with their Nazi-style orders.
“I don’t care which friend of yours died, you’re not allowed to do that!” I registered that annoying voice as being feminine in nature. Not that I cared.
My eyes focused on a Mamono dressed in a Park Ranger’s outfit. My anger skipped a beat when I saw my very first Dragon Mamono. She was standing a few feet away with her wings spread slightly for intimidation. Her green-scaled forearms and lower legs ended in the characteristic Dragon claws.
Casting my gaze upwards from her feet I took in the sight of the ranger’s outfit that appeared painted upon her tight bod. A pair of massive tits tried to poke their way out of her khaki colored uniform top. Further on up her scowl projected forcefully towards me. She was at least a good head taller than I.
A ponytail drew her purple hair from her face, which revealed a pair of vertically slitted yellow eyes. Poking up out of her Smoky Bear hat were a pair of slight curved horns.
It was dislike at first sight. I felt my fury grow leaps and bounds in that instant.
“I don’t give a flying rat’s ass what the fucking rules are asshole! I’m here to drop off my family.” I shouted back at her. Her eyes flared indignantly, and her wings spread further apart in response.
“You’d better give a damn!” She yelled back, her long canines flashing. “Even if you have the permits to drop off your Uncle, this isn’t a designated dumping spot!”
“It’s not my fucking Uncle, Shithead!” I screamed back at her, shaking my clenched fists. “It’s my wife and,…!” I tried to continue, but my voice began to strain with the effort. “And my daughter.” I panted hoarsely.
What I said then, seemed to penetrate her overly thick skull. She retreated back one step and her wings drooped as she did a double take.
The anger in her eyes vanished, as she looked at me with her mouth slightly open. She then looked down at the urns near my feet. I saw her eyes focus on the larger of the two metal urns. Then when she looked at the smaller one, she gasped once and shuddered slightly as if in shock.
“You can arrest me, fine me, or beat the crap out of me,” I continued shakily, tears falling down my cheeks. “But I’ll be damned before I let you stop me.” I said with finality, as I challenged her authority.
Her righteous indignation seemed to melt away from her face after I said that. Her eyes seemed to soften as she searched my own reddened face. She didn’t speak another word as we stared at each other for a long moment.
Then came the sound of another fish jumping out the lake a few feet away, I automatically turned to look. But, I only saw the end of it’s tail diving into the water. When I turned back to continue my faceoff with the Dragon. She had vanished without a trace or sound.
I looked all around me, but I never spotted her. However, my Mojo told me that she was still nearby. But I had no idea where. I shrugged it off.
I then poured the ashes of my greatest treasures into the gentle waves of Mirror Lake and watched as they mixed with the placid waters. Hopefully, with the effect of returning their souls to that from which they loved and originated from.
That was the moment, my tears made good on their long-delayed threat.
I cried. All of the pent-up rage, frustration and sorrow I had bottled within burst forth, finally. Until, I had emptied myself.
I stayed there for the longest time, feeling like an empty vessel. Not thinking or feeling. Until, at last the sounds of other hikers assaulted my senses. I got up, retrieved the empty urns and put them into my now curiously lightened backpack.
“Mission,…Accomplished.” I muttered as I began making my way towards my next destination. Once there, I located the metal recycling bin and plopped the two now useless urns into it. That bin rang hollowly when I shut the lid.
‘Waste not, want not.’ I thought, as I entered the Village Store. I hoped to pick up a few more trail bars and other items. I would need them for my final task, climbing into the high country.
I did try flirting with the cashier, but it turned awkward since my heart wasn’t into it.
Silently I made my way out, and trod wearily towards the trail that would lead towards the Yosemite Falls trailhead.
I paused at Columbia Rock to see the granite cliffs and admire the grandeur of the ancient stone Valley. At the top of the now reduced flow of the waterfall, I looked left and right to decide my path.
I realized then, that my three days of grace would end soon. Deputy Doji would probably make good on her threat, and begin tracking me.
I realized then, that there was probably a tracking app on the phone she had gifted me. So I left it on the side of trail, for it to await a kind soul to find, or perhaps a larcenous one. Either way, I didn’t care anymore.
As I bent up, my eyes caught the sigh of the peak of El Capitan off to the west. It ‘spoke’ to me, so I headed towards it. I took my time, as there was no need to hurry anymore.
Hours later, in the early evening I stood upon the edge of El Capitan and gazed down several thousand feet towards the floor of the valley. As I stood there, I wondered where precisely they had chosen to film Mr. Shatner’s character of Kirk climbing. But it was only an idle curiosity, and I dismissed it in short order.
I cast my gaze to my left and beheld the ever-growing shadows creep upward over the flanks of Cloud’s Rest and Half-dome. As I slowly turned my head to the right, I picked out the various sights along the way. Vernal Falls, Curry Village, the scars left by the Fire-Fall of a bygone era. Sentinel Dome, then Bridal Veil Falls and the entrance to the Whisky Bottle, until finally, my eyes took in the sight of the sun kissing the hills far to the west of the San Joaquin valley.
