Kevin Allen – Writer ◊ Melissa Bird – Editor ◊ Tia Myricks – Production ◊ Krystal Clear Logics – Promotion and Digital Marketin
The Sixth 7
“My mother, I dear say.” Kiren playfully eyes Miriam. “Thinks I am her imagination and refuses to acknowledge me at times, as you see. But I would so not like to be stuck in that head of hers. I only wish she could understand that.” Kiren explains in the queen’s crisp English.
Cory stares at Miriam. At Kiren. The resemblance is unmistakable. They are mirror images. One a tall and skinny woman while the other is a short and stubby six or so year old. Both of them are staring one another down with the same piercing green eyes. They both sound nuts. Cory would assume there are better places to be right now than here and he’d like to be anywhere but here, even if it turned out to be a worse place.
“Shall I tell him more, mother?” Kiren asks politely.
Miriam pushes from the chair and is on her feet in a split. She paces three steps to the window, turns and paces three steps back to the chair. Repeats times two. “I assure you, this – thing – is not my child.” She quips in the midst pacing.
“Thing?” Cory is flattened by the reproach Miriam hurls at her daughter.
“Yes,” Kiren aims a jeering smile at Miriam. “Do tell him what sort of thing your child is. Tell him if you know!”
Cory stares at the girl like she’s crazy, talking to her mother like that. And why in the hell would a mother indulge her child that way. They seem to both be suffering from the same manic behavior. Cory would call it manic, for sure.
“An infernal tormentor,” Miriam whines. “One that shows up at all the wrong times.”
“This is not the wrong time!” Kiren shouts her down. “It is the exact time. Otherwise you may wind up making him as gonzo as you are.” Kiren turns to Cory. “She’s about to say that you’re seeing me because your mind is latched onto hers. Don’t listen to her. I am as real as you are. I can prove it.”
“How do you plan on proving that?” Miriam demands. “Surely he’s just getting a glimpse of what years of stress has done to me.” Miriam presses Cory. “Tell her to prove she is real!”
Cory only wishes he could escape. Right now. Why did this woman have to be the one to rescue him? How sure is he that she rescued him and he’s not in whatever transport Gencor has him packaged in anyway? They had caught him at the house. He still remembers the sting of the needle that ended his attempt at escaping them.
“You should demand it matter of fact.” Miriam nudges.
“He must not!” Kiren taunts.
“Then how is he to know you’re not real?” Miriam argues, anger getting the better of her. “You are a stress-mirage, that is all you are.” She manages to stutter.
“And you’re a mad woman!” Kiren waves her off. “There is no such thing.”
“As you can see, Cory,” Miriam makes her case. Why would this thing choose now to show itself? It had been some time since Miriam saw it. “I’ve suffered much at the hands of our pursuers. They haven’t given me any respite and it’s driven me to see this thing. Now I’m even projecting it.”
Kiren reaches for the cart and takes another pastry and eats casually while Miriam is making her case.
“For all I know they could be actively using it for some dubious purpose.” Miriam accuses.
“A basket case, you Americans say.” Kiren goes on to explain to Cory while holding up the file to remind him to come and have a look. “She is simply a perverted old woman who lost her mind, Cory. But she did a wonderful job of this.”
Cory looks at the child. “Wouldn’t that sorta make her right about you?”
Kiren points a pout toward Cory. She laughs when his words make sense. “I suppose, but she’s not right.” Kiren points to her head. “I am quite real and not in there.” Kiren munches on the pastry.
“She looks real.” Cory says to Miriam. He can’t understand how or why he’s letting himself get involved in the mess or why he’d be seeing her delusion.
“Touch her and see that she isn’t.” Miriam challenges.
Cory reaches out and touches Kiren on the head. “I can feel her.” Cory tells Miriam.
“She cannot be real.” Miriam insists.
Kiren turns to Cory. “This is going to hurt for sure.” She warns. Before Cory can react, Kiren stretches her neck, opens her mouth and clamps down on the flat of his right hand with her teeth, full strength. Kiren laughs and lets his hand go when Cory screams in pain. “That’s for taking her side.”
“I didn’t take anyone’s side.” Cory checks his hand and sees tiny teeth marks. Part of him wants to put this kid over his knees and do what her mother doesn’t seem to want to do. But part of him is at code red with these two. Something isn’t right, but this whole thing is really happening.
