Kevin Allen – Writer ♦ Melissa Bird – Editing ♦ Tia Myricks – Part time contributor ♦ Krystal Clear Logics – Digital Promotion
The Sixth 15
The final whine of the motorcycle Simone is riding nearly sends her into a headlong pitch over the handlebars when it jolts to an abrupt halt at the outskirts of the Sacramento city limits. A fresh burst of tears stain her cheeks when the iron horse powers down and makes way to her sobbing. She hops off the seat and guides the bike to the embankment on the side of the road murmuring up a storm of curses at how useless and cowardly she feels. Totally useless. She’d run like a chicken and kept on running until powering the bike became too damned much.
That man had Rory and he was, like, too strong and scary for Simone to handle on her own back there so she ran. It was like the only thing she could think of when she got the chance, but she had to find a way to rescue Rory. She couldn’t leave her in captivity. An hour of running for dear life on route four-four and then onto route five, after losing her initial pursuers brought her to the city of Sacramento. It seems like Jason had called ahead.
Simone had been counting on safe passage home to tell the others what happened the entire ride so they could send a unit to rescue Rory. Instead of smooth passage she kept running into disguised Gencor people patrolling each of the escape routes and safe houses she’d spied. Made worse by the fact that she’d had to ditch the bike several times to get to where she was able to see the locations being casually guarded, because she had nearly run smack dab into several police checkpoints along the way. The uniforms were all unguarded normies with orders to apprehend a teenager with brown hair, no helmet, blue eyes, riding a silver motorbike. Skinny. Underage. Must be stolen.
Great. Stupid. A few words Hunter always says he’ll string her up by her toes if he hears her using. Like seriously.
It was after motoring to the third escape house Simone gave up and rode across the city to find a way out of it. She’s left a trail of tears behind as proof she was here. The only way home right now is the hard way. That’s become clear. The hard way is several hours through painful terrain, even on this motorcycle Simone lets fall onto the grass when she finally lumbers it over the hilly mound out of the view of the road and the city.
The city sign is in the perfect spot to blot out the sun, which is nearing its daily searing, eight AM blare. She falls to her knees in the grass and let the tears drench her day-old clothes, smelling of sweat and fear. A horrid feel of disappointment toward her cowardly actions after Rory had acted so bravely to give her a chance to act, kneels with her. She’d run scared instead of helping Rory beat the snot out of Jason. She ran and left Rory instead of fighting. Simone keels over on the ground next to the motorcycle, lying on her sides just as it had when she let it go. And she let go. Loud, painful sobs fill the silence left by intervals of speeding vehicles on the other side of the mound.
She curls into a ball, in horror when she feels the ground thump from something heavy clomping somewhere close, behind where she can’t see. Though her instincts to turn and fight kick in, that last fight proved she had no guts and it wasn’t worth fighting anyone. Simone sobs loudly not caring what happened to her while footsteps drag toward and stop directly at her back. She hears someone bending down to inspect her but she has no will to fight anymore. No strength for anything but tears.
Hands. Two of them. Hollow delicately under her legs and her upper back. “You did the best you could.” She hears a familiar baritone resonating with kindness. Simone turns to the man behind the voice and folds into him as he lifts her gently off the ground and howls her anger and pain and shame into him. “We’ll get her back. Don’t worry.” He says, sparing her the task of having to recount what happened to, Rory.
He inspects the overturned bike in the grass. Nothing to be done but to leave it to chance. The highway patrol will find it sooner or later. It will be impounded then confiscated by someone unknown. Then it will either be turned over to Gencor or vanish never to be seen again, once the authorities realize what they have in their possession. He can’t worry about it right now.
“Hold on tight.” He instructs the crying girl and doubts she’s hearing him. “I’ll need to move fast.” He says, mostly reflective. Then he checks the clearing and patch of trees separating the highway’s knoll from the community on the other side of it just in case there are prying eyes or weapons aimed in their direction. He feels them. Gencor. Keeping their distance. He imagines their radios chattering up a storm after what they’d just witnessed. Jason will know who came for Simone when they give him details. He’ll understand the power behind the defenders and he will be coming at them hard. They’d all agreed that this needed to be done.
They are not making a move, he decides. He gives himself the all clear.
Then, spawning a thin layer of energy to shield Simone and himself, in order to keep the winds from blowing out their ear drums at high speeds or blinding them, he raises his head to the sky, listening to the cries he hopes will end soon. He can’t worry about that either. Better she get it over with. The energies saturate his body at the cells, resonating out to the energies in the air he will need, attaching to them like magnets and, like a sling, launches him at the sky in a blur of motion, setting his body rigid at a height above ground, at an up-angle nearly parallel to the ground, with Simone securely in hand.
