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Rated: 13+ · Campfire Creative · Appendix · Romance/Love · #1415526
Which would you choose? Know the future or plan it?
[Introduction]
"What is future? An action that may take place in a time line that is still not reached? A simple word used from the mortal humans to assure themselves that there is something inexplainable out there? Something that they can still conquer? What if I told you that I have already conquered it? What if I can tell you what will happen tomorrow? What will you do? Will you fight? Will you try to change the futuristic mistakes of mortal fools, who think they can defy death, can beat their fear through creating some in others? What will happen when you find you are not able to help everyone? What will you do when you see how limited you are? What follows your imperfection? Do you give up? Do you turn back, and try not to listen to my monotonous voice, close your eyes and believe that since you didn't know about it you're not responsible? Or do you stand, facing the trouble nonetheless? That is the future I am interested in! That is the future that directs time, space and the very history of the human kind!"



Welcome to Chicago! Autumn is young. School has began, but no one is really up for the challenges of the teachers. The summer vacation is still in the students' veins. Near Norman Langley's High school is a huge park with a white bower in the far north of it. No one goes there most of the time, but when people do visit, they often see a young man with white hair and light blue eyes, dressed in blue jeans and white sleeveless blouse, sitting inside the brower. No one really knows who he is, and why he stays there, but one of these autumn days you meet him. You understand that his name is James Womack and that he is much more than a man! He can see the past of anyone who he sees and can predict the future of the whole city, and it is up to you to decide what to do with this knowledge. Anyone who wants to participate must send me an email with his char's bio. Womack is my char. *Cool*

Name:(including nicknames)
Age: (must be between 13 and 17)
Appearance:
Personality:
Past:
Hobbies:
Likes:
Dislikes:
Other If any: (If there's anything else that you want to say, put it here.)


*Exclaim* Please do not create super characters, who are able to handle anything. That will not be fun at all. Besides I will be forced to "kick" you out of the campfire. *Smirk*



*Exclaim* Please, dedicated writers only. If you're not going to add, don't join. *Angry* I'll give you four days for your turn. If you'd like more time just email me. If you're going to be away for awhile, please let me know beforehand so I can skip you if your turn comes up.


*Exclaim* If you continually miss additions -- without making arrangements -- you will be removed from the campfire. I know life can sometimes get in the way. That's alright, but just not adding isn't. Everyone wants to add, and it's not fair to make someone wait for an invitee who doesn't add.





Name: James Womack
Age: 21
Appearance: 6 ft tall, slim and muscular- to most people Womack looks like a normal guy, but once his sky blue eyes fix on them, one starts to feel a strange aura around him. His long, white hair always hangs freely around his shoulders. He usually wears light blue jeans, a white, sleeveless blouse and light brown sandals no matter if it is summer or winter.
Personality: All who have had a contact with him see that he is a man of power. No matter what any one does it seems that he always gets what he wants. Even so he is not spoiled. He is very quiet, but when he speaks it is always for a reason. He's not the joking type, always tends to be serious. He sometimes tends to act irrationally. He sleeps rarely, because of his ability to see the future, which from time to time makes him mentally unstable, to the extent of him walking naked in his apartment, shouting in terror.
Past: Womack had a difficult childhood. His ability to see people's past began to appear when he turned five. His parents did not know what to do with him, so naturally they made it worse,by throwing him in an asylum. The psychiatrists prescribed drugs that put him at ease, but the ability never faded one bit. At the age of twelve his ability to predict the future awoke and he used it to escape from the asylum. After that he was able to get himself adopted and at the age of seventeen he transfered himself to Chicago. Now he lives on the top of Richtor's Hotel near Norman Langley's High School.
Hobbies: Gardening, taking long strolls in the garden close to the white bower
Likes: Listening to loud music, flowers, smocking cigars, buying expensive objects
Dislikes: his own powers(both seeing the past and future), cowards, to give up easily
Other: For some kind of a weird reason, whenever he tries to fix the future by himself it turns out that he had made it worse. That is why he uses others to do it for him.


Name: Raidon [Dylan Terrel-Smith Rupert Freidrich Rune] WarpoleDr Matticakes Myra

Age: 16

Appearance: Skinny but toned too, he's 5'11 and wraith like in appearence. His hair is dyed a dark blue which tends to make him stand out from the crowd as well as for his ecclectic taste in fashion. What he wears reflects his mood, though the eccentricities tend to make that less obvious. Most of the time. His hair falls over his smooth forehead and into his eyes, a light grey that darkens with his mood. His skin is naturally pale and the shaped, arching eyebrows are dark, accentuating his defined bone structure and straight nose. He tends to make people feel disconcerted as he is often seen in classes with his knees drawn up to his chest, shoes off and biting his thumb, slightly hunched over like an abused child. The slim shoulders are bony and his neck long so when he stands it seems like he's taller than he actually is. It's surprising to most who just look at him what he really like.

Personality: A strange one, he's the off the wall eccentric. Brought up in London, New York, Tokyo, Paris, Seattle, Milan and now Chicago he's travelled widely and adores blending different worlds together in him. His love for music is only matched by his twin passions for fashion and comedy, particularly when combined. However, unused to having friends due to his massive upheavals through out his childhood, he can come off as abrasive, rude and sarcastic when he's in a bad mood to those who aren't familiar with him. Not content to obey orders or conform, most are used to him answering back and questioning judgements. However, when he wants to be, he can be charming, witty and suave, something mainly seen when he's had a few cups of coffee (turned into syrup with the addition of lumps and lumps of sugar) and a Marlborough light, his guilty pleasures. He's the sort of person that everyone wants to be friends with but who rarely ever let's anyone become close to him because he doesn't trust that they wont hurt him. Despite his looks he's sensitive, a post-anorexic and is painfully aware of what others think of him although he tries to kid himself that he's not. Loves to have fun, loud and playful, but secretly simply trying to hide his insecurities.

Past: He was born whilst crossing the English Channel then abandoned on the ship at the harbour. He was adopted and lived with a French-English family for most of his childhood. His adopted mother died when he was eight and his adoptive father killed himself four years later in Seattle. Aged 12 he was put into foster care and then shuttled round for two years until he ended up living with an elderly gentleman called Humphrey Warpole who discovered that Raidon wasn't as stupid as people had thought but simply unchallenged.

Hobbies: He's an accomplished musician and is able to play several different instruments to a high standard. He likes challenges because sometimes things to him seem repetitively mundane. He'll take part in anything that's challenging.

Likes: Challenges, intelligent people, fast cars, coffee, sugar, cigarettes, raves, hash, cake, apples, strawberries, Warpole, rain, cold.

Dislikes: idiocy, stupid people, slow traffic, builders tea, saccarrines, fat, heavy food, heat, lime, alcohol, being bloated.

Other: Has a phobia of clowns...

Name: Kathleen Summers, also known as Kat to most DarkHeart-BlueEyes-StangeMind
Age: newly turned 17
Appearance: 5 foot 8 and long brown hair with blond streaks, she blends in with all the other students and people that crowd Chicago. She typically wears inexpensive jeans and tee-shirts that fit around her average curves. Simply average is how most would describe her, and the apathetic look of boredom that usually possesses her face reveals that she knows how she looks. Her eyes, usually shadowed by light circles, are a dusty blue. The color is akin to a drop of navy blue paint that has set out and solidified long enough to gain a light gray covering of dust on the surface. Just enough to be seen, but the true color underneath still shines through.
Personality: She hates being average. She wishes she could stand out and do something interesting for once in her life, but nothing is there to motivate her. She is quiet around strangers, but loud and rambunctious around friends. Stereotypical, unoriginal girl next door who is really quite intelligent but doesn't try to push herself any harder than to get a few A's but mostly B's to keep her parents happy. Knowing very well she is an average and utterly unnoticeable girl, Kathleen despises that part of her life, but seeing as she is a typical lazy teenager, she does nothing to change it. Her friends are all superficial and shallow, and she finds herself often nauseated by their actions and useless comments. She is a bright child, and she seems almost to have two faces in life. Her bubbly schoolgirl facade and the half-cynical young woman who wishes she could do more with her life.
Past: Nothing dramatic. Her parents live together, and are happily married. She has no siblings to feud with. Kathleen was born and raised in Chicago as a happy and wealthy little girl. She went to a private catholic school on the outskirts of the city, but then transferred to a public high school to try and get a better grasp on the 'real' world.
Hobbies: Reading, listening to music, sports
Likes: softball, volleyball, intelligent people, mature men (not older, just more mature)
Dislikes: stupid, shallow people, being bored, feeling useless, cheap fast food, and beets
Other: She talks to herself...a lot. Usually its under her breath, but when alone she will have conversations with herself or her pet German shepherd that she takes on walks every day after sports practice. She feels that her pet canine is more intelligent than most of her friends.


Name: Calla Desmarais macdoggie123

Age: 15

Appearance: Calla carries her unusual features proudly and deftly, giving her the air of being far beyond her years (both a blessing and a curse). Always sturdy and long, she stands at about 5' 8"; her limbs are strong but a bit gangly; her figure is only subtle. The tanned, olive tone of her skin is broken by scattered freckles- she has a habit of trying to see pictures in them. Her long neck is crowned by a sharp face with equally sharp features: strong brows, dark eyes, straight nose, defined jaw, and a mouth that moves with great energy and crisp articulation. Her thick mop of dark brown hair reaches just past her chin, a curtain bushy curls and rings. She will wear whatever is clean enough, though nothing, no matter how subdued or how out of character, can hold back her surprising and often intimidating presence.

Personality: The only truly certain things about Calla are her open mind, her tough nature, and her outgoing thirst for human interaction. It is because of that openness that she is willing- and able- to change her behavior quickly and easily She has her flaws- a short temper, obstinacy, impatience, etc. She is somewhat boyish and forward, but playfully so. But all that she has seen and experienced, especially for one so young, has made her somewhat wise beyond her years. She is a person that others either love or hate. From her fierce loyalty to her sharp tongue to her uncertainty about her own character, there is no safe middle ground to be found in her.

Past: Born and raised in a small, apathetic home in Chicago, she knows the city by heart, with all its its nooks and crannies, suburban sprawls, high points, and dirty secrets. Her parents never placed many restrictions or social stigmas on her and simply left her to her own devices even at a very young age (both freeing and, over time, troubling to Calla). Without so much as a blink from them, she began to explore the urban jungle and to meet every shade of person she could imagine, spending much more time than a normal child on the streets simply because of her fascination with people and the environment she shared with them. She has been mugged twice and stabbed once, after which she was banned from the wanderings. Of course, she still sneaks out when she can. Her family luckily encouraged her artistic talents, and she discovered her love and abilities for languages on her own, excelling in both areas in school. Everything else in her life has been fairly unremarkable.

Hobbies: Language studies, painting, drawing, exploring the city, baseball, soccer

Likes: Spontaneity, rebellion, autumn, talking with strangers, provocative performance art, windy weather

Dislikes: Ignorance, superficiality, humidity, low expectations, pigeons, bigotry

Other: Though she refuses to make it known, she is secretly afraid of the white bower. Several times she has tried to approach it, but it is the only place in the city to which she's never been able to go. It's something embarrassing that Calla is determined to change, and soon.

Name: Naira Quintin Barbara Alive

Age: 17

Appearance: Naira is medium built and stands at about 5'4". She has long blond hair and a warm smile that not only brightens her face but also can brighten a person's day. She usually wears jeans and a plain shirt to try to be invisible from others. She isn't a huge fan of makeup and usually only wears it on special occasions.

Personality: Naira isn't known by many people because she is too shy to get to know others. She dresses in as plain of clothes she can so people won't notice her or bring attention to her. She is a kind person though. She is hardly ever seen wearing a frown. She will help anyone who is in need of help.

Past: She moved to Chicago four years ago. She hasn't made many friends because she won't let anyone close enough to befriend her. Her parents are always getting on her to "go out and make friends" but she has never really listened to them when they have tell her this.

Hobbies: She loves performance art along with reading and listening to music. She

Likes: Rain, warm weather

Dislikes: strangers, being put in center of attention, strange events

Other: She is usually really shy, but when at a theatre it is the exact opposite. She becomes loud and makes friends pretty easily.

A cold air wave covered his back as the varnished wooden door of room 135 in the Richtor's Hotel opened. The darkness that had been reigning over the room was now pushed back by the artificial light of the florescent lamps in the corridor. Womack did not turn around. The person came in, raised his left hand and switched on the lights in the room. One could see the man clearly now. He was tall and still well preserved physically, regarding that he was seventy four. The wrinkles that covered his rugged face were the only evidence for his age. His once brown hair had turned gray years ago, now slowly, one hair at a time turning white. His brown eyes were looking towards the curtains of the hotel's large window. Womack had wrapped himself in them, his right hand raised high, resting on the window. He seemed to be in a dreamy state, not reacting to anything.

"Close it, will you, Basil?" said the blue eyed young man. Basil McLean closed the door. Oh, how much he wished James was in a dreamy state. How Basil wished that Womack would get some good night sleep. But he could not. He was an insomniac. James Womack had been suffering from a heavy case of Chronic Insomnia for five years now. And when James did go to sleep, he would wake up and find himself covered in blood or bruises all over his body. This was why Basil was assigned as his babysitter in the first place. Though Womack took care of all house chores and kept himself in perfect health condition, mentally he was a ticking bomb ready to explode any second. The lack of sleep and the every-day images of a gloomy future would have killed Womack countless times for these five years if it had not been Basil. McLean went to James and took the curtains off him. Womack's naked body glittered from the light coming from the window. His body was sweaty, a strong stench coming from it.

"James, let's go take a shower, huh?" he said as he took him and put one of James' arms over his shoulder. Womack did not react. He was just looking out the window with an empty stare. "James? Snap out of it!" McLean said, slapping his cheeks. Womack turned around, his gaze started focusing! "Come on, let's go have a refreshing shower!" Basil said as he started carrying him towards the bathroom.

Inside, he put him in the cubicle, turned on the cold water in full force and closed the door. In a second, Womack started swearing, turning down the cold water and switching on the hot one.

"Thank you!" James said as he got out of the cubicle fifteen minutes later, awake and a little refreshed. His eyes were surrounded with shades. His body slowly and painfully moved. He took a towel and wiped himself with it.

"So, what's it gonna be today? Should I prepare a lavender bath?" McLean said, sitting down on the armchair in the living room, as he observed Womack put on his favorite blue jeans and white sleeveless blouse.

"No, today I'm going to have a walk in the park."

"It's good for you to have such walks." said Basil as he looked towards the young man with a visible fear in his eyes. "You wouldn't be meeting anyone, would you?"

"Yes, Basil, several people to be exact."

"Damn it, James, how many "puppets" must die before you understand that what you are doing is wrong?" shouted McLean as he rose from the armchair.

"If I don't do this many people will die. MANY!" shouted back Womack.

"It's always many, and it always ends the same way."

"Shut up! Shut...up!" shouted back Womack, his whole body trembling in hatred. "You think I want to do this? You think I want to make all of them go through this? You think it's easy to tell someone that whatever they do they can't stop the tragedy that is to come. I am going to burn in hell for this! HELL!!!"

"Then why don't you stop?"

"Why? Because these images won't stop appearing." Womack said quietly, going behind the armchair. "Because I can't stand around watching tragedies becoming reality. I can't watch the grief. I want to at least stop as many as possible."

"Why don't you try to do it?"

"I'd love to do that on my own! I'd love nothing more than to spare these teenagers from the burden of my knowledge, but I can't. Remember the last time I tried to stop a tragedy?"

"You shouldn't blame yourself for that. It was too big for you."

"If I had somehow made the people in the twins evacuate before the planes hit them this would have never happened. I am not the one to do it! I am only the informer!"

"By the way, how did you know about it when that happened in New York and you can predict only for the city in which you are?"

"Well, it's a tragedy that involves a lot of casualties. The number of the dead is astronomical. There is no way I would not see something so powerful!"