“You touched me. You listened to her. That’s taking her side.” Kiren chastises.
“You see,” Miriam says. “Nothing but Mischief.”
“Did that feel real to you?” Kiren asks Cory.
“You need an ass whoopin!” Cory fumes forgetting where he is and who she is.
“And are those teeth marks?” When Cory fumes at her, Kiren asks. “Shall I give you more?”
“No!” Cory says. These two are insane.
“Good!” Kiren says. “You could use salt. I’ve bitten better tasting hands.”
“Strike her!” Miriam demands.
“Mean old woman!” Kiren screams at Miriam. “Look at her Cory. Madness setting in on this old has been.” Kiren smirks. “Did I tell you she’s an old hag?”
“Oh good God! You’re talking about your momma that way?” Cory shouts.
Kiren smiles. “Much more than just my momma.” Kiren and Miriam share a similarly painful gaze that Cory doesn’t miss. “She was a great woman once, with such promise. Weren’t you, Miriam?”
Miriam doesn’t answer.
Kiren casts a smile back at, Cory. “Look, Cory. The mother of nations is in front of you. From her came great lords and kings. She told them they were anyway.” Kiren mocks and laughs at Miriam.
The fight is knocked out of Miriam while she watches Kiren and swallows bile. Those words, “a great woman once,” hurt a little more than she imagined hearing them could. The truth of the words hurt even more. Miriam had been a powerful woman who wielded a great deal of influence before being forced into hiding. Given her current circumstance and Cory being her best shot at regaining power, she should not be entertaining this… thing.
Miriam could tell from the look in Cory’s eyes, how bad this whole thing appeared. This was the final time this aberration made a fool of her.
Cory stares at the door wondering if he’ll wake up some place else or if he could make it out the door before they dragged him back to the room kicking and screaming for God knows what.
“Come. Sit. Read.” Kiren pats the bed next to her trying to assure Cory it is ok not to run. The mood had to be kept light to not have him feeling too nervous about staying here once he figured out what here is. It is the safest place right now. And without the shenanigans Cory may have skipped reading the contents of the folder, missing key information. “There is much to learn before she realizes what I’ve done.”
“What you’ve done?” Miriam flings daggers. “If not for me this boy would be on his way to see your mistake with no choice in the matter. Don’t get comfortable thinking I haven’t done my due diligence.”
“Oh?” Kiren gets off the bed when Cory takes a seat. “I’ve made no mistakes.” Kiren tells Miriam gravely. She hands Cory the first folder and looks at Miriam. Cory seems entranced by the piece of stock in his hands. “He’s not afraid at all, mother. And if you have any chance of getting him to help you, you will need to leave him alone with what he has to study. You can’t help him anymore than you can help yourself. Now, off with you.”
Miriam harrumphs. Kiren throws her a mischievous grin and fades from sight, then giggles unseen. “Right. The vanishing act.” Miriam mumbles to herself not realizing the subtle shift in Cory’s posture. Not even the tiny crumbs dribbling from his fingers to the bed.
Cory looks up from the folder. “Huh?”
Miriam points to the spot where Kiren had just been. Right next to Cory. Says. “That thing always vanishes after tormenting me.”
Cory looks where she points and then back at Miriam. Something has Miriam disturbed but Cory can’t recall seeing a child. Miriam had, only a moment ago, offered him the folders to read after he’d exited the overly large shoe closet and found Miriam seated near the window of the room gazing at the morning.
But something has her visibly upset now. Cory decides it is better to let it go. If she were joking he’d never know and, to be honest, since discovering his powers and the powers of others he has seen some strange things. But he’d come in the room and only seen Miriam. No one has been in the room with them the whole time she’s been carrying on.
When Cory was hearing voices, or at least thought he was, before he found out it was his mysterious teacher, Gencor had him convinced he was crazy too. Maybe the child Miriam is talking about is her teacher. At Gencor, however, the councilors would ignore most of Cory’s rants and tell him in honest ways what was real and what they could see and hear. He should do the same for Miriam in a way that communicates he understands. She did rescue him, after all.
Miriam, however, hears Kiren’s laughter from somewhere. Kiren’s voice saying, “And the games are only beginning, mad woman.”