Synchronizing his energies with those floating around, the teacher directs a shot of energy from inside to out, as a propellant backwards to start their travel, slitting through currents of air in the imperceptible sea of energies as he jets across the skies, upward. North-by-north-east. At three thousand feet another blast of energy pushes him faster blooming a shock collar he sheds as he swims even faster through the air by weaving unnoticeably in and out of the energy streams to control his speed and direction, leaving the shimmering skyline of Sacramento behind.
His power is unmistakable. His speed is incredible. His fighting skills will require lots of polishing up. And her disappointment – though Miriam would admit some relief, she will have to set aside when Cory finally stops fighting. It will be years of training before he’s of any real use in her fight with Jason and patience has never been something she’s been known for.
Miriam has been schooling Cory in the art of the fight for the last couple of minutes on every attack he’s thrown at her. She feels totally in control, except that he doesn’t seem to want to give up just yet. She’s perfectly fine with that as long as he keeps making those lame attempts to land blows. She had taken one too many of those from Cory head on. They hurt. Making the mistake of thinking she could go head to head with him would have been an epic miscalculation on her part. Miriam has no question about how powerful he is.
She has been tempering his raw power with elite fighting skills learned at the hands of the best warriors money could buy. She has had to use every trick she’s picked up over the years to stay a step ahead of his brutal attacks. A dodge here. Counter there. Minimize blocking to avoid some of the pain of his physical strength. Though, once or twice she did use his strength against him only to see him get right back on his feet. Mercifully, he does seem to be tiring out. She can clearly see some of his speedier attacks coming at her now.
She’s starting to feel the strain it takes to fight Cory, too. Her body feels like it wants to stop and get in a hot tub. Miriam doubts Cory would do much more than beat her into oblivion if he got the chance, giving her time to recover and hunt him down afterward. She could imagine him like an idiot with her throat in his hands hesitating to finish her off. He doesn’t have the kill spirit in him. She’d seen it in his eyes and earlier while he was reluctant to lift a finger to attack her physically after finding out she killed his father in cold blood. After Miriam teaches Cory to obey her every command she will beat a kill instinct of some sort into him.
The poor thing must have been thinking he could overpower and capture Miriam with his passive style of fighting, after failing to escape so he could run to the cops screaming bloody murder, after hopping out of the third floor window of the house looming in the background. Though, she’s sure he’ll do some damage if he could land a solid blow, his fighting skills are amateurish, at best. He did catch her with a straight right that nearly cost her some teeth. Miriam had blood on the ground and two sore hands but she would be rewarded with a powerful new weapon after this fight. Smacking him around some more would need to be its own reward for now.
Miriam gets a grasp of Cory’s right hand when he throws a hard punch at her, at the wrist and twists it in, bringing him to one knee yelping in pain. She slaps him hard across the face and starts immediately to where he rolls over. When the fight is finished she will need the servants to set up a nice hot bath with something soothing for the pain. Her fists, her ribs, her arms and legs are sore from beating on Cory. He seems to be trying to adjust his fighting style, which is forcing Miriam to adapt while they fight.
Harsh breaths spew into the air in front of her when she gets near where Cory is sprawled. He starts to his feet before she gets to him. Not a chance of that happening, Miriam rushes at him and sends him drudging up tufts of dirt with a well-placed boot to the torso.
And again he wobbles to his feet defiantly. Miriam sighs. Starts toward him. If he insists on dragging this fight any longer she will need more than a soothing bath to relieve the pains she will be feeling for the next few days. Sure, it’s taking more effort and time for him to get up off the ground with the minutes passing, but her hands feel as if they’d been tenderized. No matter how hard she hits Cory he seems to swallow it to keep coming. At this rate he’ll be dead before he falls unconscious and that just will not do.
“You’re slowing down.” Miriam shares her observation through quick, shallow breaths. “We should stop. I’ve got no problem looking past your outburst.”
Instead of answering, Cory spits blood into the patches of grass and dirt in the sunshine in between them.
“Have it your way.” She was hoping he would have given in. Her hands give her a quick sting. She needs a breather as much as he looks like he does. She hopes he’s willing to listen. “But we aren’t enemies, Cory. I’ll say again. You’re being tricked into fighting me by that little monster.”
