by LM Lee
Majesty, a view of the apocalypse. Excerpt from Chapter one.
| It was the heat, the heat and that woman. As if things had not been fucked up enough before she came out of nowhere to sit at the stone table furthest away from Jake and his family, just on the edge of the wood line that served as a backdrop to the little road park. The day was all fucked up now. He just wanted to show his son that they could have fun together as a family and then Candace had to go and piss him off just like always. Now they were half an hour into their latest battle of wills. He wasn’t about to let that bitch talk back to him in front of the kid. Lately she had been one real pain in his ass. He had almost believed that she might be having an affair and then realized nobody wanted his wife, not even him. No way in hell was he going to let his son think a man was supposed to cower to a woman, especially women like Candace. Ever since she graduated from that stupid vocational course she had been taking the wrong tone with him more and more often.
Many times already he’d had to remind her of her place and today was one of those days. She was now on the ground faking a cry over her barely bloody lip. In retrospect he decided he should have smashed her nose good and hard if she was just going to snivel anyway. He had been trying to cut her some slack but she just couldn’t appreciate mercy. He knew she wouldn’t cooperate without some encouragement. If she was looking for sympathy she was just shit out of luck today, he thought and had to hold back a smile. He tightened his grip on her hair and gave it a little twist to get a stifled whimper out of her. Somehow that sound made his heart beat a little faster, he felt good. At that moment she knew who was in control. His 9 year old son, Andrew, was motionless, sitting in the only swing this side of the park still hanging. Jake looked at him and smiled but the boy might as well have been a life sized rag doll. His pale skin could easily pass for marble in that moment. The only sign of life appearing when a slight breeze picked up his short shaggy hair and let it fall to the other side like an invisible hairdresser. Jake looked down at his wife and pulled her upward just a bit till he could smell her sweat and he was sure she could smell the beer on his breath before he told her, “ I came to the park, the kid is having fun, and now you’re gonna do something for me. You’re gonna give me the money or we can stay like this all fucking day bitch.” He spoke in low but certain tones and then pushed her back under the table. He could feel the eyes of that fucking woman staring at him from across the grassy patch that served as a park in that godforsaken shit hole of a town they called home. Maybe she liked it. For a second he thought maybe the whole domestic violence scene might be turning her on, but she still just sat there. He couldn’t take it. He needed to get out of there. He had friends. Friends Candace didn’t know about. He wanted to tell her, to show her the photos of Janice sucking his cock. Sweet Janice. He realized he nearly had an erection. He felt somewhat transparent and seemed to blush slightly as he pulled Candace’s hair even tighter in his grip. “Shut the fuck up!’ he snarled as quietly as he could and still manage to keep the perfect tinge of menace that always seemed to do the trick with Candace. He was practiced at many shades of ominous.
He lifted his eyes again to look at the woman who just would not stop staring at him. He wondered what it must look like to her. Him sitting there holding Candace down under the table by the hair on her head. That hair had been so special before he’d damaged it. She had to be punished; destroying her perfectly straight shiny black hair was just part of the process. Maybe the woman thought Candace was a hooker giving him a blowjob. He smiled again at the thought. Candace’ newly matted hair and disheveled appearance probably gave that idea some legs. Either way she didn’t seem to have a cell phone or any of that other android nor PC shit. She wasn’t likely to call the police in any case. Her face was stone, and to Jake her skin seemed to glow like a pearl. She reminded him of a picture of some Greek statue he had seen in a book when he was still in high school but he couldn’t remember what it was or if it was really even Greek or perhaps Roman or even neither. There was an air about her, a sense of grace and poise. He wasn’t sure she was even blinking. To Jake, it seemed she was really just enjoying the show. There was a sparkle of humor in his dark blue eyes when he smiled at her and winked but the woman still didn’t move even a twitch. Candace’ long dark hair was wet with sweat, and matted with leaves and grass. Mascara streaked her face in several directions and she was trembling uncontrollably. It was so fucking hot and he was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the woman watching him. He decided he would end it for today and stood up as he dragged Candace out from under the table. He reached down to take the purse that she was clutching tightly with both hands. She started crying “No, no, no. . .” in an almost melodic voice trembling with exasperation. The imitation leather handle on the small cheap red cloth purse came loose and he threw Candace backward onto the ground as he began dumping its contents onto the stone picnic table until he found what he was looking for. He tossed the purse on the ground and picked up the small red wallet, put it in his shirt pocket and smiled at her. “Now see,” he said, “that wasn’t so hard.” He chuckled and said, “Now get your shit together and get in the fucking car so I can get the hell away from you before I fucking kill you, you fucking self-righteous cunt.” Candace just sat staring and never even looked up at him. An occasional sniffle was the only sound she was making. Her eyes were wide hollow sockets and she took on the same stature that her young son had just moments before. She was so lost in the shock of the moment she didn’t even see his boot coming when he kicked her in the stomach so hard no sound came from her throat. She wanted to scream but she couldn’t catch her breath as the pain shot through her torso and seemed to strangle her from inside. Jake screamed at her again to get the kid and get in the fucking car before turning toward the strip mall of empty, long forgotten stores.