"Why teenagers? Why not adults who would be more experienced?"

"Firstly teenagers are more susceptible. Second I don't trust adults to begin with. Many of them don't really care for something like preventing a tragedy. I have seen many of their futures. Some might use me to see the future on Wall street, others will use me to break in a bank. I can't really trust them. Only you Basil, and the young people that I choose."

"And who will it be this time?"

"You'll see! I won't be back soon, and as a matter of fact, go home and don't worry yourself over me. Come tomorrow." Womack said and opened the door. McLean went through it.

"You take care of yourself, ok?" Basil said.

"Yes, I will! You'll have a really nice day, Basil! I've seen it!!!"


-_-_-_-


His slow, fatigued steps echoed around the trees that surrounded him. It was three hours after noon. Both his hands were full with two cups of coffee. The breeze that passed him by, cooling him down. His almost completely closed eyes were strangely dreamy again. He took a left turn on the path and there it was. The green meadow was stretching over the horizon, populated with daisies and camomiles. At the north end of the meadow, where Womack was headed, stood a beautiful white bower. As one came closer, one could see how the daisies and camomiles were overpopulating . Womack's eyes opened widely. He wanted to seem normal when he got closer to the bower, for there was someone in it, who was watching him. It was a young man, much younger than Womack. His hair was died blue. For now, Womack could see only this. As he got closer, he could see that the man was smoking a cigarette. He entered the bower and looked at the man closer. He was skinny, and quite shorter than Womack had presumed. He looked quite pale, but Womack was not really shocked. Then his eyes fixed themselves on his hair.

"Blue? Hm." he murmured. and then sat beside the man and put the two cups on his free side. The man rose his eyebrows.

"Yeah! Have any problem with that?" the other man said as he extinguished his cigarette on the bench.

"In the visions I'm color-blind, so I never imagined it to be died in blue!" said Womack and took out a small, flat, metallic box from the back pocket of his jeans.

"Visions?"

"Never mind! Cigar?" said Womack as he took out two cigarettes from the metallic box. "No, not of course. How silly of me to offer a cigar to a man addicted to Marlborough light." he said as he bit off one end of the cigar and light it. Then he returned the other one in the metallic box. The other man reached for his back pocket as well but stopped. "Ran out of them, huh? Here, this one's on me." he said as he took out a pack of Marlborough light from his other back pocket and gave it to him. The other man looked back at him, suspiciously. He opened the pack, bit a cigarette, taking it out, and took out his lighter. "It's not gonna work, Mr Warpole!" Womack said taking out his strike-a-light.

"Have we met before?" Warpole said as he switched the lighter a few times.

"Never!" said Womack as he light the cigarette with his switch-a-light.

"Then how...?"

"Today is a nice day, for a walk, right?"

"You didn't answer my question."

"Oh, I forgot, you're not the easy-going type. I can't tell you now. Only thing I can tell you is that you're leaving."

"Is that so? And why would I do that?"

"You'll be heading back home. Life is too normal and boring for you to stay, right? But if on your way home you take the right turn on 5th Street, you'll witness an explosion. It'll be a light gray BMW, I believe it's a new model. No worries, no one will be in it and no one will get hurt... too much, but still it's a good way to give a warning shot to someone." Womack said.

"What if I don't go?"

"It doesn't really matter if you do it or not. But it would be so much different. do much more interesting than most other days, right?" Womack said. Warpole, stood up took a few steps, getting out of the bower, then turned around, looking at James and started slowly walking along the path.

Ten minutes later, an explosion sounded from the south, and birds flew up from the near-by trees. James Womack was smiling for some kind of a reason as mysterious as his presence was. He sang quietly a strange melody as he was putting lump after lump of sugar in one of the coffee cups.


The street shone, softened with the silver of rain on the pavement and just beginning to glow in the iridescent light of late afternoon lighting. The pavement glistened as a breeze made it shiver and distorted the sun-dusk reflection in crystalline water. Black tar gave way to grey concrete paths which slowly became track and then wove away from the empty pre-rush hour road and across the barren plains of Norman Langley Park. Heavy with spilt moisture the world spun lethargically on its axis and time had slowed until it crawled like a three legged spider through the shadows. From the window seat of the third storey class room Raidon could look out over the open road, across the shady green benches and into the dappled flush of grass and bracken. The park rolled away from him, the only people there appearing to be young mothers with their duty to let their children play in the overgrowing grass beating its head on the ground in the wind. These mothers, he saw, steered the smaller persons towards the path constantly, mouths opening in soundless, silenced commands. Like Labradors or tailless Vanara, the children dash backwards and forwards from parent to freedom as if contemplating whether or not to disregard their dependency. None of them chose the latter.

Raidon sighed, tapped his pencil on the table, jotted down a few lines from the blue lines on the white board and chewed his thumb, nibbling on the tip of it as his knee shook up and down beneath the table, caught on the nerve. He tossed dark blue strands of hair from his eyes and then tipped his head so it fell back across them, obscuring them as well as his drifting thoughts. For one reason or another, History meant very little to him at that precise moment in time. He wanted to go and muck about somewhere with a can of WD40 and a lighter or to simply go for a smoke and suck in the sagging, suffocating air that lingered water full.

"Warpole, you might know this." The teachers voice woke him from the boredom induced reverie, "Why was Loius XVI blah blah blah…"

"They hated him for nothing so much as floccinaucinihilipilification of constitutional monarchy." His reply was slow as he raised his eyes upwards briefly, "He wasn’t such a sunny king… after his predecessors."

There was a pause then the teacher continued, hopefully vowing not to call on him again for a while. She didn't notice his joke about the Sun King. For some reason long words paired with non-conventional syntax seemed to put off this particular erudite woman, nor did she understand sarcasm. Then again he wasn’t sure how many people actually did, even here when Warpole himself had put him there. He slumped slightly, leant on one hand, started tapping again and gazed out towards the north where the white branches of the solitary, strange tree rustled and reached their bony fingers to the sky pawing at September clouds.

It was nice to think nature was discontent with autumnal calls to school and work and duties willingly, otherwise, forgotten. He'd go for a fag straight after school let out. He'd be fine then.

*

It felt as if he could drink the air. Like a clean hazy smog, the atmosphere smelt of uncut greenery and damp shades. Smiling he set out across the common, he lit up a Marlborough Light and proceeded to traipse off the path and into the wilderness of an emptied park. For some reason today, it held the overbearing sense of untamed wilds, an unkempt moor land or heath, the tumble brush and fleshy green leaves more healthy for the seasonal rains.

He headed for the silver-skeleton imprint of a tree, the white bower as people had taken to calling it. He had always liked the way the spirals of smoke wafted up through the bony fingers as if dragons were dancing through the branches. He smirked, realising that once again he was falling into poetic paradigms. But as he arrived and reached up to climb into the bower itself, he discarded the thought entirely. This place was strange, a timeless sanctuary for here it seemed city traffic did not exist nor the battering doors or the squealing children. Sound became silent; scents became heavy, intoxicating; taste became aphrodisiacal; sight became an Eden of visions. Even touch seemed softer, like an earthy embrace. He settled in his favourite spot, a place he only frequented on occasion and looked out from the branch like any man might look out from a lighthouse or fortress.

He drew in, holding the smoke in him and then exhaling, relishing the burn in his lungs, the purity of the air afterwards. He loved these moments.

But it looked as if it were not to last. A white headed figure loped towards him and this place, slowly tracing a path through the grass and vaguely he remembered seeing this stranger from a distance here before. Perhaps he was the intrusion. This guy the real entity of the bower. As he came closer he began to tick off what he could gather from the oddity's appearance. People watching had become a hobby with Warpole, something the old man often did and which Raidon often joined him in. He lowered himself from the branch and perched on the back of the bench below, deciding it might seem disrespectful if he had taken over the tree itself and not exactly knowing why.

The walk seemed stiff, not a lope at all but a slightly staggering as if it ached to move… Taller than he was, though he'd guess not by too much and a similar build though broader in the shoulder… The white hair made him cock his head to one side as he drew another breath of smoke, keeping it in his throat and mouth as the guy approached. Stained blue and black and purple, insomnia or illness had bruised the eye sockets a dark, hurting colour, the eyes themselves seemed to be staring straight back at him, though he couldn't really tell from so far away still. The shirt was sleeveless. That made him shiver, pulling his black mandigan closer as he thought of the cold. He liked the cold, yes, but not to freeze. In a blouse and sandals he could only think of the iciness of this man's body.

He came to a halt at his feet.

"Blue hm?"

His hair. Why was it always the hair that was noticed first, he wondered with a rueful smile, "Yeah. Got a problem with that?" The stub of his cigarette was all but smoulders. He gashed it open, all red and hot against the bench.

There was a haze to the man's look, as if part of his mind was elsewhere, not with them in the garden, "In the visions I'm color-blind, so I never imagined it to be died in blue!"

Visions? He didn't realise he'd spoken aloud until the stranger replied, fixing him with a clear blue gaze that made cold spread down his spine as if a spectre had attempted to give him a massage. A cigar was being proffered then taken away and replaced with his own brand which he had instinctually reached for. And then the guy said his name.

"Have we… met before?"

"Never!"

What the…? How the hell did he know him then? Why did he know his name?, "Then... how?" He phrased the question carefully, unsure of the situation now that this man had proven himself to be quite strange.

"Today is a nice day for a walk, right?"

"You didn't answer my question." Raidon was beginning to feel defensive, not scared of course, just defensive. He didn't like it when people knew things about him.

"Oh, I forgot, you're not the easy-going type. I can't tell you now. Only thing I can tell you is that you're leaving."

"Is that so? And why would I do that?"

"You'll be heading back home. Life is too normal and boring for you to stay, right? But if on your way home you take the right turn on 5th Street, you'll witness an explosion. It'll be a light gray BMW, I believe it's a new model. No worries, no one will be in it and no one will get hurt... too much, but still it's a good way to give a warning shot to someone."

What was he talking about? Had he planted some kind of bomb? Was this guy MAD? But even as he thought it, Raidon knew he was going to go right on the way home. He wanted to see what was going on.

"What if I don't go?"

"It doesn't really matter if you do it or not. But it would be so much different. do much more interesting than most other days, right?" He was puffing on his cigar, looking strangely like a child playing with a fathers fake pipe rather than a man with a strange disposition and torpedo figurados. He rose, not taking his eyes from the white haired man and took a few steps, leaving the silence, the comforting haven of the bower, then turned back imprinting the face of this stranger in his mind before he shoved his hands in his pocked, cigarette dangling from his lips and slowly walking back along the path, no longer enticed by the brush...

*

He stood on the corner of the road, tucked into the doorframe of a shop, lighting up his fifth in so little time. A BMW sat across the other side of the road, empty and dark eyed with the tinted windows. It sat, a metallic monster, shimmering in the rain. It had been here a while. Eight minutes and thirty-seven seconds had ticked by since he left the stranger. What had possessed him to believe the guy bothered him somewhat, he wasn't used to intrigue. The only person who had ever inspired him was his mentor, Humphrey Warpole but genius was often fascinating.

Seconds flashed passed on his watch. Then a shrill, mechanical scream pierced the air and the world fragmented before him. The noise was deafening, an upward roar from Hell as flames burst skyward and the air singed brown with smoke and twisted metal, like broken limbs, flew passed in a fiery frenzy and cries flew around from a woman, an elderly man had thrown his arms up to protect his grey haired wife and instinctively he dropped to the floor and raised a hand over his head. Cursing, he looked back and imagined that the block was missing and that the park was visible. Was this a joke? Had this been planned? Half of him wanted to run, to flee and tell Warpole everything, another part told him to go to the police… and a tiny part of him murmured that all the answers lay with the white haired, phased-out boy who had transfixed him with his eyes.

Who was he? And how had he known?

A silence had fallen, unnatural. Embers licked about melted tires, a blackened metal carcass with a singed number plate that flamed with unspent energy. It crackled. But even that seemed a silent. Sobbing was quietened in the aftermath, the old man had dropped unconscious but the woman was holding him as if a babe.

"You alright lad?" A middle-aged man was coming out of a shop and spotted him in his huddled state on the floor. His accent was Brummie, Northern English more than obvious in the American city.

He nodded uncertainly.

"I've called emergency, they'll be here soon."

He nodded again and began to straighten up when a sharp pain spasmed through his leg. Like shrapnel, a splinter of finger length protruded from his calf. Biting down a shout, he stood on one leg, ignoring the throb.

"Can I give you my name, in case the police need witnesses? I need to call my father."

The man with his course accent nodded, eyes softening and not noticing the hesitancy in Raidon's last few words, "Sure."

He left his name, his address and number just as the sirens began to rise over the oppressive silence. He left, rounding the corner and trying not to limp.

Warpole's number was on speed dial.

"Hey, it's me…" He spoke softly as if that would keep out the slither slight shards of ain from his voice, "Can you pick me up from the park?"

"Yeah… I know… it just happened…. I was there… yes… yes… of course I did… No I just want to come home…" He sighed as he listened to the concerned questions, "I've hurt my leg but it'll be fine… alright… fifteen minutes. Thanks… yeah, bye."

The bleep on the other end reminded him of that initial ringing noise. He didn't like it.

There was enough time to go back to the bower if he was swift. He glanced down at his leg and sighed, he wasn't sure if he'd make it. He wasn't sure that he wanted to.
The metallic crack of the bat, the whistling of a fist-sized softball flying through the air, the groan of the pitcher who watches as the neon yellow orb soars over her head like the sun traveling in a smooth arc through the sky. Kathleen sighed contentedly as the sounds of her beloved sport serenaded her ears, and time seemed to slow to a crawl. She paused for a moment to absorb the poetic sounds, but delay was not an acceptable indulgence, and Kat took off at a dead sprint towards first base, her spikes throwing up dirt and dust, her hair flowing behind her, shimmering in the sun like liquid amber pouring from the black plastic helmet that clad her head. Adrenaline flooded her veins as her lithe leg muscles launched her off first base as she rounded the corner of the base, her arms pumping at her sides as her lungs and heart raced, body synchronized to work towards mind's goal.

Running, the most simplistic thing the body can do, no thinking is needed for the act, yet such grace is embodied in the movement Kathleen thought idly as the exertion began to make her lungs tire with a clean burning sensation. Suddenly, she felt a small smile grace her pale lips as her foot made a solid thump as it connected with second base. Turning her dusty blue eyes towards the off-white hunk of plastic that was third base, Kat poured on another burst of speed, wasting the rest of her adrenaline reserves in a last-ditch effort to beat out the ball that was looping through the air towards the third base men's extended and eagerly awaiting glove. The smile that had hovered around full bloom on Kat's face wilted and transformed into a searing scowl as she kicked her right leg up under her and tossed herself into a saving grace slide. She felt the collision of the third baseman's glove on her shin as it stretched, yearning, to hit the base.

"Out!" The umpire screamed, throwing his fist down past his knee as if he were punching an invisible person cowering on the ground. Or perhaps it was Kathleen's ego that he so enthusiastically pummeled into the powdery earth. Either way, the opposing team cheered and danced out onto the pitcher's mound in celebration as they cemented their victory in the state district. Kathleen heard her team moan and wail in defeat, throwing their hands to the sky in questions of 'why'. Her coach walked over from her designated chalk box and offered her hand to the defeated girl that still laid prostrate on the ground.

"Get up, Kat. The game is over." The coach said, refusing to even attempt to hide her disgust at the loss. Kathleen sighed and accepted the offer of assistance and stood up, brushing the dust off her uniform, then jerked the helmet off her head by its face guard, running a hand over her head to smooth down the stray hairs and lumps formed in her ponytail by the padding in her helmet. The girls had stared to disperse already, and Kathleen looked lackadaisically across the waving grass as it bowed its head to the buildings that looked like enormous metallic weeds that burst from the earth behind the small softball field. She tossed her helmet peevishly against the dugout, and when the hard plastic rattled the chain linked fence, an explosion rang throughout the city, sending vibrations through the ground and smoke into the air. The sound shook Kathleen to the core, the sound affecting her like a gunshot in the middle of the night. Screams broke out from both softball teams, but Kathleen stood stock still, terror gripping her heart like an ice hand, constricting her breathing.

