Monologue #28 – Lost Anger

A funny thing happened on the way to self-employment.  I lost a lot of my anger. I noticed it a lot in the way I write.  Prior to these past few months everything I wrote had angry blasts of rage and unhappiness in it and my personal Muse was constantly smacking me on the head.  Now I write at a steadier pace with much less red in my eyes and my written work is far more crafted and thoughtful. I’ve been working diligently on my book Smashing Pumpkins as well as working on a couple pieces that I intend to submit somewhere, so I’m definitely not sitting on my hands.  There’s also this strange occurance of friends. I’ve got some now. I’m not sure how to handle that so I’m just drifting along with it, learning how to be a participant in things that I like with people who don’t offend me just by breathing in and out. It’s funny to me to discover that most of the people I called ‘friend’ from my old job were really just people I was desperately willing to bond with over a shared misery as opposed to folks that genuinely shared a common interest with me.  I haven’t dropped all of my prior ‘friends’. There are a few that have stayed with me, snuggled into secret spots in my heart like worms, and I intend to keep them there. It’s just so different to discover that I can actually choose who to spend time with now as opposed to grabbing at whomever was available.

The lack of anger in my writing is most noticeable to me in my choice of verbs and adjectives.  I’ll write a sentence, then go back and change or remove most of the action descriptors to more realistic choices, slowing down the frantic pace of activity and emotion.  When I go back through some of the shorts I’ve written for this blog I am actually rolling my eyes at myself and snickering. Not being mad all time has opened a whole new level of writing for me that I’m a super happy with.  I feel like I have finally leveled up.

Before I go, a quick note about Easter candy.  DON’T DO IT! I actually made myself sick with it.  For some reason I released my inner candy demon and let it charge, face first, through a pile of candy.  I spent that night and the next day SICK. Ugh! If I see another chocolate bunny or cream filled egg anywhere near my mouth I’m stabbing it to death with a soldering iron.  Gah! I’m too old for that stuff. I know better. (facepalm of shame)

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Dak – Part One

Dak lay on his right side with his little, black snout pointing at the base of the toilet, almost touching the visible crack left from last Spring’s repair job.  His small, now cloudy brown eyes stared emptily into the space between the toilet and the wall while his back legs lay draped on a thin, pink pillow shoved against the side of the bathtub.  She had never seen the pillow before.

“Kayla?  Honey, what’s taking you so long?”

Jamie’s voice grew louder as she walked from the hallway into their bedroom.  Her heavy, booted footsteps stopped just outside the bathroom door.

“Kayla?”

Pulling her shocked gaze away from the dead, gray terrier she turned to face her wife with shiny, wet eyes, her right hand automatically reaching out, groping for support.  Her voice cracked with emotion.

“Jamie, Dak is dead.”  Protectively she filled the doorway, using her body as a shield between Jamie and their dead dog.  “Something has happened.”

Jamie’s small, not quite heart shaped face, expanded with alarm, her pale, blue eyes bugging slightly in their sockets.  The grip of her hand, initially reassuring, slackened.

“What?  What do you mean he’s dead?  What happened?”  Always the more nurturing one, Jamie pressed forward, trying to see past her into the bathroom.  Her voice rose in panic.  “Kayla, get out of my way.  Let me see!”  Three inches shorter but muscled like an iron-worker, Jamie used her shoulder to shove through the doorway.

Helplessly, Kayla watched Jamie take in the scene, her short, blond hair looking bristly in the stark bathroom lighting. Without looking she knew her own auburn locks looked like they belonged on a plastic, doll.  They always talked about changing the bulb to something softer, but never did.

“Oh Dak.”  Jamie’s voice was almost a whisper.  “Oh Dak, what happened?” Crouching, she reached to touch the body and Dak’s head rolled loosely against the floor making a sound similar to someone cracking their knuckles.  

“Jesus!”  Yelping in surprise Jamie fell on her butt.  Her boots thundered against the tile floor as she scrambled backward crashing into Kayla’s shins and staggering them both.