Only one business remained there, a simple grocer who also sold liquor, ammo and fireworks. He left his young son of about 22 to run it. It was the only store that kept surviving as the world moved on and forgot about their little town. “You better have that kid and your ass planted in that car when I come out of that store or your embarrassment will only continue. Don’t make me show you.” He glanced to where the woman should have been and didn’t see her. Just as well, he almost said aloud but then he just stomped away to the store. Sometime during that display the woman had moved. Jake was so happy to have the money he didn’t even notice when she moved over to now stand next to his son, or how Andrew was now staring at her and speaking softly as if he was now in another world and could not see what was happening to his mother. He wasn’t interested in Andrew.
He walked into the store as Candace finally caught her breath and let out a low shuddering sob. Suddenly the woman’s hand was on her shoulder and Andrew was helping her to her feet. When she looked up through her swollen eyes and saw the kind stranger holding her purse for her, she was afraid Jake might be watching and come back to attack the woman just for helping her. The woman said her name was Nova and that she wanted to help her. She asked her if she thought she could make it to her car. Candace told her that she could and something in the woman’s manner made her feel especially enthusiastic about getting out of there. She was from out of town, she’d said. Candace thought there was something untrue about her story, but she accepted the woman’s help as she walked with them to their car as hurriedly as they could without causing more panic. Candace got into the driver’s seat and started the engine. She understood something, she had to leave now. She looked at the woman again as a tear fell madly down her ravaged cheeks and then put the car in gear and left so quickly the tires squealed as she drove. Nova watched them drive away and then went back to her stone seat in the park. It was a beautiful spot. That’s why she was here. The grass so green and soft it reminded her of some of her favorite places. There seemed to be a mist that hung in the air near the wood line and it gave the place a touch of mystery.
The last ride she had gotten seemed disappointed when she told them she had decided to stay here for a while but she knew she wouldn’t have a problem getting another ride. These things were simple. Still she thought she might get a car if she was going to be here for very long. She wondered how long Jake was going to be inside the store while she tilted her head back and soaked up the sun.
Jake had to piss like a racehorse. In the bathroom he opened the wallet to see how much money was left. Bill money my ass he thought to himself as he counted the twenties, tens, fives and ones. So many ones it looked like more money than it actually was. He didn’t know why Candace didn’t cash in her tips for bigger bills. He told her all the time she was likely to get robbed carrying around stacks of cash. But she didn’t have to worry, he would hold the money. He slipped out of the bathroom without picking up the wallet and shoved $122 into the front pocket of his faded jeans. He grabbed a bottle of Montezuma tequila off the shelf before asking the clerk for a pack of Winston. The clerk nervously bagged his bottle and handed him the cigarettes before taking the money Jake handed him. Jake knew the boy was afraid of him. Hell, this was a small town and lots of people were afraid of Jake Tanner. Jake smiled at him and asked him if he’d gotten any pussy yet. The boy seemed stunned but couldn’t say anything, and in effort he just stammered before Jake said, “That’s alright,” as he grabbed his bag and started toward the door. “You be sure and tell your momma I said hello.“ He giggled as he stepped back out into the scorching summer heat and noticed immediately that his car was gone.