"Everyone go home! A car has exploded near 5th Street, and police think it might have been terrorists. Just go home and stay indoors, alright?" A concerned parent shouted from the stands, her hand covering the mouth piece of her cell phone. Kathleen's eyes flicked from the parent to the origin of the explosion, and back before two options were presented in her mind.

"Well, Kat. What will you do? Go see if you can help, or shall we go with the mobs and just go home?" Kathleen murmured under her breath, voicing her options to solidify them in her mind. She stood still for a moment more, then turned and collected her things, running to the stands where she had tethered Ellie, her German shepherd.

"C'mon Ellie. We're gonna go see if anyone needs any help." She murmured, scratching the canine behind her ears before removing the leash and taking off at a jog towards the city, Ellie trotting at her side.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"You really should let me tie that off or something, mister. You need to take care of it before you loose too much blood." She said, peering down at the metal, but her voice revealed how unsure she was. The man had bluntly refused any assistance with walking, and almost managed to resist limping, and Kathleen had no medical experience at all, so she wasn't going to push anything on the blue haired stranger.

"My name is not 'mister.'" He said curtly, and Kathleen had to resist the urge to snap back at him, but managed to keep her mouth shut as she rested her hand on the soft head of her pet as they walked towards the park. The man had said he wanted to go back to the bower. She knew of the place, seeing as she had played with Ellie there on many an occasion, but had never seen him there before. Looking over at him once more, Kathleen observed the boy in silence. He had a cigarette dangling from his lips, and his blue hair was disheveled, obvious signs of the stress he had been subjected to during the explosion. Kathleen had found him hobbling on his own towards the park, and on a whim, decided to accompany him.

"My name is Raidon." He said after a few silent moments, and Kathleen looked over at him, mildly surprised that he finally introduced himself. She had honestly accepted that he would keep his identity to himself all the way until they parted. Now, she smiled faintly, and tilted her head slightly to the side.

"Well its nice to meet you, Raidon. Im Kathleen, but you can call me Kat if you want." She said, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear as she walked. Ellie barked and looked up at Kathleen, almost seeming to look hurt with those big brown eyes of hers.

"Oh, and this is my dog, Ellie." Kathleen laughed softly, tweaking the hound's ear.

"Pleasure." Raidon said simply, and continued walking along. Kathleen sighed and rolled her eyes at his curtness. Not too much later, seeing as Raidon kept a good pace despite the fact that he had a five inch shard of metal protruding from his calf. When they arrived at the flower beds leading up to the bower, Kathleen spotted a white haired figure sitting on the resident bench. A strange tingling started in her fingertips then worked its way up her arms an spread across her shoulder blades. She raised her hands to rub up and down her arms, even though the day was pleasantly warm. Kathleen's steps faltered as they got closer to the man. He was so young, yet in her dusty blue orbs, the man seemed aged by fatigue, stress and worry. She felt...bad for him, and yearned to help him get better.
A Non-Existent User
Name: Charulata Aruna Patel-Gandhi (Char or Charu, to anyone she gets close to.)

Age: 17

Appearance: http://l.yimg.com/img.tv.yahoo.com/tv/us/img/site/15/44/0000041544_2007072012262... (her skin is darker and her hair is longer, in a messy bun. Somewhat darker lips.)
She is Indian, therefore she has the dark, pure complexion. Her cloudlike hair is raven black and really long. She normally wears it in a messy bun. She is slender, with the long fingers of her grandmother and long legs of her mother. Her teeth are perfect, like pearls. She has a burn mark on her right foot, a smooth scar from years and years before. She is very, very pretty. About 5 '9 or 6 ft. Tall.

Personality: She is quiet, yet intelligent. She hardly talks to anyone, and that’s fine with them- no one ever attempts to talk to her. She doesn’t want them to. She isn’t quite sure what she wants to do yet, but she is highly interested in marine biology, genetics, and outer space. She is very poetic, although she doesn’t realize it, in everything she does. She is not interested in romance anymore, due to an event earlier in life, plus she’s sat on the sidelines and watched other girls her age get heartbroken. She is basically a loner. She’s fascinated by the fact that there could be magic out there somewhere, seeping into our world from the supernatural realm.

Past: Charulata Aruna Patel-Gandhi was born in America, just after her grandmother, Achala, and mother, Abhaya, arrived in the country. Her grandmother was very sick at the time, and died not even a week after Charulata was born. Her mother was devastated. She didn’t know how she’d be able to survive without her guiding light, her down-to-earth, smart, adamantly Hindu woman. Abhaya put Charulata in orphanage, after debating it through her long period of self-denial and depression. After this, Abhaya disappeared. No one knows where she went. (will be revealed later.) Charulata grew up like all the other orphans. She was perfectly content. Social and happy. But when someone came to adopt her, a woman in her early thirties, she got upset the night after the interview and threw a lamp. It burnt her foot, but they put the tiny fire out quickly and attended to her foot. The next Monday, she said goodbye to the life as an orphan, and went to live with Heather Brook Gardner and her fiancé, Michael Gregory MacJonas. She refused to talk to them. She hardly ate anything and only smiled when she was alone in one of her favorite places. She wasn’t like any other seven-year-old. This went on for three and a half years, even after Char was Heather’s maid of honor at their wedding. Heather and Michael’s desperate struggles finally paid off, when they got her a cute tabby kitten. She named it Aruna, after her middle name, which Heather had told her meant dawn. (Heather is a historian of India, she traveled there frequently and knows all their languages, very fluently. She was born there.) Char became more social. She played with the kitten and talked to Heather and Michael frequently. She was making exceptional grades in school and was the smartest one in her grade. All was well. Until, two years later, when she was about twelve or thirteen when Aruna died from a sickness. She didn’t talk. At all. She cried only at the “funeral” they had for the small animal in their backyard. They repeated the process of therapy and other things, such as buying other small pets, such as a fish, a mouse, and even a lizard… but none of them worked. She never talked and became totally introverted. Her grades stayed the same. Her academics were the only things keeping her on the same track… until she met Damien, when she was fourteen. Damien became her best friend- the only one she would talk to. He was new to America, straight from England, so he warmed up to the only other loner there was in the eighth grade. They went on like this until the end of ninth grade, when they were sorta-kinda liking each other unknowingly. But one fateful night, Damien was on his way to meet Char at the movies, and a drunk driver hit him. His truck spiraled out of control. His vehicle flipped several times and he was thrown out of it. He was hurtled against a tree just seconds after his truck fell into the river. Char began to get worried when the movie started. He was supposed to have been there thirty minutes before. She stepped out of the cinema and called his cellphone. No answer. She left a message, but hung up quickly when she heard sirens heading the way Damien was supposed to have come. She didn’t even bother getting in her car. She just ran as hard as she could in the direction of the flashing lights. An EMS and a couple police cars sped past her. When she finally arrived at the scene, sweaty and flustered, she asked a policeman what had happened. “Someone crashed. A navy blue truck. It seems as though they were hit by a drunkard… do y-“ he explained, but he was cut off by Char pushing past him.
There he was.
Damien… blood covering his face, his black hair matted down by drying blood. She rushed toward him and took him up in her arms, rocking him back and forth, crying. She heard a slow, wheezy mutter.
“Ch-hhhar… don’t fhhh-hor-ghhhet m-m-me…” Then he closed his eyelids over his blue eyes and died in Charulata’s arms. She was given the privilege of picking out the flowers to go on his grave, and she chose pink roses. He had always loved them. He had given her one once, on a special friendship day they had had at school. She hasn’t spoken since then, and Heather and Michael have just given up, very much like everyone else in her life. Now, she is seventeen, in her last year of school, and she is being considered for the class valedictorian.

Hobbies: Reading, writing, drinking coffee, swimming in her memories, nature, and the supernatural

Likes: Books, the woods, ghosts, anything pertaining to what might be magic out there.

Dislikes: All people. Pity, any attempts to make her happy or more sociable, etc.

Other If any: She is not close to ANYONE. She has absolutely NO friends, companions, or romantic interests whatsoever. She basically shuts everything out except what she enjoys. I would like to stress that she is extremely fascinated by the supernatural, especially ghosts. She has no foggy clue what she’s going to do in life. She feels she has no purpose, and has nothing that the universe deserves to be given by her.

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

Charulata walked silently along the sidewalk, hugging her books close to her chest as she smelled the foul stench of a fire of some sort hanging in the air.

She noticed a boy- about sixteen years old (two years younger than her) and a girl she recognized as Kathleen. They were walking together, and the boy was badly injured. Metal was sticking out, but it didn't seem to affect him drastically.

She didn't want to go to their temporary home, but her adopted parents, Heather and Michael, expected her back soon. She hated prying questions, so she took a right,
heading into Richtor's Hotel- the place they were staying in until their home in Blue River , the housing development on the richer side of town, was prepared.

She got her keys out of her bag and opened the door.

Odd... they weren't home.

'Must be out at the grocery store or Blue River checking out the progress on the house,' thought the silent young girl to herself.

They were on the highest level of the hotel, just one flight of stairs away from the roof. She didn't go up there very often, only when she wanted privacy to write or read. She liked going up there at night. It was a beautiful sight, the neon lights and sounds of faded music drifting upwards, as if to be speaking to her. It was... pleasant.

She dropped her things in her room and opened the sliding glass door. The breeze wafted in her face as she stepped out onto the balcony. The cars buzzed around like bees doing their work in the hive. It all seemed like a game. Who could make the most money, who could purchase the most stocks, who could run their cell phone bill up the highest...

She hated all the noises of the cars, slamming doors, loud televisions and phones, but she liked everything they had. The libraries, bookstores, coffeeshops and whatnot...

She closed her eyes and took it all in.
A Non-Existent User
It was a gray day, in a mostly gray building. There had been gray paint, and now a gray stain ran down the side of her jeans. All Calla wanted right now was to get out of the gray and into the browns and the greens. Then those would turn back into gray, into white, into the bower that she had been avoiding for so long. Today had to be the day, though. She would get over that silly fear once and for all. And that, she was sure, would be that.

Despite her present determination, Calla had taken extra time vigorously cleaning her work area after the final bell had sounded. She delicately replaced crooked and loose papers in her bag, something she overlooked every other day in her life. She took an unusual trip to the restroom to straighten her clothes. Still, she wasn't fooling herself. Neatness had never been part of her life. On the other hand, procrastination had.

After taking the long route out of the building, Calla finally came to the edge of the long stretch of green. Turning back now would be pointless. She smirked and absentmindedly touched her side, thinking of the time in that Markham alleyway. No, she thought, this was nothing she couldn't handle. There was the crunch of gravel under her foot, and soon her steps were muffled by grass.

How far had she gone- twenty, thirty, fifty feet? The distance passed so quickly that she was shocked to see the bower just before her when she finally pulled her eyes from her feet. But even more surprising was that her dark stare had met two blue eyes, piercing from a field of whites and grays like bits of sky puncturing the clouds up above. It was that man- everyone had seen him before, from a distance at least. Calla had not paid much attention to him, despite her love of strangers, because he kept himself to the bower. He was just an occasional part of the scenery. Now, however, Calla was curious. She was not the least bit bothered that he did not lower his gaze, that he beckoned for her to come closer. Then, he did something that bothered her.

"How is that painting coming along, Calla?"

"Wait, what?" She was just about to sit down beside him, but now she stalled.

He continued as if nothing were the matter. "The painting you're working on. School assignment?" She only gave him a stony look, and he frowned. "But I thought you'd like to talk about your art," he said, and then he shrugged. "But I guess if you're not in the mood for that-"

Calla cut him off with a sharp waving of her long hand. "Stop with the talk about the painting," she said sharply. He frowned.

"Huh. I thought talking about that would make you feel better about coming over here-"

She cut him off again. "It's not that. You know my name?"

He smiled at this, a smile which exuded, strangely enough, both pride and shame at the same time, the same sort of smile one would wear after telling a cruel joke. He leaned back a bit and stared into a cup of coffee. "I've been hanging around here so long, I could tell you any person's name from that school." His eyes flicked back up to hers, and though his next words were comfortable and friendly enough, the eyes told a different story. As unnerving as the situation was for Calla, she couldn't help but stay and observe this unusual person. A brief silence passed in which she stared around her and then finally sat down beside him.

"Did you hear the bang?" He was staring straight at her now, and an unusual sensation crept up her spine. She tried to shake it off, but his words had somehow pinned it to her.

"What bang?"

"It happened just as you were walking over here," he said without pause.

Calla shook her head. "I don't think I was paying attention."

"Ah but of course you weren't."

"Was that supposed to be an insult?"

"No," he said surprisingly firmly. "It was what I knew would happen." He turned to face her completely. "Just like your name and your painting, in case you were wondering." If he was trying to frighten her, she made no sign of it as she sat and looked at him silently. He spoke again. "I'm lucky you're one of those I'm meeting. You don't..." he searched his head for words, "...frighten, all that easily, do you? You were just scared of coming over here, and you managed to do that. You've overcome it, and now you have no reason to be afraid of me, either."

"Should I?" Calla asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Absolutely not!" the man said in a forced laugh, "And hopefully you never will."

Calla rolled her eyes and gave him a crooked smile. He was odd, but this encounter was too intriguing to pass up. "So you're assuming I'll tolerate you in the future? Just like that?"

"Yes."

"Whatever you say." She smiled genuinely this time. "What was that bang, by the way?"

He didn't answer for a moment. "Go back to the school, grab your painting, and come show it to me."

Calla lowered her brow. "Why should I do that?"

"By the time you get back here, I'll have something to show you about the bang. Someone, actually. They'll tell you all about it." Something about his voice was so completely reassuring that Calla was surprised at how willingly she turned away to leave. But just as she crossed the edge of the bower, she looked back, and the man's eyes had turned cold and sad, and they were once again staring straight into hers. "What a shame," he uttered softly.

Calla shrugged it off as she departed from the bower and strolled down the park and into the still-unlocked art building to grab the large canvas. She was surprised at herself. Of course she was far from shy and extremely open- but this was different. There was almost a desperation to this situation. She felt a need to communicate with this that person, not just a playful and curious desire. What had placed this willingness inside of her? Was it him?

As she finally neared the edge of the bower again, canvas in tow, there was a small break in the clouds. A sliver of dulled, gold light fell on each of her dark curls, glinted off of the canvas edge, and slid onto a slick, shining red resting on a few blades of grass nearby. There were two people there, now. She recognized them from the school.

The smooth voice from just earlier called out to her. "I kept my promise, didn't I?"

No one would be hurt much… Raidon smiled ruefully, making sure he did not limp and cause any more attention to himself. The girl with the oversized dog was proving irksome to his pensively pondering position, the disjointed thoughts tumbling through his mind as he tried to piece together both how the stranger had been able to tell him what was going to happen and why it had happened so precisely. He remembered the beleaguered expression on the pale face and knew that only a thorough series of investigation with concrete evidence would ever persuade him that that man had been the one to blow up the BMW. He was quite positive that somehow the man had known the exact details of everything that had occurred. But he had no idea where that notion came from at all. And usually he wasn't one to speculate so ridiculously.

The day had turned into a queer, sultry twilight, curling his fingers to neatly fold the navy strays of straight hair behind his ear. It reminded him of late July, right before the heady, heat intoxicated days of August, when sunsets turned the sky purple before they died away. As they turned into the park the smell of damp grass melted on the dusk air and morphed into a soft musk. He wanted to sit on the ground, feel the cool mesh of fingers curling around his own as they dug into the earth and he sighed, calming now he was away from the road. The bower rose up from a sea conifer trees that seemed to make up the view stretch out into an exhausted nothingness.