“I don’t know what happened, Jay.  I just walked in and found him.”  Putting her hands on her wife’s shoulders she squeezed gently.  “It must have happened while we were out.”  Feeling Jamie’s body tremble she dropped to her knees and wrapped both arms around her.  

“I’m sorry, baby.  I’m so sorry.”  The apology was instinctive.  Jamie had loved Dak with the fierceness of a lioness.  The small terrier had been the child she could never have.  Turning inside her embrace Jamie pressed her face into her shoulder, her body hitching with sobs.  Kayla’s own tears trailed silently down her cheeks to drop unnoticed on Jamie’s hair.  

Her eyes dragged themselves back to Dak’s body, horrifying her with the need to stare at the now obvious broken neck.  The pink pillow under the dog’s back end stuck out boldly in the beige and blue bathroom decor.  Where had that come from?  Neither of them had a pillow like that, not even as a left-over childhood momento.  It looked uneven and thinly stuffed, like something a kid might make when they were first learning to sew.  Her brain struggling to work again, she gave Jamie another squeeze and tried to ease her away as her heart sped up with fresh alarm.

“Jay, get up.  Someone has been here.”  She felt Jamie stiffen and watched her expression change, the puffy, leaking eyes narrowing as her lips parted enough to be the precursor of a snarl.

“What do you mean?”

Kayla raised an arm to wave at the pink pillow.

“Is that yours?  That pillow?”

“Of course not, it’s hideous.”  Her voice was sharp and bitter, as if she were annoyed to have to acknowledge the pillow at all.  “It looks like that stomach medicine.”

“It’s not mine either,” Kayla stated as her eyes snapped to Jamie’s face, magnetized by the sudden harshness of her tone.  “Where did it come from?”

Pushing away, Jamie got her feet under her and stood up.  With one hand she smoothed her hair down, staring at her palm as she brushed through the wet spot where Kayla’s tears had landed.

“You cried on me.”

Cocking her head to the side, Kayla stared at her wife.  Jamie wasn’t looking at her, just staring at her hand like it was repulsive.

“Jay, did you hear what I said?”

Jamie nodded and wiped her hand against her jeans, still not looking at Kayla.

“Yeah, you asked if the pillow was mine.”

“Before that I said someone has been here.”  Feeling like something was wrong, more wrong than just their dead terrier she fixed her eyes on Jamie and waited.

Satisfied that her hand was dried, Jamie looked up at her and nodded again.

“Of course I heard you, babe.  Just because I’m crying doesn’t mean I’m not listening.”  The bitter tone was back in her voice.

“What’s wrong with you?”  Kayla took half a step backward, her heel landing on the bedroom carpet.  Her heart leaped into her throat when Jamie laughed harshly.

“What’s wrong with me?  My dog is dead!  What wrong with you?”

“He was my dog too!”  Stung, she looked away as more tears filled her eyes.

“Shit.  I’m sorry, Kay.”  Jamie  stepped close and put her hand on her arm.  “I didn’t mean that.”

Overwhelmed, Kayla could only nod as she began to cry again.  Jamie’s body pressed against her and her arms wrapped around her in a mirror image of their position only moments before.

“We need to sort this out, babe.”  Jamie’s voice was soft but firm against her scalp.

Looking again at Dak’s body, Kayla tensed, her eyes drawn to what looked like a small, brown stick poking out from under the pillow.

“What is it?”  Drawing back, Jamie peered at her, then turned to see what she was looking at.

“Someone killed our dog.”  She sniffled.

COL – Distraction

“What the hell are you staring at Ferguson?  Pay attention to your game!”  

Stepping right into his personal space, the Pit Manager Louis planted a large, hot hand on the back of his head and shoved his face down toward the table.

“Head down, ass up!  Nothing else matters!”

Blood surged into Shane’s cheeks as Old Dave the Boxman turned to stare at him with his too small, ermine eyes.  The hairs on the back of his neck leapt straight up.   The players on his end of the dice table started chuckling.  Thinking of them as second rate hyena’s he wished them all a healthy meal of his embarrassment and prayed for them to choke on it.  Six rolls of the dice passed before he dared to pick his head up again and casually glance into the other pit.  Camilla was dealing at optimal speed, her hands and arms flowing like water, placing cards with precision.  She was a perfect study in efficiency.