Cory impresses the image of his father on her mind. It is as much to let her know he’s still seeing what she’s thinking as it is to keep from opening his mouth. His lips hurt like crazy and he can taste blood flowing freely inside his mouth. He’s too weak to keep Miriam from ejecting him from inside her head, though. So he lets it happen. He’s not letting her escape. She’s not getting away with what she’s done. He watches as she closes within three feet and prepares.
“Impressive.” Miriam admits. She charges at him. She’s done playing. All Cory can do is try to move. Before he can dodge, Miriam vanishes, appearing crouched at a low angle to his left and catches him unaware of her there, folding her left hand into a ball and hammering him with an uppercut on the lower rib and listening to him grunt. She grabs at his left arm, flailing from the shock of the blow and drags him into her, raising her left knee into his kidney; her right knee follows to his chin when he doubles over grunting from the blow. She watches him crumple to his hands and knees.
Miriam stomps on his hands when he tries to hold onto her left foot to pull himself up. Bends and lifts him off the ground, then slams her right palm into his gut hard. Grabbing his bent form and, with both hands, she launches him high in the air and watches him collide with the ground twenty feet away.
Miriam catches the small figure of Kiren appearing to her right before she can start for her writhing prey. “Come to beg for his life?” She asks proudly of the girl, the apparition.
The sense of urgency she sees in the child’s eyes and hears in her voice stops her for a moment when Kiren says. “You should go! You’ve beaten him.”
Miriam scoffs her. “Indeed you came to beg!”
“Yes!” Kiren says pleadingly. “Leave, Abbi! Please. Let him be and leave this place.”
“Leave my own property?” She asks when the words make sense. “When I’m coming out on top? Aren’t we a sore loser?”
“LEAVE!!” The child wails in a frantic plea, rushing at her suddenly.
Miriam feels her daughter’s hands shoving at her and gets confused. Warm. Soft. The thing has never once touched Miriam before today or allowed her to touch her daughter all these years it’s been tormenting her. It has not shown any emotion other than the scorn or amusement it spews at her when it shows up. She can’t recall ever touching this thing except the one time it turned into air that choked her. But it is doing that now, touching her, pushing at her legs, wailing for her to go all for the sake of this boy. The perfect chance. Miriam boots the apparition to the ground.
Kiren is instantly at her feet again wailing for her to leave. Get out of here. Miriam quickly glances at Cory still on the ground. She sadistically reaches for the apparition’s neck with her two hands to choke it to death, but her hands pass right through. Kiren’s hands continue to shove at her. She continues pleading.
And tears. Miriam sees tears glistening. Hears the sweet voice of her dead child begging that she leave. Miriam takes a look at Cory, still on the ground struggling to pry himself from it. He falls flat on his stomach, hands pressing into the dirt, too weak to move.
Miriam mocks the apparition. “Sore sport.” Observes the teary eyes. “After all these years of tormenting me, all I had to do was beat the snot out of someone you cared about.”
The urgency in the child’s eyes becomes intense sadness in that instant with a look that bores through Miriam. Tears begin to flood her cheeks. But the pleading has ceased, instead, she stands crying, eyes downcast. “I care about you, Abbi.” Kiren says, her voice becoming strained and unrecognizable from a silent wisp of wind. “Why could you not listen just this once?” Then she scuttles melancholically back from, Miriam.
Crying. Not the apparition. Behind her. Miriam spins. The first thing she sees is a brown mop bent over Cory, shaking him and whimpering for him to move. It is not one of the servants. They wouldn’t dare. Next to the brown mop poking at Cory and crying is an all too familiar face full of disgust and ill will. One that puts itself in between Miriam and any ideas of attacking Cory or the mop sobbing for him to get up. Tyus.
She had hoped to never run into him after the last time they’d tangled. Seems like hope isn’t in her favor today. Her heart feels like a heavy bag getting a trouncing from a boxer getting ready for a major fight. Her hands are shaking. They are actually shaking. Her legs suddenly feel like jelly. Tyus is not like Cory, he knows his power and he knows how to fight. Worst, he knows how to survive. Miriam had tested every limit of his skills the day she learned about him nearly thirty years ago. And, far as she’s aware, he is the one person capable of beating Jason and ward the power behind him.
Heart murmurs cause Miriam to sigh a wispy breath and stumble nervously when she tries to look for a way to flee this place.
There is no chance of beating him. Maybe before wearing her body down fighting Cory, she could have escaped. The case for escape is weak as it is. There is a stronger case that Tyus has grown faster and stronger than the last time she’d seen him, since Jason has. Their powers seem to know no limits. It had been nearly four years.