He gave a sidelong glance at the girl, noticing that she was deliberately keeping pace with him, the dog obviously seeming confuse at the slow walk they had adopted. She was recognisable from somewhere though he wasn't sure where, perhaps she went to the same school or… had taken part in some local event, that seemed the most logical explanation, despite the fact that he had never seen her or spoken to her in his known life before now… On the one hand he wanted to tell her to go away, leave him alone and have a nice day, but on the other hand he quite liked having someone there and since she already knew his name it made no difference. He frowned. He had definitely been shaken by that explosion, even if he wasn't going to admit it.

The bower was still timeless. Even with the new intrusion it was as if, as they entered, that it made room for them, spreading out its silver bellied leaves and its white branches as if it had been petted by a faerie or ghost or some dusty spectre and its essence had stained the wood to its ashen flush. For the second time that day he felt the world seal itself off about him and the senses distort into a synaesthesia of elements that tasted of blue winter mornings and tingled with purple hibiscus which he had come to recognise as the sound of sleepy souls.

"You're back. There's someone coming to see you. She wants to know what the explosion was."

He slid his eyes to the snowy haired man with the blue eyes that seemed both focused and distant in unison.

"I'm sorry about your leg. Mr Warpole will be able to remove it without a problem. It won't be infected and you won't be in any pain by Wednesday."

Raidon couldn't help but let his eyebrows slump and forehead crease across the bridge of his nose. It was as if the bower was part of this man. This strange creature whose eyes whispered of age despite the youthfulness in his appearance. He wasn't an old man. He was young. Perhaps only a few years older that he was. But there was a maturity that haunted the playfulness of his blunt words and a distorted sense of portent spiralling in blue-black patterns around him.

"Who are you?"

Kathleen had been long forgotten, though he could hear the panting animal some where nearby, it rippled like yellow silk curtains on a sirocco across the Sahara.

The man smiled, "You can call me James."

Now he scowled. Ready to open his mouth and demand the entire truth when he saw the flash of apprehension in the blue eyes and he knew that 'James' knew what may happen next and was ready for it.

Pausing, silence dawned, a warm saccharine cloud that buzzed in their ears through the unfelt wind.

"How did you know?"

Now it was James' turn to feel awkward, he could see it in the slight shift of his body weight to the left, the way his eyes flickered upwards as if consulting something greater that he… perhaps the bower… Raidon shivered and the heat of blood pulsated about his calf, a black sludge coiling about the broken veins and pierced muscles.

"When you hear what I have to say… You will first doubt me, question me and then think me mad. But you'll believe me when in four and a half minutes a girl appears with a canvas and in eight so will your guardian in the Bentley." He trailed off and closed his eyes, not having answered the question at all.

Raidon opened his mouth but James raised a hand opened his eyes and said clearly enough for both of them to hear, "I see the future."

*

Warpole had been shocked to see his young charge half hobble from the mouth of the tarmac path through the path. Concern flooded through him, fear because he recognised the fact that the frail youth was forcing himself to walk as normally as possible. The radio had been full of the news of the explosion, the chief witness being a brummie who'd moved across only a few years ago to live with his wife, he had said that no one was badly injured so he hadn't expected to see the orphan he'd adopted in this condition.

"What happened?" He strode forward, the developing arthritis in his knees slowing him down only slightly.

Raidon frowned, eyebrows dropping into well worn creases. He seemed resigned, as if he'd already related the reply before, though Warpole knew he hadn't yet spoken to the police, "I was standing quite close to the car."

His brow furrowed, "Can we just go? I want to get this thing out."

Warpole nodded and turned back to the Bentley, his dark grey suit rippling in the wind. If someone saw them together, they'd have thought the old gentleman his butler or carer rather than mentor and teacher, but that was part of who Warpole was. His real identity had to be concealed after so long in the British SAS.

"So who have you been talking to?" He'd bet on the fact that Raidon had been with people in the park, the disquiet air suggested he'd not had the time alone he usually craved after school. There was also the scent of something which wasn't his usual smoky smell. It was Cuban…

"Just some girls from school."

"Who smoke cigars?"

"And a guy called James. People wanted somewhere safe… I think."

He was partially lying, though apparently trying to tell the truth all the same. Warpole sighed, there was a lot that this boy didn't tell him and it was part of the reason that he liked having him around. But at the same time it was frustrating. All his senses told him to dig deeper and root out these secrets. But he didn't. He couldn't rush perfection, Raidon would be his inheritor only if he learnt to trust him. Digging would not help him in that matter.

*

A girl with a painting had turned up exactly four and a half minutes later. She said hello, almost shyly but he was certain that the uneasiness was because of the bower not because of them. Her eyes kept roving the area as if looking out for some unnatural danger. He smiled, that was normal, so many people hated this place… It's spookiness.

She had eventually been asked by James to ask him to tell them what had happened. He had scowled and been angered by the fact that after a revelation like 'I can see the future' he would be so callous as to speak around him. But he had told them everything all the same, skimming over the things he had felt and concentrating on detail. By the end, both the girl, who had been named as Calla, and Kathleen were staring at him as if he were some kind of exhibitionist parading naked around a prestigious art gallery. Only the pale haired man looked elsewhere, as if uninterested.

He'd felt itchy, felt as if a dusky yellow demon was pulling at his insides. He hated being watched with any intensity. It ate at him. It devoured his sensibilities. So he'd left. Excusing himself on the grounds that if the guy was right, Warpole would be arriving in the next few seconds. He had left.

But he knew he'd have to return now that James had been correct three times in a row. Thrice was a magic point in his mind where the words blazed purple with transcendental meaning. He shivered as he stepped into the Bentley's cool interior. He'd return as soon as all of this was sorted. He could only muse on what on earth James had targeted him for. Surely if he hadn't needed to talk to him… he wouldn't have bothered...
A Non-Existent User
There had been complete silence after Raidon had left, pulling along a palpable trail of annoyance, much as a snail trails slime. A squirrel mowed ferociously across the grass; the dog scampered off after it, its bristling cartridge of teeth and muscle tumbling from side to side. Kathleen gave Calla and James a brief but hopeless look before running after it in an exasperated flick of hair. Calla took a step after her, but James stopped her with an icy dagger.

"She won't be coming back. Not today." Something about him had completely changed. Whereas earlier she had found him anxious but pleasant enough, now Calla saw that the anxiety had melted away to expose a steely shell of cold indifference. The lines in his body had all become as straight and jagged as they could be, even though he was slumping forward, curling somewhat over his knees, his hair falling over his face in a curtain of tired arms going limp. Calla inched closer.

"You wanted to see my painting?" she asked, her voice calm and steady. She wanted to have a good reason to bring it out here- lugging the canvas back with her and risking it being clobbered on the trains hadn't seemed very convenient.

James looked back up with such a jolt that it seemed he had forgotten she was still there. "What? Oh. Yes. The painting." And then he furrowed his light brow. "Come to think of it... I never actually saw what you painted..."

Calla watched him through narrowed eyes as she handed him the large canvas smeared with oil paint, studying him while he studied the picture. What was this about the future? And the explosion. And her. And Raidon and Kathleen. Had he just predicted that all for show? Was he a street performer? There were so many of them around... but then again, a car had blown up. People had been hurt. With a tingle in her neck, Calla wondered if he'd had a hand in the explosion. Or maybe, he could tell the future. Perhaps he was just extremely lucky.

"Did you do it?" she wondered out loud.

"No."

"So you just know the future then?"

"Yes."

"You knew I would ask this?"

"Yes. And I know your parents won't care when you arrive home late, even though they've seen the news by now. They never care," he said. His eyes never left the painting. Before Calla's new scowl manifested itself in words, James piped up again. "This is actually good... very good. You had a model?"

Calla shook her head. "Nah. Just a painting from memory thing."

"They let you paint nudes in school?"

"Not really, actually. My teacher this year is practically a nun" she laughed, or rather, tried to laugh. Her voice crumpled in on itself. But the painting, she had to admit, was a good one thus far. Not one nude figure, but several, intertwined, each engaging another dusty, grey stare of another. She had meant nothing lewd by it. It had only appeared to her as an interesting image in her head. It was her cosmos, her city. All exposed, all connected, and- she now thought- all vulnerable. And of course, she mentally confessed, she wouldn't pass up an opportunity to stir up the ire of that puritanical woman who perched herself like a chicken hawk over a room full of newly hatched eggs.

Calla was not sure what to do with herself as James kept staring at the half-finished painting. The sliver of sun had disappeared now. She turned her gaze toward him again. His eyes seemed to bore through the canvas, burning eerily, taking on the appearance of the small blue part of a candle's flame. Calla cleared her throat. He didn't move, nor did he seem to take any notice of her at all. He was not James anymore, no longer an unusual man in the bower. He was just a body supporting a pair of eyes now, eyes that pulled all of his humanity into some secret place that only he could feel in front of him. He snapped his face toward hers suddenly and desperately.

She knew he wasn't seeing the picture in front of her. "What were you looking at?" she demanded of him.

"Forget I told you about all this. You don't have to go through with that," he commanded, with a tone of distant guilt. "There's so much more," James almost pleaded, "that you could do with your life. Not what I was here for..." He stood up and thrust the painting back into her hands. "There are better things for you to do," he muttered, gathering his coffee and swiftly turning out of the bower. The warbling hum of a helicopter was coming from somewhere down the street.

If this poorly calculated statement was supposed to appease Calla and turn her away, it only, of course, had the opposite effect. She was more curious than ever now. With a few strides of her long legs she caught up and grabbed his arm, for her way with people, even strangers, had always been extremely forward.

"If you can see the future," she remarked drily, "then you should have seen that I wouldn't just let this go." She let go as James tilted his head a bit to speak.

His eyes had dulled a bit. "Wishful thinking."

"The explosion, the other people- are you seeking us out?" Calla pressed excitedly. A long blade of grass brushed a chunk of paint on the canvas at her side, leaving a thin line of white piercing the deep grey and black background. "I'm not leaving until I hear everything."

James began walking again, but he made no effort to shoo Calla away when she caught up to him. He sighed. "You'll be around for a while, then."

The future was a gloomy octopus that wrapped its tentacles around Womack every time there was a change. James could see countless versions of the future, but with time he had learned that there were certain people that once contacted would change the future to such extent that they would actually create a completely new versions of it. Raidon was one of these people. Stubborn, powerful and intelligent- Raidon was the kind of person that could change the world by just breathing. Calla was the same. She did the impossible. She had gotten him a bleeder. It had been a very long time since the last one he had. Basically once a new version of the future is presented he must experience it as well. He really hatted that. The feeling of weightlessness, the black and white coloring of the objects, the humming that maddened him to such extent that he wanted to dig inside his skull and scrap out his brain. Most of all he hated these people from that perspective. He hated Raidon! He hated Calla.

Womack was walking slowly, painfully. His head was nailed to the ground. He felt so powerless, so guilty, so retched. "Helloo? Womack?"

"Eh?" he said, but his memory quickly returned to him. "Oh, sorry. It's been a decade since my last all-nighter."

"Huh?" she asked raising an eyebrow.

"Never mind. You want to know all the answers, right? Well, Lets start with the answer "yes". It belongs to the question "Are you seeking us out?". You understand it comepletely. Then the next question you will ask me is "Why did you seek us out.". It is because I want you to help me with something."

"What's that?" she asked impatienetly.

"To change the future. There are certain accidents, murders, robberies and other disasters that the city is better off without them."

"Why us?" said Calla. Womack stopped and turned towards her.

"Because you will." His sky blue eyes pierced through her dark ones. There was no fear, no regret in them. She had no idea what was going to happen to her. To all of them. Innocence, purity, strength- that is what he saw.

That is what he liked about the beginners. They felt overconfident. Ready to conquer the world with a toothpick, to shoot down the moon with a slingshot. How humorous- how puny, how stupid- how glamorous, how surrealistic- how heroic, how... how... how beautiful... how beautiful she looked at this moment. A powerful godess, with grace, pride, guts and ability to do miracles. A mysterious smile appeared on his face. It was so untypical of him to think it, and yet here it was. Her very actions were creating such a change in the future that he could not keep up. Raidon was the same. Getting wounded was never an option before, but it happened. It was so appealing to Womack that it was more fresh than the morning breeze. More energizing than planning his moves for the day. They did not know what they were going to do, and yet they changed so much in life. Womack liked that about them. He liked Raidon. More of all he liked Calla.

-_-_-_-_-_-

"Yes, Mr Dalkear! I am aware of how a short notice this is, but I am sure that I'm alright with it. I hope that Mrs Dodge gets better soon. I have known her for ten years and it seems strange to me that she is sick, but I guess that there is a first time for that." Womack said. He had looked upon Marcus Ferrel, five minutes ago as he had went out of his appartment. He was an unemployed arts teacher and a very desparate man. It was not surprising why he took up the offer so easily. Womack knew that the headmaster of Norman Langley's High School, Mr George Dalkear, would call him. Mrs Abigail Dodge had trofonbis noradis(all words that would be sparred from the announcement) and he was going to be chosen as a temporary replacement. Womack had called Basil in the middle of the day and told him to dress in a black suit. After that Basil was to come in front of Ferrel's door, present himself as an FBI agent and offered him fifty hundred dollars and a ticket to Honolulu, in exchange of his silent obidience and him willingly "lending" his apartment for an investigation. Ferrel was easy to manipulate, and so the small dusty apartment was now empty, with the exceptance of Basil and Womack himself, who was talking on the phone.

"Yes, sir, tomorrow at eight. I understand. Yes, I see... aha... I'll try my best. Yes, thank you. Good day, Mr Dalkear!"

"That did not sound any desperate at all." said Basil grumpily.

"I'm sorry, Basil. I meant to leave you out of this but something happened that changed all my plans."

"What could possibly happen that would change what you already know would happen?"

"One of those people. Or should I say a few of those people."

"In the group?" Basil said, his eyes enlarging in amazement.

"Yes." the white haired man said.

"My god, James, are you sure this is alright?"

"Yes, they'll be fine. I'll take care of these ones. Don't worry."

"I'm not worried about them. I know what you looked like when one of those people appeared. You went completely nuts in a month!"

"I know, but don't worry! I'll be fine." Womack said glarring at the floor. Calla was still in his mind. Though they had parted after that, she was still occupying his mind. He had seen love, and experienced it through the pasts and the futures that he saw, but he was inexperienced in that field nontheless. He actually did not find it strange that he was not letting her get away from his thoughts. He did what many people that do not know their own feelings- he linked it to a sign of danger. "Now, help me buy a few things like books, brushes. clothes that are more teacher like and canvas."

"Why?"

"Don't you know? I will be a teacher of the fine arts." he said calmly. He knew what was needed and actually had a nack for painting and drawing.

"Are you gonna be alright with it?"

"Yes, I will. Let's go, Basil."

Raidon was running. His leg was aching and he didn’t know how much further he’d be able to go. Feet trampled behind him. The rain was stopping but he wasn’t going to stop running. And his feet were sore as they hit the ground, one after the other, his heels stinging, throbbing in time with his blood. With every thud he felt more of that obscre emptiness in his body. His shoes were not meant for running in, but he couldn’t stop, or he’d be caught. There were only four following him, he felt the cowardly fool for running like this. He should have tried to fight. But why fight when he would lose and… maybe die? He had a chance.

And of course whilst running… it was like being free… if he went fast enough he could take off…

No one, not even Warpole could have told him how akin fear was to grief. He wasn’t upset, he wasn’t bereaved of anything. In fact, if anything he had won against Fate. But there was the same fluttering in the stomach, the same relentlessness, the yawning. He kept on swallowing, as if trying to drown himself in the metallic tasting air. Or maybe he was bleeding.

It was as if he was mildly drunk or concussed. An invisible blanket seemed to have enveloped itself around him until all that was left was the rasp of his breath through heaving lungs, the thud of his heart in his temple and the splash of his soaked shoes in another puddle that fancied itself the Atlantic, settled in the crevices of broken tarmac and cement.

How had it come to this?