“Seven OUT!”

Tearing his eyes away he automatically started grabbing up the losing Passline bets in chunks that he dropped on top of his number line amid a chorus of complaints.

“What are you doing, man?”  A dark hand reached down to block him from picking up the next wager.

“Seven out, sir.”  Shane looked up into the older, frowning face.  “The Passline loses.”  It was a stupid explanation but sometimes the players forgot what was going on.  And if he wasn’t mistaken, this guy had laughed for three rolls over the head down, ass up thing.  

“Dude, the dice haven’t even rolled.”  Continuing to block Shane, the man shook his head firmly and used his other hand to point down the table.

Cautiously turning his head to look at Chuck on the other base, he saw his friend standing motionless, hands on the rail with all his Passline bets still in place.  Feeling panic start to slither into his throat, he looked at the Stickwoman.  Cassie stared back at him.  The thick, black braid over her shoulder seemed to bleed its darkness into her eyes.

“It was the table behind you,” she said, tapping the base of her stick lightly against the green felt covering, a clear sign she was irritated with him.

“The dice haven’t rolled, Shane.”  Old Dave the boxman wiggled his swelling finger joints at the mess in front of Shane in annoyance.  “You need to put the bets back.”

“What the hell is wrong, Ferguson?  Still not watching your game?”  Louis barked from his podium, his voice booming and hard enough to split granite.  “Dave, get a grip on this guy, will you!”

With trembling hands Shane started sorting through the chips he had dropped onto his line, feeling Dave’s eyes on him.  His boxman was a lifer, never supervising anything but dice.  If the Pit Manager was snarling at Old Dave then Old Dave was going to rip out someone’s throat.  Shane was positive he would be dealing blackjack for the next week once Dave finished with him.

Five minutes later the bets were restored but his ego was shattered.  Holding onto the rail for support, he stared down at the table listening to his players talk rudely about him like he wasn’t there, and waiting to feel a tap on his shoulder signalling he should clear out.  The dice rolled.  Leaping into action, he paid everything and returned to his starting position, still waiting for the tap.  After two more rolls he heard the harsh, blatting of Old Dave laughing through sinuses that were too used up to support the sound.

“I think he’s got it now, Lou.”

“Good.  I’m already tired of him today.”  Louis’s voice drifted away, signalling he was walking to the other end of the pit.  

“He’s so scared of me he probably won’t look up for the rest of the week.”  Slapping the rail beside Shane, Old Dave rocked slightly in his broken down office chair.  “Don’t worry, Shane, I’m not tossing you over to blackjack just yet.”  He chuckled.  “From the look of things, you’d be happy there right now.”

In the edge of his vision he saw Dave focus on the other pit and knew he was looking directly at Camilla.

Between The Pews

Time always seemed to slow down to a crawl the second he walked in the door.  Minutes took hours to happen.  Maybe it was all the candles?  Did candles have some weird effect on time?  Who knows.  Could it be something actually built into the bricks of the church?  It wouldn’t be a surprise to find out that God’s blessing on the building was actually a rip in the fabric of time.  Everyone inside the church, soon to be fidgeting  through the sermon with him was actually trapped in a long, drawn out, three hour coaching session that only took an hour for everyone on the outside.

Slipping out of his brown leather jacket he draped it carefully over his left arm and tried to relax while looking around at the others..  The red carpet with its twisting black pattern always reminded him of the decor he sometimes saw on wrought iron fencing, giving him the unshakeable idea that he had walked into a trap.  Paired with the bright colors of the stained glass windows and those ridiculous giant wall drapes, he always felt bombarded by awareness when he first entered the church.  The warm, oak stain on the pews was the only saving grace, offering a safe spot to sit and block out the rest of the room.

“Good morning Fred.  It’s good to see you this morning.”