“Am I to be afraid of your games?” Miriam is gazing around the room trying to find any sign of Kiren.
Cory wonders about Miriam. Wonders what she’s talking about while reminding himself to keep calm and don’t appear to be mocking her. He still can’t read her mind because she has a powerful mental block up.
Kiren’s mocking laughter punctures the room. Miriam reacts when Kiren calls her name jeeringly, telling Kiren to be silent when the child begins singing a taunting lament.
Cory doesn’t see or hear Kiren, and does not understand who Miriam is talking. He does realize that her eyes aren’t on him at all. She’s busy staring around the room. When Miriam sees him looking at her she asks him if he doesn’t hear the girl singing. He answers no. Asks what girl.
“The child who gave you the folders.” Miriam says.
Kiren is laughing unseen and only Miriam can hear her.
“You had these on the bed when I came from the shoe closet.” Cory reminds her in a calm, cool voice. He keeps his eyes on Miriam while she thinks about what he’s just said and what has just happened. Cory sees the realization setting in. He reminds himself that he has to be calm, assertive, and empathic, mostly not appearing judgy.
Miriam stares at him visibly upset. “Are you telling me the child who ate the pastries, there,” she points to a spot of crumbs on the bed. “Who handed you the folder…” Miriam trails. The thing has a way of making it seem like it is not there even when it is. The apparition has made powerful people lose sight of it and even forget it exists – some permanently.
Cory gulps. She’s cracked. “I’m sorry miss, you had these on the bed when I came back to the room. I sat down and ate two of the pastries.” He recalls. At least, he thinks he does. The aftertaste of the pastries is still fresh in his mouth. He wonders if something really happened that he’s not aware of. “Are you ok?”
Horror strikes Miriam while Cory is talking. What has just happened, she wonders. “Are you telling me you did not see the child by the window when you came into the room?”
Kiren laughs, unseen. “Could it be possible the young man hasn’t seen me, ever? Perhaps I should show myself? You should scream ‘show yourself’, see if it happens.” She taunts Miriam even as Cory shakes his head to say he hasn’t seen anyone. “You poor, poor, woman. You should take that walk to clear your head now. Dreadful thing these outbursts of yours. Always such ill-opportuned timing.”
“Be silent!” Miriam scolds, Kiren. Her eyes roam the room to follow the giggling girl’s voice. No sense pretending none of this happening. She’s lived with the tormentor far too long for that and Cory will need to be used to things happening this way.
Taken aback, Cory sits still holding the folder in hand while keeping an eye on Miriam. He keeps his face passive. When Miriam sees the look on his face she apologizes. Cory tells her it’s ok even though it doesn’t feel like it is.
“Are you certain you didn’t see a child here?” Miriam asks Cory one more time.
“You and I are the only ones in the room.” Cory says in an assuring voice.
Miriam bristles. She feels jitters crawling through her veins. What has this thing done? Why does it play with me so? “I do apologize.” Miriam says to Cory. “I’m going for that walk. I believe I need to get some fresh air.” She feels the sting of embarrassment. “You can come find me when you’re finished reading the material and we can move onto other important matters.”
“Ok.” Cory tells her. “Thanks for everything, by the way. The rescue, giving me a place to stay.” He keeps his eyes on Miriam. He wonders if this is a result of experiments carried out by Gencor. If he’d been with them long enough would this be him too, yelling at imaginary people? After Miriam mumbles something to him he asks her, “You sure you ok?”
Miriam gazes around the room. She folds her hands into one another in front of her and says. “Life has been challenging.” She listens to see if Kiren will interrupt her again. When the girl doesn’t, Miriam starts toward the bedroom door. “I won’t disturb you for the rest of the day. I feel I need some rest. When you finish feel free to enjoy the facilities as you wish. I’ll be taking a much needed break. The house keepers will attend to you as needed.”
Cory nods absently. He watches Miriam make her way through the door and listens to it click shut behind her. Hears her shuffling feet fading down the hallway. When the sound of feet is no longer audible, Cory tucks two pillows down behind him and leans back to make himself comfortable.
Once he settles he starts reading from the very first page, ‘Case file: Jason Nelson.’
Tia Myricks – Arena’s Forum
Editing & spoken word by Melissa Bird
Marketing metrics by Crystal Clear Logics