*
The Gods play games with men as balls… In wondrous ways do the Gods make sport with men. ~ Titus Marcius Plautus
*

“Everyone this is going to be your temporary art teacher. Mr Ferrel.”

The dry, clipped tone of the headmistress seemed distant to the dozing teen. He hadn’t slept well at all.

“Hello.”

But that voice had been incredibly clear.

“It’s his first class and I hope that you’ll be on your best behaviour.” The woman in her tight tweed pencil suit looked at the man who had, by now, sauntered into the room with undisguised laziness. His suit was a dark grey, slightly shabby and his blue striped shirt looked like it had come straight from the laundry pile with the iron having barely brushed it. Wild, untamed white hair curled down around a pale face which was slightly obscured in profile but it was recognisably the one who had caused his late night distress. The headmistress looked less than pleased at the man, her sceptical eye flickering darkly beneath heavy rimmed glasses that reminded him of an advert he had seen in Britain.

“I am very pleased to meet you all.” James said, his voice quiet and sincere, though Raidon was sure that it was just good acting, there was a tone beneath the voice which made his skin feel as if it were being pinched from within.

“Good luck Mr Ferrel and don’t hesitate if there are any problems.”

“Don’t worry. There won’t be.”

Raidon couldn’t help but smirk. This guy really believed he could tell the future. He’d concluded that it must have been a coincidence, that James was eccentric. He must be simply mad. After all, last night as that shard was pulled from his leg, he had remembered the statement he had made. That no one would be hurt too badly. And he had grimaced and bit his lip so hard that he had tasted the metallic tang of blood on his tongue. Having that shrapnel removed had been agony.

“I know you’ve been working on several personal projects based on the human condition and form. I suggest you continue. Tomorrow a model will be coming in for some still life work, I know it was meant to be today but it’s been delayed.” Mr Ferrel, James, was talking, that low and almost monotonous voice sending tiny shards of glass through his spinal cord.

The mildness of the pale face seemed almost barren of emotion, tendrils of white hair fell across the smooth forehead and teased him with their normalcy. The mysterium that James had held in the garden had almost become null and void in the uniformity of the class room. Until he looked at those eyes and the stillness, a sort of abyss within blue rimmed orbs… it made him feel like he was drowning.

“Bless you.” James murmured as he passed Amalie, a girl two people in front of him. Then she sneezed.

He felt his heart beat quicken until it felt as if a footballer was trying to kick it through his ribcage. There must have been some signal that Amalie had been giving. That was ridiculous. Blood loss had been the reason he had so willingly accepted James’ word before. It couldn’t really be true. It wasn’t possible to see the future. And if it was, then why didn’t he use it to do some good rather than freak out a bunch of teenagers? It didn’t make sense. Not in the slightest. No sense at all. Warpole would laugh at him.

It had to be the mass amount of painkillers.

Warpole had given him so many.

He’d been offered bloody morphine.

“Good morning, Raidon.” James’ voice was softer than ever as he came to halt by his seat, apparently checking out the ink line sketch he was creating on the large expanse of white paper. It was meant to be a cross between the sensorial eastern culture and the city life of fashionistas. It wasn’t perfect. But…

“When you add that tower it’ll look more complete.”

How had… Raidon hung his head in bewilderment. Rationality was beyond recognition now, “Oh?”

“But there are other matters.” James’ voice had dropped to a whisper, “See me after class?”

“Yessir.”

*
Get out of the way of Justice. She is blind. – Stainslaw Lec
*

How he loved analepsis… Even if only kept to himself… He panted as he dashed down an empty little alley, soaked through to the bone and dirty from several falls. His legs were cramping and weak, and the ground was wet, making him prone to falling. Yet he still remained ahead of his pursuers, even as his heart pounded painfully against his rips and his lungs threatened to burst. He was still running.

Scyscrapers rose up about him, touched the sky and pierced the purpling clouds, pulling out their stuffing as they scratched along the sagging bellies. Blue white tracks, racing down from them, like colourless blood splattering the earth as silvery paint. The folds of buildings in the concrete jungle caught the rain at different intervals so waterfalls poured off roofs and made the bricks glow mica-metallic with slick wet. Rivers tumbled hectically through the guttering of the streets, desperately gushing over drains in a hope they wouldn’t be sucked down into the underworld.

And he slipped and crashed to his side with a crunch of bone. He bit his lip painfully, rolling to one side and throwing himself back to his feet. He could hear laughter… so close, almost directly behind him.

“We’re going to get you.” The laughter seemed to be saying. “We’re going to get you and make you pay.”

They were comical. Those boys behind him, young men really… Older than he was but looking so ridiculous in their Clockwork Orange drag suits. White jeans, white shirts, white hats and large eyelashes. Eyes wide and roving like a wild horses as it foamed at the chinkle-chankle of a torturous new bit. Their tongues had flickered out like those of a hungry hyena, slopping over their jaws as if the old lady, whose shopping they had knocked over, was Little Red Riding Hood and they the Big Bad Wolf come to gobble her up. Of course, at that point it hadn’t mattered if James had been telling the truth. If those drowning, compelling eyes were really seeing the future. It didn’t matter. Because he had to help that woman, with her arthritic knees and stiff back and ricketted bones, how could he see this and leave her? They were mad enough with blood lust and youth to kill her. To smash in her skull and bash in her nose and gouge out her eyes with winkle-toed shoes. That insane glower of inhumanity was not foreign to Raidon. And he hated it all the more than ever.

*
A desperate disease need a dangerous remedy – Guy Fawkes.
*

“Don’t touch her.”

He stood in the alley entrance, around the back side of a launderette, fists clenched and tight at his side, legs slightly apart and bent at the knee. His leg had been complaining at the overstretched nature of his muscle but he had ignored it.

The faces of the boys turned to him, their outfits suddenly explicable with their eyes burning in the dark shadow of black plastic lashes. One of them, holding an open phone smirked and stepped forwards, “Hello there, fruity.”

Fruity? He laughed, low and staccato, “Is that an insult? I’m telling you to leave her alone.”

The smirk on the cultists face left and turned into a sneer, “Now why would I want to do that?”

Raidon winked, “The police are on their way. If you leave now,” He paused, “You’ll only be done for mugging an old lady. If you stay…” He shrugged, “Well I get the impression that grievous bodily harm isn’t too fondly looked upon. Let alone murder.”

The sneer became a smirk again then realisation of what he had said seemed to creep up on the rest of the group as their apparent leader snarled and the old lady looked up shakily from the ground where she shivered, a little beast in a cage of white clad legs.

“Leave the baboochka boys. We found ourselves a bratchny fag in which to stick our britvas.” The voice was so cold, so frozen with a naked passion for pain. He decided the phone had been to record it. It was extreme happy-slapping.

“It’ll be real horrorshow.”

*
We are supposed to be the children of Seth; but Seth is too much of an effete nonentity to deserve ancestral regard. No, we are the sons of Cain, and with violence can be associated the attacks on sound, stone, wood and metal that produced civilization. – Anthony Burgess
*

And at first he had tried to fight. Because they’d moved too fast. So fast he hadn’t been able to see them ahead of time. But he wasn’t chosen by Warpole for nothing. He was trained in Brazilian capoeira, something he’d learnt naturally after being taught ballet when he was really little. But that only leant him time to fling his body back and his foot upwards into the jaw of one of the ‘droogs’. It knocked the guy backwards into the wall and the trilby fluttered to the ground. He’d dropped into a standard ginga set and paused to take in what was going on, it was so fast… a flurry of white movement to his right and he lurch back again in a gato of twirling limbs, twisting his legs so that his feet could strike the tallest of the small gang in the stomach, winding him and knocking him down in the way of another who failed to react and tripped. It was comical in hindsight.

“I can’t believe you just fucking did that.” One of them had been screaming, furious at the apparent humiliation.

“C’est un chier, mon amie mais… c’est la vie.” He had grinned, wild with a rush of endorphins. Fight or flight? And then silver had glinted. And briefly he’d realised that only spilt shopping was left in the road behind them and he felt something snap. If she was gone then he could go and the flash of metal made his mind burst into a mix of fear and excitement. He ran, his legs taking over before he could really think.

And he was still running. Still running and he could hear their stale, panting breaths behind him. If James could see the future then why didn’t he help him? Why couldn’t he have told him where it was safe to run?

He could taste blood and feel the ache where the adrenaline was wearing off at long last. Flight was no longer in him and the lollipop umbrellas were everywhere. What? Umbrellas? People? His clumsily focusing mind was drenched in confusion. Bright white spots were dancing like ladybugs on his eyeballs. Gasping he slid slightly again, staggering for his balance and whimpering as his gashed leg split open, the stitched wound seeping open. There was no more breathing behind him. The rain washed down his cheeks and he knew his eyeliner had run.

“Raidon!”

“Raidon!” Warpole?

He grinned, “Hello sir.” And then he laughed.
"Why did we leave, Ellie? Why do you always have to be such a hopeless mutt?" Kathleen sighed, her whimsical voice weighed down by the knowledge that she would not be able to escape back to the Bower this evening. Looking back along the sidewalk that lead to the green oasis that was the park, she tripped over a division in the concrete. She was dragging her feet. Quite literally as it turned out. Looking forward once more, she continued her slow and leisurely pace, not having any particular need to arrive home. Her parents were worried, sure enough, but they always were, so she saw no need to try and relieve the ulcers that had already formed and were aching in her parents' churning stomaches. A slight frown shaping her pale lips, her eyes lost their dusty film as she dove into her thoughts, attempting to dredge out her reasoning for not returning to the Bower and talking to the strange James character.

"I was...out of place." Kathleen murmured to herself, the discomfort playing in her tone causing her pawed companion to whine and flick her ears back. A reassuring hand fluttered over to stroke the german shepherd's ear, then fell back to swinging rhythmically in time with the owner's steps.

"Raidon is a genius. I remember that much from reading the class scores last year. Hes at the top of the class, but few really talk to him. The other girl we saw had a painting with her. It wasn't finished yet but...it was amazing. There was some meaning behind it, but I couldn't quite see it. I never had an eye for the abstract. So...why would a man who claims he can tell the future need a child who can barely get a B average?" Drawing alarmed stares as her feet thudded constantly on the sidewalk, almost sounding to be a heart beat with their lazy timing and un-rushed frequency, Kathleen reasoned out her feelings of inadequacy as she realized that to be the root of her flight impulse in the Bower.

"Im so useless."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"James! Er, I mean, Mr Ferrel, would you wait a minute please?" Kathleen adjusted her backpack as a strap slipped off her shoulder, her ponytail swinging in a panicked and jostled pattern as the girl tried to run down the halls without having her figure rattled by the bouncing of her overloaded backpack. The silver haired man from the Bower paused in his descent of the stairs to look back slowly with those somber and empty eyes. They were so different than the eyes that had held her frozen that day in the park. Those eyes had been overflowing with knowledge and the urge to share it with another, and the hope that in doing so that the flood might subside and the mind within might have a rest from the torrent that assaulted it.

"How can I help you?" He asked, his voice a quiet and apathetic tone, cutting Kathleen's enthusiasm to the quick, causing her to pause, one foot hovering over the second step. She stumbled over a few words, before wrapping her arms around her stomach, trying to warm the chilly pit that settled in her stomach.

"Im sorry to keep you, but...I wanted to ask you about the other day. I know I left, and I should have came back to ask about it in the bower where no one else would hear, but..." She trailed off, rolling her shoulders in a minuscule shrug, knowing that this man would probably hold no stock in any excuse she could manufacture, based in truth or not. Dusty blue eyes hardening and losing their innocent cover of dust, Kathleen dropped the act of the childish schoolgirl and accepted the mask of her cynical and somber self, forming the clay to mold to her features seamlessly, even masking her very ideals and manners.

"I want to know. Are you telling the truth when you say you can see the future? And if so, why tell us? what are we supposed to do?" She asked, her eyes staring straight into James' empty sky blue irises.

"You are going to do nothing. You have nothing to offer. You know nothing and have no want to learn that which needs to be taught. Useless children of the rich and spoiled will have no hand in changing the future. It is best if you simply forget that you ever met me, and leave all this alone." James replied, his voice as cold and empty as his eyes. Frozen, heart gripped by the cold talons of shock and hurt at such a rejection, Kathleen could do nothing but watch as James descended the stairwell to the entrance doors of the high school.

Rooted to the spot by tendrils of self loathing, their thorned feelers tearing her soul bit by bit as it attempted to strangled the life out of all the hopes that she had harbored of becoming something different, of escaping the mundane repetition that was her everyday life. She almost gave up on everything at that point, but then a tiny flame flickered up in the base of her soul, shining light onto the roots of the weeds that hoped to choke the very breath out of the girl's dreams and ambitions. That flame was anger and pride. Kathleen breathed a light wind onto that flame, augmenting its light as the tips of those dancing embers licked at the oily black skin of the limbs of hatred. Grasping hold of the flames, throwing past insults and the irritations of her life into the tiny candle light to feet it, it grew larger yet. Suddenly the oily blackness of the tendrils caught aflame, burning away not only the choking weeds, but the infected areas of the soul where the infection of wasted and sloth like years had rotted away the good morals and stubbornness of the girl.

"James!" Kathleen shouted, freed from her paralysis as her anger at his comments, and her pride fueled her shocked limbs to movement. Catching up to him in the empty entranceway before he reached to doors, she shouted his name once more, the ire in her voice and the hard clip of it stopped him for a moment.

"I am not useless! I have many things to offer!" She panted, slightly out of breath from leaping down the steps two at a time in her rush to catch up with the enigmatic man.

"Look at you. You are out of breath from going down stairs! How could you think to be useful if you have no endurance or strength?" He sneered, his tone no longer cold, but condescending. Kathleen bristled, her fists clenching tightly at her sides.

"I might not be in as great of shape as many people in this school, but few of them can follow orders as well as I can. I may be typical. I might be completely unoriginal, a carbon copy of some other blond ditz in this god forsaken school, but I am not useless!" She snarled between clenched teeth. The blood rushed from her face as she grew even angrier, continuing in her tirade.

"I want to be different, I crave for any chance to distinguish myself from the tired masses who think only of themselves! Who think that the world is alright simply because they are alright and they have food to stuff into their gullets! I may not be able to do advanced calculus or run a marathon. I hate poetry and I cant paint! I see things as they are in front of me. I cant think abstractly, and see no hidden meaning behind anything! If a color is blue, I call it blue, not a teardrop in a mourning soul or some bullshit like that! I might not match up to Raidon or that girl with the painting when it comes to questioning the world around me, but Ill be damned if I wont try. I am willing to throw my lot into this weird ass little scheme of yours. Ill give anything, everything, to help and make this disease riddled, crime infested dump of a city a little better for the people that live here! I believe that you can see the future. I saw it in your eyes that day in the Bower. If you will accept the help of a blunt little stubborn girl and her pet dog, then you will have our help and service as long as you need it." By the end of her impassioned speech, her face had grown rather flushed as she shouted, revealing her insecurities, and baring her ambitions to a man she had met only once.

James stayed silent for a long moment, his eyes boring into hers as if trying to read her very soul. Slowly blinking, and raising a hand to press two fingers against his temple in a sign of an oncoming migraine, he sighed.

"I still cant see anything that might suggest you being of help." He said quietly, and Kathleen's face fell from its haughty upraised nose stance of one who thinks they have undoubtedly proved their case to a belligerent court.

"W-what..." She questioned brokenly, her fingers uncurling from their clamped state, red and irritated crescents in her palms revealing the strength Kathleen had used to keep her hands from shaking. "How can you say that? Im willing to do almost anything to help you stop bad things from happening in the future!" She screamed, infuriated tears welling up in the corner of her eyes. James merely looked at her, sad little wrinkles forming around his eyes as he watched his words cut her worse than razer blades.

"Who ever said thats what I wanted to do?" He asked, turning to face her now, his hands resting in his pockets, his back to the doors. The failing light from the windows shone eerily on his silver hair, and Kathleen dismissively realized it looked like it was going to storm outside.