Trying not to look unfriendly, he turned toward the smooth talking salesman of God’s word, his hand already out and ready to be grasped.

“Morning Pastor Tom.”  Ugh, always with the soft, two handed grip.  Holding his face absolutely expressionless, he forced himself to endure it.  The man was a minister.  He was supposed to be gentle and non-threatening.   “It’s good to see you too.  How’s Helen doing?”   He looked the man in the eye, careful to not be too strong about it.  They were the same height, but that was all.  Dark haired Pastor Tom was more than a little portly and preferred a light gray suit for practically every occasion.  His own khaki slacks and charcoal gray sweater, chosen specifically to highlight his sandy hair with its seventy dollar haircut felt a lot more casual now that he was standing here.  He’d never felt this awkward with their previous minister, Reverend Harry.  Harry had rarely worn a suit.  He was a real down-to-earth guy.

“Helen is doing well,” Pastor Tom said with a grin.  “You know my sister, she’s got her hands into every pot she can find, stirring at top speed.”

Um, yeah.  What the hell was the last thing Helen had organized?  He couldn’t remember.  Was it that luncheon for the Beekeepers?

“That’s good.  Busy hands and what not.”  Smile and nod.  Pastor Tom was nodding too, his dark hair held firmly in place by an expert application of hair grease.  They were close enough that he could smell the lanolin.

“You know, Fred, Helen could use another pair of strong arms to help with the Pancake Breakfast on the thirtieth.  We need one more cook for the grill.”  Pastor Tom’s dark blue eyes opened just a smidgen wider.

How strong did you have to be to flip a flapjack and roll over a sausage link?

“I’ll check my calendar, Pastor Tom.  It’s been a busy month for me.”  He felt his face stiffen with resistance.  Those blue eyes might work on the ladies of the congregation, but they didn’t move him in the slightest.  Was that Karen Green just walking in?  He caught a flash of copper red hair just behind Pastor Tom’s bulk followed immediately by a flash of leg.  It took willpower to keep himself from tearing his eyes away from his minister just to stare wolfishly behind him.

“Of course, Fred.  Just let Helen know if she can put your name on the list.”  Pastor Tom turned away to greet another member of his flock, fully blocking the view of Miss Green and leaving a distinctly loud and empty spot behind him.

Feeling like his shoes, long ago broken in to the point of comfort were suddenly too tight on his feet, he turned toward his usual pew and took a seat, laying his jacket gently beside him where another person might be tempted to sit.  Sunday wasn’t usually a work day for him, but he could definitely make it one.  At least the people who worked on the Lord’s Day got paid.  All he got was the ability to repent and be judged by the rest of the congregation.  Sighing softly he looked up toward the domed ceiling with it’s stained, wooden braces and tried to feel something besides resignation.

 

COL – Perfection

“Every choice you make will alter you.  It will change the chemical makeup of your body and shape the way people see you.  It will give you a baseline for every decision that will follow.”

Tall and strong, Kaleb Ferguson stood beside him, his wide hands with their stubby fingers splayed on the edge of their kitchen table as he leaned down, staring him in the face.  Shane knew his father was only five foot seven, but in that moment his memory made him look so much larger.  The feel of it was like his dad had been towering over him, blocking the bright sunlight that had been shining through the kitchen windows.  Looking at his own hands now, especially the one holding the pen, he tried to feel a connection to that man who had worked so hard to make him understand something that day.  The lesson hadn’t been lost on him, but it hadn’t been learned either.

His own fingers were long, more like his mother, with narrow palms and soft tips that seemed to read their way along every movement.  Kaleb had called it a natural gift for learning, an ability that connected directly to his brain through his eyes.  Whatever he saw, he could do.  His hands would move, copying the motions of what he was seeing, duplicating the rhythms.  It didn’t matter if he was watching someone type a letter on a computer keyboard or being mesmerized by how a machine could carve a small peg from a single block of wood.  His hands would move, following the patterns and flowing along invisible pathways that he could feel.