I bowed my head and opened up my senses. When I did, I heard the call again.
The Call of the Void, it was roaring silently at me this time. Unlike the previous encounters. This time I gave it an audible answer.
“Yes.” I affirmed quietly. I had made my decision.
I would Cut and Run, one last time. I turned my back to the valley, and then I walked a goodly distance uphill. Then I stopped and did an about face.
Unconsciously, I undid the latches to my backpack and let it fall to the ground unheeded. As I wouldn’t need it anymore.
All was quiet around me as the breeze tousled my hair. On impulse, I looked upwards. There in the skies above me was either a hang glider, or perhaps a large bird. I remembered then that I wanted to be able to fly like Superman, when I was a kid.
As I followed its progress, a song came to me. I began to pray it aloud.
“Into the distance a ribbon of black,..”
“Stretched to the point of no turning back,..”
“A flight of fancy on a windswept field,…”
“Standing alone my senses reeled,…”
“A fatal attraction is holding me fast how,…”
“How can I escape this irresistible grasp?,..”
Pink Floyd’s ‘Learning to Fly’.
Before I knew it, my feet were pounding against the hardness of the granite, propelling towards the rim. Behind me, I thought I heard someone cry out in negation, But I ignored it.
I spread my arms out in accord with the mental image of the young Native American boy from the video.
In the instant that I saw the line of the rim rise up above me, a memory from my childhood sprung to mind, when I tried to be Superman.
This time, I would get more than just a broken arm.
As I fell, time seemed to slow, as the last couple of years flooded to the fore.
I thought of all of the dirt done to me by life.
I recalled the devastating emptiness of an unfilled crib that had patiently awaited my daughter’s arrival.
I saw the toys that my wife and I had bought for our baby, mocking us with their existence.
I remembered the meltdown I had had when I accidentally stumbled into the child’s section of the department store.
Once again, I felt the weight of the urn warmed by the heat of my wife’s cremains.
I regretted the sins that I’d committed along the way.
I apologized to the people I’d hurt, to push them away.
The look of disappointment on my father’s face when he had to bail me out of jail, again.
My probation officer facepalming.
The words I left unsaid.
The paths I could have trod.
The hugs I could’ve given.
No, I wasn’t born an asshole.
I worked hard for it.
I turned my eyes towards the rapidly approaching valley floor; the treetops almost within arm’s reach. In that moment, I knew that I was finally free.
Free of pain, free of life’s shit sandwich and most of all I was free of hurting others anymore.
‘Good Chief God Almighty! I’m Free At LAST!’ I rejoiced.
Something happened to fuck it all up.
Nigh onto the last second, my ears picked up the sound of a leathery wing rippling in the breeze above me.
Turning slightly, I beheld the sight of a four-fingered scaled paw taking ahold of and gripping my shoulder tightly.
The source of that paw?
‘BITCH!’ I shouted mentally in negation.
Across the valley, at the turnout overlooking Bridal Veil Falls, someone who wasn’t a Mamono, but neither fully human; held a set of binoculars to her face as she looked northwards towards the base of El Capitan.
“AAAAnnnndddddd,….she’s got him!” she cried triumphantly, relieved. “Barely.” She breathed out. This queer seeming, but still oddly attractive woman, dropped her binoculars to her nearly flat chest and turned to her companion.
“Orders?” she inquired.
“Orders?”, her platinum haired companion echoed, as she allowed her tightly held bat-wings to relax. She turned her black-sclera eyes to her aide-de-camp and came to a decision.
“Now? This is our Cue to go home.”
“What do we do then?”
“Nothing.” Lady Mara, 27th daughter of the Great Maou decided.
“Nothing?” the queer seeming woman said in surprise, her mouth gaping at her Lilim mistress.
“NOTHING!?” she repeated, “After all of the years, effort, and money spent getting the Precum Facilities up and operational? Just after we finally managed to track HIM down, we do NOTHING!?”
Mara smiled sadly, shook her head for a second, and then spoke.
“It’s out of our hands now. We must let nature take its course.” She sighed, shaking her head. “It’s all that’s left to us.”
“Go ahead and start the car, I’ll be along in a moment.” Mara ordered firmly. Lady Augustine nodded her head somberly, and then she moved to obey.
Lady Mara turned her gaze to the north and waited until she heard the sound of the vehicle start, before she dared to speak.
“Goodbye Secundus.” She whispered, tears streaming down her face. “I wish you all the best.” She finished with a small sob.
Was it a sob of grief or one of joy? Only she knew, and she wasn’t telling.
Silently she rubbed at her eyes with one hand, and then walked over to the utility van plastered with the logo of the Iron Foundation, and got in.
While they both began their long journey towards Los Angeles, another, more wondrous journey had begun to unfold within the trees at the base of El Capitan.