"Its obvious. The pain in your eyes, and the fact that you seem so worn by what you see every day." Kathleen murmured, her eyes clenched closed to fight back the tears that she refused to shed in front of her tormentor. In that one sentence, she revealed the one thing she had not mentioned. At times she was very close to people, and could tell if something was wrong. It was not a cognitive thing, but merely instinctual, like her irrational decision to accompany Raidon to the Bower, despite his obvious irritation at her presence.

"Raidon is going to get into some trouble later. See if you cant find a butler looking old man downtown in a fresh grocer. His name is Warpole, and he is Raidon's caregiver. I cant tell what is going to happen to Raidon just yet, that depends on his choice, and on your choice on whether to help him, and how to do that. Do you trust another enough to accept their help? Even if they are a complete stranger?" James suddenly spoke out into the oppressing silence of the empty school as the air pressure outside plummeted and it started to pour. Kathleen's head snapped up and her eyes flew open in alarm, mixed with elation that he finally accepted her help. A small smile played across James' face.

"He will be happy to see Warpole." Was all James said before Kathleen abandoned her backpack and took off at a dead sprint from the school, ignoring the roaring rain as it flooded the streets of the city, as if the storm were a living force trying to keep help from reaching the one who needed it most at the moment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Hello sir." Raidon said before bursting into a fit of laughter, looking bruised and bloody as his eyeliner dripped down his face. Warpole caught him as the boy stumbled, blood flowing freely down his leg as the wound in his calf re-opened from the strain of running. The retreating gang figures in the alley revealed to the old man and Kathleen what had happened, and what would have happened had Raidon not made it to the crowded street before he was caught. Kathleen bent double, her hands resting on her knees as rain dripped off her soaked hair and nose, gasping for breath as she watched Warpole quickly tie an improvised tourniquet right below the bleeding boy's knee. The grandfather looking man seemed to know what he was doing and Kathleen watched, intrigued, absently thinking that would be a handy skill to know. Suddenly, something James had said clicked into her mind.

<i>"You know nothing and have no want to learn that which needs to be taught."</i>

Her eyes widening as rain flooded past them in writhing miniature rivulets, Kathleen walked over to help Warpole support the woozy Raidon.

"Would you teach me first aid?" She shouted over the pouring rain, the voices and the honking of city cars. The old man stared at her, bewildered, then gave a shrug.

"I would have to ask Raidon if he doesnt mind, of course." He said, his wrinkle hued eyes locked on the limp form of his ward.

"Of course." Kathleen said, nodding as she helped both of them to a cab.
A Non-Existent User
It was just as she had feared- taking the canvas home with her had been a mistake. Zinc white and lamp black, they never dried. They sat there upon the canvas, helpless and wet as newborns, and their fragility was just as easily jostled and broken. The trains had stopped service in the area after the explosion, and by the time the service had started up again, the flood of delayed commuters spilled and tumbled over one another in desperation to fill as close a space as possible. Calla had walked on with a painting on a canvas; someone had walked off with it on their coat.

The frustrating ruin had burrowed and festered in her mind that day. She'd had all of the previous night and the next morning and every single class in which to worry and fret over that day's imminent progress check, for which she was now hopelessly unready. More time for her mind to cannibalize itself inside her skull. Her first large grade in the class would, undoubtedly, be horrifically embarrassing and doled out to her with glee from the chicken hawk woman. But I'd been more than ready before, she thought. I would have been ready for anything.

Holding her canvas down by her side and keeping it as discreet as she could, it was no wonder that in Calla's shame she didn't notice the unusual atmosphere in the room as she slumped into her chair at the broad, beige table. While other students near her murmured and snidely giggled, thinking no one in the world could hear them, Calla stared into the dry smears of color on the smooth surface in front of her. She tried to see pictures- always, there were faces. But today, it was just color. There was a blue one that captivated her now- what color was that? Residue of dark and thick Prussian blue. Yet it was a color that, when stretched thin and pale, still contained an unearthly depth, the way that a clear midday sky seemed oddly dark in the center. The first modern manufactured oil pigment. It was both a sign of the future and a reminder of the past. Calla pulled herself away from the tabletop- but all she saw, again, was more Prussian blue, more past and future.

She saw what people had been murmuring about. He may have been wearing a drab suit that wanted to fade into nothing, but James Womack, for all his uncanny ability, was hopelessly unable to hide himself. As he nonchalantly gazed over the heads of students as they assembled their tools- brushes fine as scalpels, pungent mineral spirits, dinner plates of pigments, and towels to blot onto their bleeding canvases- Calla froze. She made no effort to ready herself. She only stared ahead of her, at this strange man who had somehow infiltrated her world. Her eyes were wide, and her mouth hung slightly open. Breathing didn’t matter now; it wasn’t as if she could remember how to do it, anyway.

“Funny-looking sub.”

Calla gave a confused look to the girl beside her, managed a nod, and turned back. A boy in the corner behind James had draped his towel over his head, no doubt in mockery of that long, giveaway hair. James had aimlessly strolled down one aisle a bit, looking over the work people had brought. “Mr. Buzon, you’ve probably got a chunk of Van Dyke Brown in your hair now,” he said calmly, without once looking back. The boy’s hand immediately twitched up in horror as a few students snickered.

Don’t play games, thought Calla. Don’t play games with me.

The bell gave its solemn annunciation of the beginning of class, and James did not hesitate to begin. “Hello everyone. I think I can introduce myself now. I’m going to be your temporary instructor, just call me Mr. Ferrel-“

Liar.

“-and if you’re curious, yes, I do have quite a bit of experience teaching art.”

Liar.

“I studied here, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago-“

Liar.

“-where I earned my MA degree in Art Education.”

Some students hummed in admiration. But Calla only wondered why they were silly enough to think that a man with those qualifications, from that institution, would be taking a job as a substitute. And surely, she thought, despite that weariness, he couldn’t nearly be old enough to have even finished undergraduate school.

James began walking back toward the front of the class. “I’m sure you all understand you are to continue your current assignment. If you have any questions, feel free to come to me.”

Calla shot up her hand. James languidly picked up the attendance and seating chart and took his sweet time dragging his finger down the lines of boxes on the laminated paper, searching desperately for a name they both knew he was already very familiar with. “Miss Desmarais, is it?”

“Yes.” You already know my name, thought Calla. “I was just wondering… I mean, that’s a very good school. A lot of us are thinking of trying to get in… do you think you could bring in any of your own work? Things that either got you accepted, or that you would typically do there. You know,” she smiled sardonically, “as an example.”

But James did not hesitate. Immediately Mr. Ferrel produced from behind the desk a sketchbook, thick and warped and worn. That was the sign of someone serious about drawing. There was the odd misconception in popular opinion, that sketchbooks needed to remain neat and clean and organized. Those who had broken free of these elementary delusions knew that a trim sketchbook was the sign of someone who valued style over substance, image over content. Her surly expression softened. “It’s all I have with me right now. Some is from my days studying, others are from my free time. You’re free to look at it,” he said, placing it vulnerably on the front desk, “but keep in mind you shouldn’t get too distracted from your work.” He looked at Calla briefly. “And seeing as quite a few of you are having a bit of trouble, progress check has been moved to tomorrow.”

It won over the class, except for Calla. While everyone else either threw their bodies furiously upon their work or took the chance to ignore it, she slumped and glared incredulously at this new Mr. Ferrel. She didn’t want to have to thank him for anything or to feel indebted to him, if that’s what he was trying to do now. Muttering some coarse obscenities under her breath, she left her smeared painting alone and approached the front of the class. A cow off to slaughter. A deer paralyzed by headlights. She knew, somewhere in the back of her mind, that she would be entangling herself even more in this enigma. Without even declaring her intention, she snatched up the spiral-bound book, the papers softly whispering, and began to pore over it, flipping hurriedly from page to page, her dark head bent and shielding the book from the rest of the world with her hair. The lines on the pages made no sense to her at first; they were only dark and slender shadows that blended into her overhanging curls in her peripheral vision. It was like watching Chicago from a moving train, or rather, just staring out the window and watching nothing at all. Shapes and shadows all blended together into what could have been pictures, but what left no impression in her mind. Calla was confused as to why she wasn’t understanding anything. She forced herself to stop turning the pages, and then she felt her heart pounding and screaming in its little cage. Did this really make her all that nervous? She had been through much worse before, and yet somehow this man’s thoughts, reflected in this harmless little book, seemed oddly forbidding.

“You’ll understand it better if you slow down and go back to the beginning.” James was leaning on the other side of the desk with his arms folded, looking away from her into the class, his eyes just missing the tops of the students’ heads. She knew that expression; she knew he wasn’t seeing what was in front of him, just as she wasn’t seeing his drawings. Calla begrudgingly did as told and chained her mind to the first page for as long as she could. After a moment, she realized it was simply a large cloud of smoke, of dust, of something that looked putrid and floated through the air. There was nothing else but that cloud on the page, and yet every part of it was so detailed. Every swirl of air, every current of the blowing wind, every shadow and highlight and texture of the rising and billowing mass- it was all painstakingly marked out in graphite. If James had only drawn in a compass, anyone could have told what time of day was being graced by this frothy presence.

The next page was rubble, equally detailed.

The next was a toppled streetlamp. Incredible detail. There was a person crushed beneath it.

For a few pages after this, it was all either smoke or rubble, sometimes the shadows of people huddling together in a room. What made Calla finally admit to fear were the pages of faces. The first would be just a visage, an individual person, unique and alive and all full of promise. But the next was the same person- dull, heavy, mouths agape, eyes blank or closed, some with tongues lolling between parched lips. She began to rapidly flip through the pages again, running through the images like a child running to escape a dark building-

“They’re dead,” Calla muttered. James straightened up immediately, realizing what she was looking at. Just as Calla found one picture of that Raidon boy- alive- it had to be him- James hurriedly grabbed the sketchbook from her, closed it, and shoved it back into his bag. A few students looked up curiously but turned back to their chores upon receiving a cold acknowledgement of eyes.

Calla and James said nothing to one another. She gave him an accusing stare- This is what you want us to become? James could not look anything but solemn, though for a moment his mouth flickered. “When no one listens,” he said in a whisper only she could here, “I have to get it out, somehow. Otherwise it stays in my head forever.” He didn’t look at her. Without a word, Calla silently returned to her seat and waited for the final bell.


“Cause of Explosion Probed,” read the headline of a stack of newspapers beside the sticky counter. Calla silently skimmed over each publication in the small convenience store on the busy corner; all of them mentioned the car from yesterday, but none of them had anything new to say. It was a bomb, and some people were mildly injured. In other circumstances, Calla would have lost interest and expected the story to fade away, which it undoubtedly would. But that chance meeting with James and Raidon and Kathleen had left the seed of suspicion in her. She didn’t want the story to be dropped. Though she kicked herself for it inside, she was now starting to believe this whole mumbo jumbo about the future really held some water. What bothered her more than this new superstitious belief was the fact that, somehow, it seemed like she was becoming a part of it. And she couldn’t do anything about it. If there was anything that Calla hated, it was feeling helpless.

“Don’t leave just yet,” came James’s low voice. Calla jumped and turned to find him just beside her. Defiantly she took a step away, but he stepped agilely into her path. “Do you remember Markham?” he asked, and seeing the fiery expression that crept into her face, he quickly finished with, “Yes, of course, of course you do.”

“What is this about?” she asked quietly.

“You’re about to have another little Markham experience.”

Calla instinctively reached to the side of her stomach for that straight pink scar under her clothes, but she drew away her hand to point it angrily at James. She was now following him as he ducked into an aisle of pretzels and dry noodles. “Shut up,” she hissed. “What are you getting on about? I’m going to get another knife in me?”

“Yes, basically.”

Calla looked at him in thick disbelief. “There’s a crowd of people out there. I don’t have any money on me, just some spare change. You’re saying someone’s going to single me out, just for shits and giggles?”

James only fiddled with a little bag of gummy fruits. “No. For a distraction.”

“And you’re so calm about this. That’s why I can’t take you seriously. You say the most bizarre things, but it’s like you don’t care-“

“And then they happen.” His face had suddenly become livid. “And you believe me.”

“But I don’t want to,” Calla protested, in spite of herself.

“But you do. You know I’m right,” he said, trying to suppress the feeling that had just crashed through him. “It’s inevitable.”

Calla felt her hand trembling, and she let it go right to her stomach. “I don’t want this,” she pleaded softly.

“It has to happen. How it happens depends on you.”

“Then why don’t you go with me?”

“He’d go after me, then, and he wouldn’t stop until I’m through. Whereas a girl, a student who fights back… if you can draw attention, you can spook him-“

“Who is ‘he’?” Calla pressed, her voice faltering. “What does he look like? At least so I know-“

“That’s just it,” sighed James. “I never see his face when I see this happening.” He turned completely toward Calla. He had taken off the grey jacket, and that blue, wrinkled shirt bunched unnaturally over his tensed shoulders. “I know you’ll get a good look at him if you fight back right away. “

It was too much for her- she remembered the deserted alley in Markham, the young, desperate man demanding money that she honestly didn’t have. He had been so careless, and when he realized he had given so much of himself away, he had lunged. It was so fast- Calla had no idea what had happened. She had only been pushed against a wall. Her stomach felt odd; she attributed it to fear. But soon, she was slumped on her knees, staring at her own blood…

“How do you know about Markham?” she asked, her breath beginning to quicken.

“It’s not just the future I can understand. Others’ pasts. That’s why I found you people…” he stopped when he saw Calla turning her head away in shame. She hated crying in front of others. The tears were coming slowly, threatening to fall from her lower lids as she tried to hold them back.

“Why are you making me do this?” she stammered. And then she looked up at him defiantly. “You shouldn’t be. Is this the sort of thing that happened to those people in the drawings? Just caught up in what you want, because you get to see the future.”

“No.” His voice was quiet, but she had never heard so much anger and anxiety in one syllable before. “Don’t you dare tell me this is what I want. I don’t want to see all these things, but I do. The least I could do is try to warn people, warn the ones who are able to change all of this.” She tried to walk away, but James grabbed her and pulled her back, his fingers digging into her arm.

Ignoring his sore grip and shaking now, Calla said, “I could die.”

James only held on tighter. “Yes, you could easily die. But if you don’t do this,” his voice lowered to a fierce whisper, “you will die.” He relaxed a bit, and he pulled Calla out of the aisle and toward the door. She started pulling back, trying to drag her feet along the gum-speckled tile. Outside, as was typical of Chicago, the heavens had gotten a sudden urge to weep; a downpour had begun without any warning. Perhaps they were weeping for her, for all of them.

“You’re just sending me out there to get stabbed-“

“I’ll be nearby. Raidon’s having his own little problems right now, but I’ve made sure he’ll have someone to turn to afterward as well,” he said, as if trying to console her. But nothing would reach her ears to calm her now; her whole body tensed, and she found herself staggering along to the door. The world moved slowly, curving around her as if she were in a bubble. She saw every reflection of every raindrop as it picked up a shine of yellow light against the glass door of the convenience shop.

“Let’s wait, until it stops,” she pleaded.

“And give him more time to get comfortable with himself and the area? You have to be there, make sure he’s unprepared. You’ll catch each other off guard.”

“Why this?”

“A distraction. Missing or dead people… it’s not what they’re after. They could care less about you. But it’ll help get attention away from the bombing, away from what happens next, especially in a crowded area like this,” James said under his breath as they paused by the door. “Especially near a school. They know how to use the media: escalate something unrelated to draw attention away from what you really want.”

Calla grew numb. “Others, from school…” She thought of Raidon and Kathleen and those she had been friendly with.

“Only you today.”