The pen in his hand was warm, the heat from his skin having created a bond between himself and the plastic.  It was a common pen, a simple thing purchased in bulk boxes of twenty-five with a personalized logo printed around its cylindrical exterior.  The casual appearance of the pen was a sharp contrast to the paper in front of him.  His eyes were captivated by the form, it’s perfect beauty a drug for his eyes.  Whoever had made this had cared very deeply for its shape.  They had taken the time to feel their way along its creation and respect the rhythm of its purpose.  The pen was typical, just ink in a tube.  The employment agreement was a siren’s song captured on paper.

“If you will sign your name at the bottom of the form that you are accepting the position we can move along to wardrobe and have you fitted for your uniforms.”

A perfect form.  A casual pen.  A voice that scratched his ears.

Rolling the pen between his fingers he ignored the blonde woman with her short, frozen hair and impeccable gray, wool suit.  The lesson wasn’t lost, it just hadn’t been learned.  Why now?  Why that memory at this moment?  His spirit ached for him to sign his name, to write it on the amazing form and become a part of what had created it.  His mother had called that rubbing against popularity.  People liked to be near things that were magnificent, feeling they could absorb the greatness and enhance their own existence with it.  Was that what this was?  Was he just trying to rub against popularity?

“Mister Ferguson?”

Ripping his eyes away from the beautiful form he found the woman smiling at him, the bottoms of her perfect teeth barely showing between her painted, pink lips.  Her eyes were fully open, the pupils expanded in the flourescent light of the interview room that somehow brought a

deeper blue to her them.  Was she wearing contacts?  Keeping his teeth to himself, he smiled tightly back at her.

“We should move along now.  We have a lot of ground to cover yet.”

Nodding his understanding he rolled the pen around again, looking for a cooler spot to grip.  Carefully he turned the paper, positioning it at the exact angle he needed to get the proper slant on his signature.  It was his way to write in an upward motion, away from him.  His second grade teacher had made a fuss over it, trying to force him to write from right to left instead, but he had ignored her, waiting until she walked away to turn his paper back to the angle he liked.  Positioning the pen over the line at the bottom of the form he took a last look at it, letting his eyes soak in the love that had been imbued into its creation.  Taking a deep breath he touched the nib to the paper.

“Okay, let’s move along to wardrobe.”

Feeling like the room had become slightly darker, he shoved the paper away from him, not looking anymore.  The form was ruined, its beauty destroyed the instant he had touched it.  All he felt now was regret.

Smashing Pumpkins – Opening Scene

(Being hard at work on getting my book finished I haven’t written a short story this week.  I feel moderately bad, but under the circumstances sacrifices must be made.  My life will be different next week.  Until then help yourself to bit of my main character.)

 

“This will go so much smoother if you will all just get in a line.”  Tammy’s voice rose higher with each word, a useless attempt to verbally control the throng of adults groping over her desk like zombies in search of a meal.  

Samson tried not to chuckle as he thumbed through the stack of papers marked for him.  Tammy’s desk was placed fully across the main path to Principal Brandt’s office, the door being in a direct line with her chair.  Anyone needing to speak with the Principal had to deal with Tammy first.  Like it or not though, the only order in force this morning was that of alpha versus everything that wasn’t alpha, excluding the scavengers drifting around the outer edges looking for their shot, and secretaries who lacked enough self-assurance to enforce order in an excited situation.

As if to prove his point, a narrow, pale arm covered in a three quarter length black knit and surrounded by four wide, silver bangles, snaked its way between himself and the other third grade teacher, Mrs. Chang, and snatched one of the thinner stacks off the top of Tammy’s faux wooden desk.  From the edge of his vision, he could see the platinum blond head of Alison Kanger, one of two seventh grade math teachers, retreat to the south wall with her prize.  Ghost white skin and large, round eyes with irises the color of drying earth clay, Alison was a startling apparition in the fluorescent illumination of the school’s main office.  More than once in his first three weeks here it had amused him to think she would be a heart stopping shock on a dark, county road in the dead of night.  High beams or low wouldn’t make a difference.  If Alison Kanger jumped in front of his car he would scream like a school girl and jerk the wheel.  