Unable to think through the panic taking hold, Miriam looks to where the specter that had taken the form of her daughter is. It’s still there shedding tears. Why? What is it? Why was she suddenly able to feel the soft touch of her daughter’s hands after all these years of being bothered by this thing and why is it crying?
If she were to vanish she would have to risk the house. On a good day, five hundred yards would be manageable to teleport her body from. Tired as she is from fighting, the house may be as far as she can port herself. There’s no hiding from him in there. She isn’t even as fast as Cory, who moves much slower than Tyus did the last time she saw him. Running is out of the question.
The sound of her heart pounds in her ears but what to do. “It’s been years. You’re looking well.” She says wearily as a last resort. She needs time to think. The apparition is all but useless with its nonsensical sobs. There’s nowhere to run. She could survive the cliff, but, if she recalls, like Jason, Tyus has shown that he’s able to wield enough power to soar even faster than he moves on the ground.
“You killed his father and look what you did to him.” There is no greeting in the accusation.
“I want to train him to fight so we can go after, Jason.” Miriam thinks carefully, going for common ground. “Jason needs to be stopped. You know that as well as I do.”
“Jason didn’t kill his father or mine.” Miriam flinches when Tyus spits the words at her. “He didn’t give my mother cancer as thanks for keeping his house clean.”
Miriam seizes with the memory of the brawny Jamaican woman touching a needlepoint that had been left protruding from a chair with floral fabric while she cleaned the penthouse suite in New York. Toxins on the tip. Tyus’ mother had been the last living person to touch her six-year-old Kiren, fifteen years before she died. The toxin on the needlepoint gave her the same form of what doctors today call Pancreatic Cancer, at its most aggressive stage. She killed the husband years earlier for refusing her advances as compensation for not being the last person to see her own daughter alive. Miriam may have even mentioned she’d been the one to kill him when she visited the woman on her deathbed, keeping her employed as added insult. And dare she say a word her son would be following her.
Tyus had been seven years old then, born twenty years after Kiren had taken her last breath.
Tyus raises his right hand and looks at it, palm up. He examines his palm as if he’s holding something he needs to study. Folds it as if to reconsider what he’s thinking.
Miriam takes advantage of the distraction and launches a wave of energy through the dirt at Tyus. When his eyes find her, the rupture stops and the power she’d infused into the ground evaporates into nothing. She tries to attack him again, forming and launching a spear of hardened dirt from beneath her feet. It smashes to pieces and crumples at his feet harmlessly.
His eyes harden. His right hand opens toward her. And it takes a second for Miriam to understand what he’s doing when she feels her body heating up. Her blood coursing through her veins faster and faster and faster until her nostril starts to bleed. She feels the deliberate inkling of his mother on her deathbed being pushed into her brain. He’d cried hard for months after the last moment her arms swarmed him, and pleaded that her mother, promise to care for her boy even though she knew the woman loved her grandson unconditionally. Miriam does the only thing she can think of even as she hears the apparition wailing, “Mercy”! Toward an unflinching, Tyus.
One last glance shows no forgiveness in his eyes.
Miriam is in another place by the time the mouth on her body opens wide and lets go an ear-piercing scream: The days when Abbiram came from the fields and marveled at his woman and children and the work of her hands. An agreed upon offer of power had stolen that happiness from her so many generations ago. And then the word that turned her coarse black hair red and strewn, stolen her tincture, and tainted the azure of her eyes to the jade, fading as life begins to depart her body, was spoken into being.
When her lifeless body crumples to the ground Tyus turns his attention to Cory and Simone, who is whimpering that she’d tried to help Rory but couldn’t, without wanting to think about what he’s done to Miriam or why she deserved it. Guilt would have to wait. He leans down to check on Cory and feels a strange feeling in the air. A feeling of great loss saturating everything.
But it isn’t his feelings. Not Cory. Not Simone. Tyus watches Kiren moving until she is near Miriam, kneeling and caressing her, sobbing uncontrollably like a child losing their mother would. The child’s sobs feel like they’re coming from the ground, in the air, from the sky, and in the ground. It feels like everything is crying. Like everything is in mourning. Whatever words there are to explain the transfiguration of the apparition as it lifts Miriam’s lifeless body off the ground and starts away toward the cliffs, he doesn’t know. Then it vanishes from sight with the body. A lingering feeling that no one would ever touch her again, howling on a sudden blast wind that subsides as quick as it had come.