It didn’t make Calla feel any better. Suddenly, she found herself under a cold fountain as, without warning, James pushed them both out of the door. “Don’t look down at the blood. You can trick yourself into not hurting as badly that way.” Before she could respond, he had turned and was briskly walking away, falling into the crowd. There was a surge of people who were pushing by, trying to step into doorways or under ledges and canopies, their briefcases resting on their heads and forming a sea of walking tables. How could someone pick me out of this, Calla thought, breathing fast. She let the surge carry her away from the store, down the sidewalk. They’ll notice if I get hurt. I can’t. I won’t.

The words thundered in her head, drowning out the drone of the rain and the people around her. One curb was crossed. She was making it. The crowd carried her just around the corner, safe in the middle. But on the end of the turn, a surge of people pushing into a storefront carried her to the inside edge of the sidewalk, to the narrow crack between two buildings, to a silent hand that wrapped itself over her mouth and made her vanish, without a trace, from the sidewalk and into the dripping shadows.

It was happening. Calla couldn’t make any noise around the meaty hand over her face, but she immediately began to struggle and flail against the arms that held her, pulling her farther and farther away from the open street, until it was but a brighter sliver off in the distance. Without thinking, she spread her jaw and clamped down on the inside of his palm as hard as she could, feeling the fibers of flesh give way beneath her teeth with a sickening ease as she kicked behind her, feeling her heel collide with his groin. The taste of warm pennies filled her mouth as the man behind her let out a furious hiss, took her by one arm, and turned her around. With his own bleeding palm he struck her across the face, stunning her down against the wall. She landed with her arms bracing herself against the brick, and immediately she pushed herself off like a spring and fled, drawing him toward the light. His face, she remembered. I need to see his face. The man was large, but he was fast as well, and this time her neck became a handle onto which he could grab. Calla’s knees collided with the wet pavement as she fell, and she tumbled over onto her side, looking up and behind her, searching for that face that, somehow, might be a saving grace for countless people. If only for now.

She had tricked him, and he faced the dull glimmer of the street. Perhaps in his thirties, with a swarthy complexion, he glowered down out of large eyes set upon tired creases and lines. His mouth was set up toward the tip of a long, thin nose; perhaps, had he been younger, he would have come off as extremely handsome. Something, however, was corrupt in him, and it leaked like slime from his pores and orifices, bubbling under his skin. She memorized his hairline, how his brows lowered, the shape of his jaw. Everything got filed away in its own little drawer in her brain- his suit, his height, his being left-handed. And then, finally, it occurred to Calla to scream. She pushed herself up and tried to run, giving a banshee shriek yet again. Just as she was turning her body to run, her eyes still locked on the assailant, she saw him jerk forward, stop, and pull back. It was the movement that she knew so well, though she had seen it only once. It was the strike of a viper- a sloppy, scared viper. But it was a strike nonetheless. She felt her skin give way, tearing as a blade pulled one way and she turned another, then a hot ache. Still, she refused to look down, even when she tripped over herself and crashed once again into the wall.

Footsteps pattered away, swallowed up by the rain. Calla’s shouders slowly shuddered up and down, her face plastered with her soaked hair. She stared across the dark space of the alley, into the pores of a brick. The cold water ran along the outside of her hand while she felt warm liquid on the inside of it. Though the pain was not, at the moment, enough to send her reeling, whatever she did feel was foreboding enough to keep her rooted to the spot. Just as she put out her other hand to try to stand, two hands hooked her from behind and dragged her to her feet. She almost called out again were it not for a fact that she saw a flash of white hair out of the corner of her eye. As she jerked to a standing position, a sharp throb careened through her stomach, but she suppressed it under a drawn-out wince.

“You did wonderfully,” came the excited whisper in her ear. “We’ll go this way now.” James let her slump against his shoulder as they took the backstreets all the way Richtor’s Hotel in the rain, dripping water and a bit of blood along the way.

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“Basil!” James yelled wildly as they hobbled into the room at the top of the hotel. “Basil, it’s happened! We’ve changed it, we really have changed something!” His voice was happy and feverish as he left a bit of Calla’s blood on the antiqued door handle.

“Really, now?” called a voice from around a corner. “Everyone made it out all right?”

“Get some gauze.”

“I should have known.” The voice disappeared and some rummaging was heard in its place. Calla saw a dark red drop fall on the soft carpet as James led her to the bathroom. She had done so well not to look at the wound, to keep her eyes away, to keep the pain suppressed. But the moment they stepped in and turned on the lights, Calla saw herself propped up against James. She saw herself bleeding the little rivulets that forced their way past her stomach and hand and stealthily ran down to her leg. Her knees buckled, and she fell over the sink as the first real throb of pain and realization swept over her, radiating from the wound. So long had she been able to look away that it had all built up inside of her; just a bit of recognition gave her agony.

James cursed and pulled her up, sitting her on the ledge. A strangled hiss of air forced its way from between her bared teeth as James forced his own hand down onto the gash, reaching to the side and turning on the cold tap with the other. Calla added the pressure of her own palms to his, wincing at the sharp sting

“Basil!” he yelled again. He fell silent as the busy footsteps began to approach, and he looked up at Calla. Slowly, a smile crept onto his face, splitting and cracking into a grin. She knew it was real, for it even touched his eyes, unlike the forced expressions he had given to make his new acquaintances trust him. It transformed him; the age disappeared from his worried face, the white of his hair looked ethereally youthful instead of unnaturally old. Her mind whirred. Something impressive had just happened. Despite her pain and her fear, she felt herself weakly smiling back at him by the time a wizened but lively man hustled in carrying several white packages.

“What the hell have you done to her?!” he exclaimed as he threw down the little packages onto the countertop and began hurriedly reaching for a towel.

“Nothing. I only warned her. She took care of the rest,” said James, not moving his eyes or smile away.

“By slashing herself?”

“By fighting back.”

Basil rolled his eyes in exasperation. “I can take it from here, James. Too many cooks in the kitchen...” James reluctantly looked at the two of them before scuffling away. “Basil McLean. And you would be?”

“Calla. Desmarais.” She eked the words out between the stinging swipes of water and towel that slowly dabbed up the blood as the bleeding finally began to slow. “Thank you, Mr. McLean,” she said as he wiped around the ends of the long cut.

“You be careful what you let him talk you into,” was all he said as he unrolled a pack of gauze. “You were stabbed?”

“Yes. It wasn’t really all that deep, though, I was pulling away-“

“You need to get to a hospital. Organs can get punctured this way-“

“None of hers are. She’ll be fine, I’ve seen it already,” came James’s muffled voice from outside. As Mr. McLean shook his head at James’s surefooted answer, Calla trusted this strange man from the bower now, more than anyone.

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“I’m just going to be at Sarah’s for the weekend.”

“Oh, that’s all right. I just wish you had called last night.”

“Yeah…

“So you’ll go to school with her Monday?”

“Yes, that’s what I was planning.”

“Okay. Have fun.”

Her mother hung up, and Calla looked out the big window at the clear Saturday morning. “You’re so stupid, both of you,” she said to the receiver. “You don’t care, you don’t know.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

She was wearing one of James’s shirts, plain and white, that Mr. McLean had produced for her after the bleeding had stopped. Calla didn’t realize how much bigger than her James was. The sleeves almost reached her elbows, the hem easily swallowed her hips. The lines of the fabric gathered and then hung down from her shoulders in thick ripples. Despite the cold and leaden pain in her stomach now, Calla felt oddly comfortable. Like the sketchbook, the shirt was worn- though while the sketchbook was of an anxious wear, the shirt was worn just as any other somewhat cherished article would be. She rubbed the thinning material between her fingers; it was soft. It smelled like detergent, but it had that hint of belonging to a person. People had a smell, the smell of the species. Each one was different, but there was something indescribably human about them all. She flushed a bit when she remembered it was James, wearing this shirt just as much as she was. Or rather, she was wearing him. It was an idea that, at least, took her mind away from the previous day, or even the night before.

She remembered trying to sleep in this strange place on the green sofa, so thoughtfully made up with extra blankets and pillows for her by Mr. McLean, but without much success. It seemed to have anything touching her stomach would send tendrils of prickling fire across her body, and yet she was cold in the dark room. While she stared and saw pictures and faces in the bumps on the ceiling, she was startled even more awake by a quiet and pained moan from the other room. And then another. And then cursing and fumbling feet. With a stiffening of her torso she silently heaved herself from the couch and peered around the doorway into the dark. James was sitting at the edge of his bed, watching as blood puttered slowly from his nose, his bare shoulders and back hunched away from her. Calla must have made a sound of shock or sadness or sympathy, for he immediately looked up and saw her spying. Her face glowed red in the gloom as she stumbled, as quickly as she could manage, back to the couch. Later that night, she was sure James was walking about and that he had stopped for a bit by the sofa. Opening her eyes, she found him sitting on the arm. Before she opened her mouth he had shushed her and told her to go back to sleep. She didn’t understand how anyone could sleep here, and so it was with some disbelief that she received her new assignment the next morning.

“I want you to draw me the most photorealistic picture of that man,” James had told her. Perhaps it was the stress of yesterday, or the lack of sleep, or both, but Calla was in no mood to draw anything, especially when James handed her his own little book of horrors in which to draw. “I know you can do it,” he pushed. “There’s no reason you shouldn’t.”

Feeling like (and knowing) she owed him and Mr. McLean her life, she grudgingly complied, and for the first few hours of that morning, she produced several sketches, attacked them all with the eraser multiple times, and wore holes in some of the paper. But by noon she was pulling the fine threads of his features out of the tapestry in her mind and stitching them gingerly onto the paper in front of her. Just as she was finishing, James took the sketchbook from her and silently studied her work.

“Our link to the hive. Busy busy busy, all the little worker bees.”

“Workers… I guess he wouldn’t be a higher-up if he’s out on the streets with a knife.”

“Exactly.” James chomped a cigar between his teeth, rolling it left and right with his jaw.

Calla couldn’t help but giggle at his face as he did that. “You know,” she said finally, “we really can’t track him down with only this. No name, no partner…”

“With this? Calla, this is a gold mine. The details of his suit, his orientation, his weapon and how he uses it… would there be anything else that could set him apart?”

Without hesitating, Calla answered. “He’s got teeth marks on his palm and a bruised scrotum.”

If James had surprised her by smiling, now he shocked her by laughing. It wasn’t the crazy or deranged sound she almost expected him to produce, but rather low and calm. “That works,” he said, looking up at her from the man’s scowling face. Then all was quiet between them. Calla was looking out the window again, but James pulled himself a bit closer. He cleared his throat. “You have to realize, from here on out, it’ll probably get worse.” Calla nodded slowly, curious of his tone and words. He sounded oddly human to her. His voice had changed, as he was speaking. “Whatever happens… you should know that each of us has plenty of scrapes and bruises waiting.”

“I know. You bleed at night. I’m sorry about last night…”

“It doesn’t matter, I couldn’t sleep anyway. But it’ll be more than that, more than a simple bleeder.” And then James did something that made Calla freeze, confused and shocked. He was trying to be as open and human as he could, and he put a hand awkwardly on her shoulder. “I trust you, to make the right choices.” Without thinking, Calla patted his hand and left it there for some time. All went silent. She could hear her own breathing as well as his, she could feel the vibrations of each heart beat as it pulsed through her veins or his veins- it stopped mattering the more she listened and let it calm her. She noticed there was something scared in his face, a frightened uncertainty that only lasted for this brief digression. It made Calla want to sit and study his face more, or to at least just privately feel his enigmatic presence as she did now. But just as soon as it had started, the quiet moment came to and end.

“We’ll have to pay a visit to your new friends from school, then. Let’s see how they’ve held up.”

Oh, thought Calla with a coy smile, but you already know, don't you, James?


The humming of the car took his mind off of what was to come. There were so many things that were going to happen, and so little time to recover. He could only hope that these kids would endure the catastrophies that were enstored for this city. The mercedes took a left turn, and James snapped out of his temporary drowsiness. His hands that were gripping the wheel, were turning the car around, so he could park in front of the large building. The bright sunshine was pouring down on his face, making it hard to watch forwards. Yet he did not really care about it. The parking lot of the buiding was full, so Womack had to find out another spot. He had seen it coming, but it was necessary to at least look surprised. Calla knew now that everything had its purpose when it came to James. Everthing he did led to something concrete, something that had a factual result. It seemed like everything that Womack did was already prepared before he even did it. Perhaps for Calla that was a unique ability, but she would not think that way for long.

Up till now, James had driven the mercedes out of habbit, having driven all this way at least thirty times already, when he was in a stasus. Womack had found it hard to believe that Calla had gone through with this as well as she had. And it was not only Calla. Raidon had turned out to be just as he had expected. It was a miracle that no one got killed, and yet Womack thought that it was just that exact risk that made these teens better. He knew that Calla for example had become stronger from her experience. Basil on the other hand would say that she had ended up with just one more hole in her belly. James snickered under his nose, but as he sensed someone's glare, he turned around to see Calla on the passanger's seat. She had seen him snicker. It was the first time he did something so girlishly. He took his white hair and through it behind his shoulder. She did not ask him, though he knew she was iching to say it.

"Nothing. Believe me, it's horrible on its own."

"Horrible?"

"Yeah." he said, and turned his head around. He quickly turned the car around. There was a four-story parking lot close to the building. Now was the time. It was going to happen soon anyway. He parked on the first floor. He got off the car, went to the other side and opened the door for Calla. Then he extended his arm and as she took it, he helped her get out of the Mercedes.

"Lead the way." she said as she gave him way. He suddenly took her by the waste, pulled her closer to him and pressed his lips in hers. Calla was bedazzled by this bizzare situation and for the first few seconds wasn't even able to react. His lips pressed so firmly and yet so warmly, with such tenderness that it magnetised her. After those few seconds went away, she finally snapped out of it. Her tender hands that had rested on his chest pushed him away, and their lips detached. "What are you doing?"

"Come on! I'll show you pleasure." he said, as his hands fell to her butt and squeezed hard.

"Ouch! Let go of me, James." Calla said as she started fighting back.

"Shut your mouth, bitch!" Womack said and slapped her face.

"Hey!" someone shouted from afar.

" You will tell this man you feel dizzy." Womack whispered in her ear as he bent over. "This man will lead you to his home, where you will meet Warpole. You will act as if you don't know Raidon." he continued as they heard footsteps come closer. "After twenty minutes he will leave and ten minutes later you all will leave and meet me in the bower." he said, then he released her and ran in the opposite direction, disappearing in the street that was just outside the parking lot.

Outside the world was bleary eyes and weeping in the sticky, humid waves of dull and throbbing autumnal air. Raidon lay back on the plush, worn in sofa that let his awkward, sideways-foetal position curl into the cushions as if they were made especially with his curvature in mind. He felt absurd, his body shrunken inwards as if having his head resting on his knees made him more safe, more secure. He couldn't always be strong, he supposed. Everyone had moments where they felt like shit. Which was probably the exact reason why he was coiled tight like a line on a boat, with a tub of B&J's Fossil Fuel and watching with mindless eyes, the Count of Monte Christo, a favourite of his. He felt thoughts tumbling in a complex muddle of stray ideas and interwoven understandings. So James Womack… he could really tell the future. Had he known how close he had been to dying? How close to failure he had come? He must have known… Had there only been one ending? Had there been other alternatives, maybe less preferable ones, which could have been worse or better? He didn't know if he dared to believe all this was real.

He had found it hilarious before… How close he had come to death. But the truth was… Dying terrified him. Death was Camus' last judge of life and he was definitely not ready to face the possibility of being buried any time soon. He hoped to live… to live deliberately. Today he had… he had… touched something… a great obscurity where the only thing that existed was the corporeal, the instinct, the phenomenal. Adrenaline had left his muscles aching and pulsating beneath his skin, but it had felt good… He had felt alive, detached from the sensorial and yet ever so in-tune with it. As if… As if… As if he had had moments to live, split seconds before everything gave, mere millimetres keeping him from the edge of a precipice.