Using her middle finger to push her glasses further up the bridge of her nose, Tammy scowled at the group, her round, flushed cheeks bulging outward like a chipmunk.

“Is anyone even listening to me?”  

Noting the way the small muscles around her eyes were tightening Samson looked directly at her and smiled, showing just the bottoms of his upper teeth.  Tammy’s pupils expanded instantly and she smiled back, her teeth fully exposed.  Quickly he looked back down at the papers in his hands. 

“Not really,” Alison stated, head bowed over her papers.  The fluffy, overly large bump she teased into the front of her hair translated into the pillar of a crown in the shadow she cast on the pastel yellow wall behind her.  Her angle in the light coupled with her head down posture gave her shadow a grotesque hump on its back.

“Animals, all of you.”  Straining to cross her arms over her chest Tammy huffed deeply and used her feet to push off from her desk, propelling her office chair backwards, away from them all.  A slight turn at the end gave everyone a side view of the long, brown tresses she refused to trim, the split ends appearing gray and unhealthy as they floated through the air a mere two inches from the floor.

Seeing all his pages were in order Samson went through them a second time, not really looking now as he watched Alison from the corner of his eyes.  The way she was licking her finger before turning every third page was maddening, like listening to someone scrape their nails over an old, slate chalkboard.  The small gap between her top and bottom teeth, clearly the result of a mild overbite, was filled with the tip of her tongue waiting for its next opportunity to wet the middle finger of her right hand.  Near the bottom of the stack she froze for a second, her eyes widening and a calculated smile spread over her entire face.  It vanished so quickly that had he not been watching he would have missed it completely.

Straightening up he began to make his way out of the office.  At six feet on the nose, he was taller than most of them and used that difference to his advantage. Careful to not step on Mrs. Chang’s foot, he dropped one shoulder and slid between her and Mr. McDonald, the Middle School Phys Ed teacher.  McDonald grunted as Samson’s pristine blue button down brushed his arm.

“Mmpf.  Football players.”

A guilty smile flashed across his face.  He had never been a football player or into any sports at all.  His muscular build was from the hours spent at home doing floor exercises while studying his suspects on the plasma.  He never went to a gym.  

“Goodbye Samson!”  Tammy’s voice sing songed over the heads of the teachers.

Raising a hand in acknowledgment he headed into the hall toward the Elementary wing. He had twenty minutes to get himself together before the kids started pouring through the doors.

“Dream on, sister.”  

Irritated by the snarky tone, Samson paused and thought about going back to confront Alison about her assuming attitude.  It would be a great start to his day, but it would undoubtedly give Tammy the wrong idea.  She was nice and all, but she was also a toad. Every time he looked at the squat secretary with her four feet of dead hair, his mind drew a picture of a jelly-filled amphibian with giant glasses riding on a shaggy lily pad.  Naw, let Tammy deal with Alison on her own.

The school housed kindergarten through high school, each part joined to the next by a single set of heavy, metal, double doors.   Pushing his way out of the middle school, Samson let the big doors bang shut hard behind him and walked to his classroom near the end of the hall. Cardboard cutouts of pumpkins, scarecrows and jack-o-lanterns were taped to the walls above the coat racks and JOC banners were tacked over every classroom door.  Closer to the floors, cats, ghosts, spiders and colorful fall leaves had been pasted.  The overall impression was an entire hallway of Halloween.  Welcome to October.

 

Reflections – Part Two of Two

Whistling air again, Mr. Jones slid himself onto the table, pausing for a moment as his feet came off the floor and his body settled back onto itself.  He sighed, the lines at the corners of his mouth becoming shallower as the muscles beneath relaxed.  Raising his head, he gave Master a smile.

“My knees.”