“What the fuck?” He yelled as his face seemed to turn an even darker shade of alcoholic red. He turned around madly as if looking for the car, certain it would be here or there and then he noticed the woman again. That fucking bitch in the park. He walked over toward her but stopped a few feet away. “Did you see my wife and kid. . .” But the question trailed off. She was smiling at him. First, she was beautiful, and he knew she wasn’t from here, he would have remembered her. There were no other cars in the parking lot, so maybe she was related to Jonathan. “You Jon Jon’s cousin or something?” He was suddenly very uncomfortable with this woman. It reminded him of the feeling he’d had when he was just twelve and missed the bus for the field trip to Disney World. His fucking drunk ass mom had made him miss it and all he could do was be angry at home all day while his classmates had fun. “You a cop?” He prodded her again but still she just smiled a slight smile that barely cracked a line in her face. There was something about her skin. It seemed to be pulsing; he shook his head to fight the illusion thinking the sun must be getting the best of his eyesight. When he turned back he was looking into her eyes. Eyes that were normally brown but now glowed electric light as if they were made from pure lightening trapped behind dark clouds. “Who the fuck are you?” He blundered taking a step backward “Where’s my wife? Candace!” He began to yell, but got no response. He looked back at the woman and was surprised to find her standing right behind him. He was startled and fell back onto the grass dropping the paper bag onto the edge of the pavement. The paper bag began to turn a dark brown as the liquor spilled from the shattered bottle as she chuckled briefly. “Bitch, I will kill you and then fuck you or maybe I’ll just fuck you while you die, but you’re gone pay for that bottle.” He leapt to his feet and took a swing at her with his fist intending to break her nose the way he’d broken Candace’ face when she’d really pissed him off a few years before. The woman raised a hand and caught his fist in the air as if he were a child. He couldn’t believe how strong she was as she effortlessly twisted his wrist and forced him down onto his knees. He wanted to lunge at her, but he couldn’t move an inch in her direction. The storm in her eyes glowed and twisted like boiling clouds in a tornado, he could almost hear the thunder, but of course that was just madness. As she held his fist she put her other hand across his forehead and spoke. The sound was deafening but then he was sure she hadn’t spoken at all. He thought he must be losing his mind when the blood started running profusely from both nostrils and both ears. He didn’t notice, he was staring off into nothing wondering what it was she just said, it must have been important but he just couldn’t think. As his nosebleed spilled beyond his lips and mixed with the drool that was streaming from one side of his mouth, turning his teeth pink, he tried to speak but no sound came from his throat. She released her grip on his fist and kneeled down to place a hand across his heart. She waited until he looked into her eyes again and she didn’t blink for a full sixty seconds, watching the bloody drool run down his chin and onto his yellow golf shirt. Jake stared back at her in disbelief but helplessness all the same. Finally she simply said, “Stop.” Suddenly the confused mass of brain damage that was once Jake Tanner was dead. He did not fall immediately and his eyes seemed to still be alive, shifting as if to watch someone walk by. After a few seconds more he fell, face first, into the graveled edge of the pavement that had consumed the last liquor he ever bought. She gently closed his eyes as if she were hiding the reflection of the madness he witnessed in those final moments. She lifted her face to the sky and took a deep breath as she closed her dark green eyes, before standing and walking back toward the grocer.
The wind picked up and captured her long straight sun streaked blond hair in a playful caress as the sun glinted off the bright golds and platinums it had created. Her black suit seemed inappropriate for the heat and the southern US for that matter, but it had clean lines and she didn’t even break a sweat. She stepped into the cool air inside the grocer and Jon Jon was nervously watching her but as soon as he looked into her eyes he felt trapped. He would later say he was paralyzed. By the time he realized that he was no longer nervous and hadn’t stuttered in hours, the woman was long gone. He couldn’t even remember what she had purchased, but he never felt better. He wanted to thank her for coming, he was sure he ought to, but he could not explain why.
When an out of town woman who stopped to let her Schnauzer pee found Jake's body, Jon Jon thought he might vaguely remember something important, but it just kept slipping away. By the time Jake's funeral was held the coroner had already said it was an aneurism, so Jon Jon didn’t think much more about it. When he saw Candace and Andrew again, he offered his condolences and Candace seemed startled that he would mention it. She gave Jon Jon a long look as her son went on and on about some amazing thing he had seen on the internet. “I can’t shut him up you know,” she went on absently, “for years he barely spoke a word now suddenly he’s . . . he’s. . . Alive.” She smiled and said “Thank you.” As she took her change and went out to her car, Andrew babbling on behind her. After that, nobody asked about Jake Tanner again, nobody even thought about him. Jon Jon was “alive” now too, and he liked it.