Warpole had not been pleased. He had seemed intrigued but then again he was still ex-military at heart, no matter how hard he tried to curtail it. Raidon continued to lie there, energy sapped away, listless as the laburnum crawling out of its pot in the window box. Making a small mumbling noise, he flexed his shoulder blades against the squishy cushion and reflected on the fact that he would have purred if he could. Instead he scooped up more ice cream and tried not to dwell on the residual thoughts of calories and fat. He needed this sugar. He just had to keep reminding himself of that.

Scuffling and murmuring filtered through the walls and the door and dwelt in the air like dancers, swirling incoherently in empty space but the familiarity of the tone making him smile. It drew him away from the introverted contemplation he had sunk into and he realised that the film was nearly over… maybe twenty minutes or so were left. Pulling a face, he scrunched up his nose, berating himself for neglecting the classic so terribly.

"I… sorry to… thank you…. trouble…" A girl's voice, vaguely familiar but he wasn't sure why in his lethargic state, began to make sense, he guessed it was because they were coming closer.

"No trouble. No trouble. I dare say…" Warpole's voice had been merry, almost as if his smile was coming through in his words and then it dropped, as if going into a different topic.

"Warpole?" He called out but didn't uncurl. He didn't want to move.

There were footsteps, two sets of them, one much lighter than the other. He guessed the heavier was the strange girl since Warpole often crept up on him without him noticing. A face appeared above the back of the sofa. Then another. The spoon he had just placed back in his mouth dangled there, held between two fingers as he stared, wide eyed at the girl.

Warpole chuckled, "I think you must know each other," he spoke with warmth but his eyes were assessing, "Was there something you wanted?"

"No sir, I heard voices and was curious." Raidon replied, removing the spoon and sticking it back into the dessert.

"Ah-"

Somewhere upstairs a phone began to ring. Warpole's response died on his lips at the interruption and he curtly bowed his head before excusing himself and leaving.

"Ah, indeed." He didn't move apart from seeking out more Ben&Jerrys and turn his eyes to the tv, "Want to watch the end of The Count of Monte Christo?"

He deliberately avoided asking why she was there. He had a sneaking suspicion that it had to do with James, but he didn't want to know really if it did. He was still recovering, and he didn't have that much more to watch of this film. It would be a shame to stop it now.

"Do you remember me?"

"Yup. School. Bower. Calla." He determinedly refused to meet her eyes, he could feel them on him already, "Ice cream?"

"No thanks."

The pause became stifling, broken only by the clashing of swords and the occasional traffic buzz from below. It wasn't really silence then at all… just a hush between two people that had much too much to say and not enough will power to say it.

"I've never seen this film before." She said idly, "Is it good?"

Unbelieving, he untucked his head from it's position and glanced at her, her eyes were no longer on him but on the screen, "It's the best film ever. Better than anything"

She laughed, a short, almost half laugh, "Oh, I see…" She tailed off and the seconds ticked by, "I was sent here you know."

"Warpole wouldn't just accept visitors though."

"I guessed as much. James sent me. Had to trick one of your father's staff or something to get me in."

"Oh…" He didn't know what to say and he'd heard her mistake, "He's not."

"He's not what?" She sounded confused.

"He's not my father. Warpole. He's not my dad or anything."

"Oh?"

He wasn't going to answer that particular question though, not when he didn't know her particularly well and was trying to keep away from bad topics of conversation. Such as Warpole and Womack.

"I think James wants you to go see him."

"Why? I'm sure he already knows how I've done since he can see the future and all that."

"Maybe there's more for you to do?"

"Maybe I don’t want to do more." He growled, but knew that was a lie. He did want to do more. He wanted to help. But he was tired and still had a history essay in for the next day which he'd barely started on. To top it all off he felt like seeking out some music and playing for a few hours but knew he wouldn't be able to if he was to got to the Bower.

"You can't be serious?"

He looked at her, expression vague as Zeno of Citium, with the grey irises glittering in the refracted light of the television, "Really?"

"Of course you can't be. He wouldn't have dra- chosen you to help him if you were just going to cop out, last minute!"

He frowned slightly, just a twitch above his eyebrows, "No, I guess he wouldn't."

But he didn't move and his gaze returned to the final scene of the great movie he had been engrossed in. He murmured to himself the odd line here and there and smiled softly to himself before sighing, "You're going to persuade me aren't you?"

"I think so."

"What a shame… I guess the rest of this will have to be saved for later…" He reached out and found the lid for the tub of icecream, "Unless you want some?"

"I already said no."

"Oh yes… I suppose you did…" He probably sounded slightly detached, but that was about how he was feeling anyway. None of this felt real. This was a strange kind of low after a very crazed high… He wasn't sure that he liked it much.

Slowly he sat up, stretched his legs and rolled back his shoulders with a sigh, "Are you coming?"

"No. I'd feel rude just leaving without saying thank you to Mr Warpole."

"Hmm… Of course… and I suppose he'd think it rather odd." He tucked the tub under his arm, keeping the spoon and said, "Tell him I went to get more ice cream and a coffee will you?"

She didn't say anything but nodded. He gave her a one over out of curiosity. Beauty wasn't really in her, he decided, but she was striking enough to make anyone look twice. There was something strangely aristocratic and refined about her features, something peculiarly European maybe… And her hair… Hedda Gabler would have hated her with a passion, such hair was wild with femininity and a strange, yet interesting, contrast to the subtleness of her figure and face.

"I'll be off. Maybe see you later."

"Yes."

"Goodbye then."

"Bye."

It was awkward but he turned away with no expression and exited, as if from a place where unity of time and place and action were perfect. Did that make this a tragedy? For some reason he felt it could be… But maybe that was just his overactive melancholia.

*

“Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” - Jawaharlal Nehru

*

It was most unlike him… to be like this in front of people. He would normally laugh and grin and pretend all was well in life and home and school. He would never have normally let that girl see him in his semi-pathetic state; perhaps she had been surprised too at that opposite side of him. Only Warpole knew of his moments. And now her. And probably James.

The cold of the air as he swept himself out of the door and into the delicate thermals of cool Boreal breezes made blood rush to his face as a pink tinged flush across his cheeks. The warmth of early autumn was snatched away by its spectral embrace, the chill becoming a nipping viper on his skin. He probably should have changed out of his J.Crew skiing pyjama bottoms and put an extra jumper on over his thin Ramones t-shirt but he hadn't really thought about it before he stepped into the myriad of melting movements and simmering sounds of the city. The Bower… He guessed that'd be where James would be… Holed up, shrew-like, in the quiet sanctuary of the glen, where time stood still just for a moment, preserved… Like in an opera house… Sighing, he trudged, feet clad only in knee high thick, possum wool socks (since he had declined to wear shoes) and vaguely wondered what was going to happen next.

Then he frowned. If Womack saw the future then… was everything predetermined? Actions, consequences and ideas? Was there freewill? Was Hegel with his determinist outlook? Could he be? Struggling with this, he found himself trying to distract himself with the world, the smudges of black decaying gum on the tarmac roads that splattered like blots of abstract paintwork across a grey canvas; the shimmering puddles that quivered as cars rushed past in a roaring hurry. What about the static cloud, so bright that as he looked up to the great white-grey expanse he was blinded by spots of indigo and violet across his eyes? Was all of this shaped… to one single fate? And if it was… then did everything they did go against what was natural, what was right? Was what they were doing wrong?

He knew he couldn't voice these questions… a mirror on the street seemed to allow a terrible, gawping fish trawl to its surface; it's scales pale and it's eyes wide. If he asked it felt as if doomsday would fall upon him, a judgement. Shuddering he kept walking, head down, eyes deliberately skipping the cracks in the road.

"What am I, James? What do you want of me…"

The murmur was low. His feet touched grass. He was there.

*

“Free will is not the liberty to do whatever one likes, but the power of doing whatever one sees ought to be done, even in the very face of otherwise overwhelming impulse. There lies freedom, indeed.” - unknown

*

"You want me to go where?"

"To the new building works about two blocks from here. A group of builders from the Coburn Steel Fabricators Inc. are there. They need some help. I think only you will really see why."

Raidon looked at him with eyes which were now surprisingly more alert. Energy was coming back to him and he smiled fondly at the tub of icecream still under his arm.

"Is this… going to make a difference?" He still hadn't shaken the doubtful, hyperbolic questions in his mind but he knew he'd do what James Womack said. It felt right…

"All the difference in the world."

He frowned again but ignored the thoughts which wanted to burst from his mouth, "Are you going to explain what we're doing this for?"

"Not today."

"One day?"

"I think so. Right now it's better that you don't."

Nodding gravely, he realised that they were no longer alone. From behind, Calla was approaching, he recognised the way she sounded when she walked. Far too loudly.

"Aahh Calla..."

The way James turned from him told him that he was dismissed. Like a soldier from before a king. He had his orders and he was to go. He scowled but tried to contain his ridiculous response. He had no reason to feel like he should be treated better. No reason. Turning to go, he wished that he could be given a better clue this time. Last time… Oh well…

"Good luck!"

The call surprised him and though he didn't turn he was glad for Calla's support. Her simple call making him smile.

*
“Commitment means that it is possible for a man to yield the nerve center of his consent to a purpose or cause, a movement or an ideal, which may be more important to him than whether he lives or dies.”

*

The construction site was a wreck. Poles hung loosely from the ruins of a have demolished, half reconstructed building like bodies from the wall of Thermopylae. Crawling men, lugging cement and brick and tools they barely touched, slouched their way through their monotonous routine. The cavernous interior of their creation was a gaping mouth that threatened to swallow them like some starved demi-god. Gull calls, caws and cackles became their shouted demands. It was a strange thing watching them from across the street from a nearby bar. He'd ordered coffee before he'd realised what was going on across the road. He stood outside the café now. Watching. This had to be the place that James had been speaking off. He was certain… almost… that this was it. This was the place he was to interfere in. Yet right now he saw nothing, no sign of trouble, no danger.

"I want you to prevent Humpty Dumpty from being crushed."

That was what the white haired seer had said. So if humpty dumpty had fallen off the wall… then… to avoid being crushed? He had to avoid the wall entirely? He wasn't sure… He knew he had to think fast before whatever the problem was occurred. He presumed he had to save people. The workers? The building had to be the problem. Nothing so unstable looking could be safe.

"God, I could do with a pint." Someone was laughing, walking away with a grin, "I'll see you lads tomorrow. I'll send Lucy your birthday wishes and all that!"

"Have a good one Mikey."

"Make sure you give that girl of yours a fat hug from Sam, yeah?"

Their shouts were jovially affectionate; they were a team he supposed. He would hate to fail this. But the 'pint' had given him an idea. He had seen the chalk board on the sidewalk and raised his eyebrow. Clichéd but maybe it would work. He knew what he had to do.

Bending down, he wiped the board clean, stolen chalk in hand he wrote. A smile upon his lips and he quoted a line from a film he had seen when he had baby sat next door's little girl.

"FREE BEER! GET YOUR FREE BEER HERE! IT'S HAPPY HOUR! GET YOUR FREE BEER!"

This had to work. Had to work.

"FREE BEER!"

Please work. Get away from that building before something happens.

"BEER HERE!"

People smiled and turned into the café, the construction site workers laid down their equipment and called out to see if they could call it in for a drink. The murmur of sounds that approached him filled him with relief. As it grew closer, a crack seemed to splinter the air and people turned. There was no roaring chaos like before, no screams caused by flaming car parts flying through the air like starts, just a single crack and rush of thunder as the half demolished frame collapsed downwards. Raidon smirked. So that was it? A wall collapsing? And they were all here… looking for a beer.

How hilarious.
A Non-Existent User
[I'm sorry I keep skipping my turn... but there's nothing I can do with Char right now. No one's interacting with her, so I'll just wait until someone does. *Heart*3333~Ro]
A Non-Existent User
Calla kicked at a bit of melted ice cream that had fallen by her feet on the grass as Raidon walked away. But neither she nor James spoke until he had left the green and brown of the park. He watched her expectantly, while she gave him an icy stare.

"Fine. You win. It was a bit much, I'll admit," he said, but without much feeling.

"You didn't have to grab me like that. I'm sore all over... can't stand my stomach touching anything."

Without warning, James turned on his heel and began walking away, causing Calla to start after him, annoyed and flustered. "It did work, though, didn't it?" he mumbled carelessly over his shoulder.

Calla was feeling the wound pulling her over like a hunk of lead tied to her insides. "Yes," she said after a moment. "But you could have done something else. Or just hit me and left it at that."

James stopped and faced her, looking genuinely surprised. "You'd rather be hit than kissed?" Calla's face froze in an angry grimace, flushed red with her temper and her embarrassment. "Then again," he said, "if that's what you're used to, you're perfectly suited for this job."

How angry he always seemed to make her. The ache in her stomach and the heat in her face bubbled over. "I never said I would work for you. I never said I'd do any damn job. You've only told me what happens, and I'm the one who's had to deal with all of it. I've just done what I've had to, because-"

"Because you know that this is something big. You're part of a massive change now, and you know it." More gently, he continued. "We've talked about this before."

She didn't move a muscle; she only stood, staring, angry, hurting, frightened.

"Calla..."

"Don't hurt him."

"You're crying."

"Or Kathleen."

"Calla, sit down."

"What happened to Kathleen? Where is she?"

"You've got to calm down."

"Shut up and tell me."

"How can I shut up and tell you at the same time?"

She couldn't take any more of his stings. With a muffled cry somewhere between a sigh and a snarl, she rushed toward the man who lay somewhere in hatred and adoration, somewhere she could not reach or pin down on a map or hope to stand, and flung a sloppy punch at him. He easily caught her wrist in his hand, and for a second, she feared he would pull her into him again. But he stopped short, grabbing her shoulder with his other hand instead. He peered at her from behind the blue windows, silently and solemnly.

Concealed by the bower in this one deserted place, surrounded by a city that was blind to her, Calla finally cracked open like a perfect vase tumbling from a great height. What words she said to James, she could not remember. But it had all come spilling forth, the floodwaters of her mind mixing together into incoherence and blur. There was the image of Raidon, curled over, tired, shaken under his pale skin, his hair hiding his eyes, and then suddenly the image of him walking away. She hadn't known where he was going, and in her mind she tried to grab for him, to hold him back against her body, to keep him still, and maybe, together in the bower, they could wait it out, wait everything out until the world imploded or whatever horrible thing that was coming finally happened. There was James, standing below her as she sat bleeding in his bathroom, wearing her own blood and smiling, and then James standing above her, holding her against him as tightly as she had wished to pull back Raidon, her stomach hurting from both the wound and the shock of his face upon hers. And then there was Kathleen, the one glance she had given Calla, the one time she had seen someone truly distressed and helpless. And yet she had never seen Kathleen hurt. But her eyes, Calla saw, were so pained, or perfectly created to be in pain-

"She's dead, she's dead, she's dead!" she found herself saying suddenly between sobs and shudders that shook her body and that of James.

"She's fine, actually. Kathleen is fine for now. She was the one who helped Raidon, the one I told you about."

"I can't do this."

"You can, and you will."

"I bet you love seeing the future."

"I hate it, actually. I wish I didn't have to. I wish I could just see everyone living normally, I wish I didn't have to know that those..." he paused a bit, "that those I cared for most would be hurt. But that's the way things are." He was saying it as much for himself as for Calla. "Stop crying, and I'll take you home."

"What's going to happen to them? Kathleen-"

"You'll be there for her, you'll know when. She'll be fine, I promise you."

"And Raidon, He's-"

"Fine as we speak."

"And me?"

"You're still alive, you're still breathing."

***Just a quick note- no time for any sort of proper addition to the CF until August 8th, when I'll really have access to a computer. This is probably my only chance to be online for another month. I had sent an email to the CF author before I left, but just in case they don't skip me, please understand that I haven't been ignoring the story. I've just been in the middle of Cow Land, bossing around little kids. :)

© Copyright 2008 Richard_freeman, Dr Matticakes Myra, DarkHeart-BlueEyes-StangeMind, xx-xx, xx-xx, (known as GROUP).
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