When no further explanation followed, Master narrowed his eyes slightly and shifted his sight again, this time looking specifically at the stated area.  The murky, brown aura swirled around Mr. Jones like a delicate dust storm.  No area stayed motionless long enough for a visual assessment.  In the seven years he had been professionally clearing energy paths and helping to open chakras he had seen several unusual behaviors in a person’s aura.  This swirling was something new.  He had no reference for it.  His eyes flicked involuntarily toward the small mirrors then back to Mr. Jones.

“Can I lay down now?”

Seeing Mr. Jones’ eyes watching him, Master nodded and held out a hand, palm open.

“May I take your jacket, sir?”

It was a simple request that clients acquiesced to without question.  Mr. Jones was no exception.  Shrugging his shoulders the grubby, tan jacket dropped down his arms, landing in a pile on the table’s soft, blue cushion.  Master tilted his head slightly to one side, surprised at the ease of the man’s movement.  

Plucking up the garment by its collar he turned to hang it on one of the round wooden pegs by the door.  When he turned back his foot froze in mid-step.  In that small, two seconds of time, Mr. Jones had, without a sound, become stretched flat on the table.  His hands were again folded, the fingers laced tightly together and resting on his stomach.

Finishing his step, Master made two more and stood again at the head of the table, behind Mr. Jones’ closed eyes.  Every hair follicle on his body was erect.  He could feel the energy gathering around him.  Unable to help himself, he looked again at the small, reflecting discs hanging so carefully over his windows.  They had been a gift from his mother the day he had opened his doors.

“Evil takes many forms.  These discs only guard against one.”

Showing him how to measure the strings and make the knots, she patiently explained the significance of each one.  He had never moved them from his windows.

Raising his hands he brought them together over Mr. Jones’ forehead, cupping them around the area commonly considered the third eye.  With shifted sight he focused his energy.  The response was immediate.

Mr. Jones opened his eyes and looked up, his blue gaze fixed on Master.  The area of his third eye swirled deeply, the murky brown color of his aura sweeping together into a vortex.

Master’s hands became captives of the storm, trapped in the tidal pull.  His own energy lashed out like a whip, violently looking for something to hold onto and finding nothing.  The vortex opened wide, revealing an iridescent jaw filled with teeth, the upper and lowers showing large, canine-like fangs.

Struggling to pull his hands back, Master felt his wrists bind together.  His personal energy poured out of him into the waiting jaws where it swirled away.  Dizziness swept over him.  His eyes rolled upward as the soft, hazy blackness of unconsciousness mercifully captured him in its waiting arms.

Master awakened alone, curled atop the blue cushion of his work table with his head pillowed on one arm as if he had lain down for a quick nap and fell deeply asleep.  He blinked repeatedly, trying to recall how he had come to be there.  Mr. Jones had been been laying here.  

Mr. Jones!

Memory jerked him upright and his head screamed with pain.  Dizzy, he pressed a palm to his forehead where it hurt the most, the skin over his hands feeling thin and tender.  He squinted at them, studying them through pain filled eyes, then looked at the peg by the door.  

Empty.  

The tan, grubby jacket was gone.

Slowly he sat up.  Every inch of him ached as his weight shifted from one part to the next.  It took both hands pulling at his slacks to get his legs over the edge of the table.  The step is still in place.  Carefully he lowered himself down, wincing as his right foot settled on the step.

Behind the sideboard where he kept his crystals, acupuncture needles, incense and hot rocks, is a full length mirror hung on its side.  He had hung it that way to increase the power of the candles he burned while he worked.  The light was softer, more golden and easier on the eyes.  Catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror he is numb with shock.

Black hair, once rich and thick, is now thin, peppered with gray and flat in color.  The skin around his eyes has become creased.  The brown of his irises are now flat and washed out, like he had been drained of his vibrancy.  Knowing what was coming, he shifted his sight to see his aura.

Darkness

Shuffling closer to mirror he peered at his forehead.  An iridescent smear seemed to cover the area of his third eye.  Bracing both hands on the sideboard he leaned in, his tired eyes trying to make sense of it even as his stomach seized with horror.

Bite marks surrounded a gaping, ragged hole where his third eye had been.

Mr. Jones had left and taken Master with him.