Copyright (c) 2016 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
I always believed I’d lived a good life, what there was of it. It was early April of 2016. I’d just left the Samson Brothers building in New York City. The sun was shining somewhere up above the skyscrapers and the sky was blue, but I barely noticed. The traffic was unusually heavy on Vesey Street, but I didn’t notice that either. My mind was on the portfolio I was putting together for General Dynamics’ eight point five billion dollar pension fund, an inspired mixture of blue-chip stocks and long term municipal bonds. I believed I had exactly what they were looking for. I glanced both ways before I crossed the street. I had to talk to a broker friend before he went to lunch. The bus-driver laid on his horn the same time as he stomped on his brakes. I could hear the huge tires on the 45-foot long transit coach screeching as they slid on the hot asphalt. The two sounds seemed to play to each other like stoned jazz musicians tossing the same off-key note back and forth … an octave apart. There was a loud thump, but no pain … and I was flying through the air.
For some reason I thought about the branches of a sprawling apple tree me and a neighbor kid used to sit in when I was a child. My friend was telling an off-color joke about a hobo who did a number-two on the sidewalk as I sprinkled salt on a green apple and took a bite. When a cop came walking past, the homeless man covered the excrement with his cap. “What yah got under that hat?” the cop asked the nervous vagrant.
“It’s the fastest bird in the world,” the hobo told him.
“Is that so? Well I want to see it!” the cop was thinking about what a bird like that might be worth.
“If I lift up the hat, the bird will fly away,” the hobo explained.
“You lift up the hat, and I’ll grab it,” the cop insisted … rolling up his sleeves.
The hobo shrugged his shoulders and then told the cop to get ready. He lifted up the hat and the cop grabbed the fresh pile of excrement.
“Too late … he crapped and flew,” the hobo moaned.
I was laughing so hard I dropped the salt- shaker. I watched it fall for hours, days, years and centuries turning over and over in the darkening sky spreading white specks of light that looked remarkably like our enormous galaxy. At the same time it struck the ground … the Milky Way began to spin at high speed. It receded and became ten galaxies, then a hundred, a thousand and then millions. Everything in my universe began to dim … and finally it went totally black.
I was lying on my bed almost too relaxed, thinking about the strange dream, when Mrs. Baster my building superintendent marched into my bedroom. What’s that old crone doing in my apartment without knocking? She’d been in here once about two years before to assess damage from a broken water pipe for insurance purposes, but I hardly knew her. She walked straight to my 18th century Cherry Grove dresser and began to go through my underwear drawers. I looked down to see if I was decent and could see nothing. My anger must have made me blind. I yelled as loud as I could, but no sound waves went rushing toward her at 768 miles per hour. It was as if I was in another dimension where air did not exist. I tried to get my legs to move, but what legs? I’m still dreaming I thought and tried to go back to sleep. It was only when I relaxed that I felt myself began to float.
I caught sight of my reflection in the very expensive antique mirror as I lifted off the bed, a grey sphere of swirling light? The size of a soccer ball. Turning like a small planet, I noticed the Building Super and I were not alone in the room. A glowing sphere with the brilliance of sunlight on snow floated above a white triangle as it moved through the closed door into the bedroom. A large pair of eyes inside the sphere were as blue as the sky. Another circle, black as nothing, came through the closed closet door and hovered above a funnel made of shadows. Eyes like glowing embers burned from within.
Mrs. Baster had found the carved wooden box in the third drawer down that I kept my valuables in. She held my expensive Ressence Type 3BB V3 light-refracting watch up to the light from a window. “This is probably worth more than a new-car … possibly even a small house in upstate,” Mrs. Baster mumbled as she rotated the timepiece.
“Sister Francis raised you better than to become a thief …” the soft words came from the white sphere. I had an idea only I could hear them, but Mrs. Baster must have felt something; she slowly dropped her hand back toward the box.
“You were raised in an overcrowded Catholic orphanage where you had to steal food to survive!” the voice from the dark circle was guttural and filled with rage. “You leave this here and some overfed cop will have it in his pocket in less than an hour!”
“It is your faith in a higher power, and a belief in doing good, that has kept you safe all these years and brought you to you present circumstances!” The white sphere hovered near the woman’s ear.
“Safe!” The words struck like a snake spitting venom. “From Father O’Connor when he stuck his hands up under your dress during the Christmas pageant … you were only twelve … and the next year when he raped you in the kitchen …. Remember the blood in the bathroom … is that what you call safe?”
“There will always be evil in the world,” the white sphere whispered in her ear. “You must rise above it.”
“Why should I?” Mrs. Baster mumbled to herself. “What has being good ever done for me?” She turned and started for the door. “Besides, Ryan Reynolds was unmarried and had no next-of-kin. Nobody will notice a missing watch. The probate judge and a flock of pecking lawyers will most likely divvy up his estate.”
Next-of-kin? Estate? I watched in horror as my building superintendent dropped the $42,000 piece of jewelry into her jacket-pocket.
“The Gims score again!” the black circle was laughing as Mrs. Baster left the room.
“Her life isn’t over,” the white sphere sighed. “There is always hope.”
“Hope is for losers.” The shadowy shape noticed my presence in the room. “Ah the reason for our little competition. Here to watch how the winning team operates are you?”
I was surprised that I was now able to form words. Maybe these beings were the only thing that could hear me. “I don’t know where I am,” My voice was a child’s whine. “I seem unable to wake up.”
“Wake up?” the dark circle laughed and moved closer to me. The thing’s breath was like an open sewer grate on an August afternoon. “You’ll never wake-up again … you’re dead, diseased, belly-up, kaput … your slimy pension-fund manager’s brains are squished like a can of worms all over Vesey Street.”
The white sphere thankfully pushed him away. I felt a pleasant tingling sensation as she drew near. I was aware for the first time that the strange glowing presence was female. “Don’t listen to the darkness,” she said. “Vardasso’s only purpose as a Gim is to spread disunity and mayhem.”
“And to watch you lose soul after soul!” Vardasso sneered. He was spinning in circles in the center of the room. Hundreds of tiny insects appeared to flow from widening cracks in the walls toward his beckoning arms.
“My name is Renhet and I am of course a Lan,” she said. “It’s true. We don’t win-over a great abundance of souls, but as they say it is the quality of the crème, not quantity, that matters in the end of all things.”
“But where am I?” I stammered.
“You are where you’ve always been … in a place you’ve never been before!” Renhet’s smile made the entire room brilliant.
“Bah! Too much sugar in the milk! I’ll search for another tit.” Vardasso vaulted upward surrounded by a cloud of insects and then flew effortlessly through the closed window.
“You are in the next-world beyond the one you just left,” Renhet explained. “Everything remains the same as it was …only your interaction with others is drastically limited.”
“What was that thing that just flew out my window and why was he surrounded by bugs?”
“Everything has a purpose,” Renhet said. “Hot and cold, light and dark, Lan and Gim, all things in the universe are in balance. It is the mission of the Lan to keep them that way.”
“And this Vardasso … this Gim … what is his purpose?”
“To spread dissent and gather discord,” Renhet said. “Those so-called bugs that flew with him were tiny mistakes you’d made during your lifetime. The Gim consume your bad deeds as food and it makes them stronger.
I could see my reflection in the mirror again, a gray ball of swirling substance neither dark or light. “And what about me?” I asked. “Will I become a Lam or a Gim?”
Renhet moved closer to me and I loved the feeling of ecstasy that swept over me. “You are on the edge,” she whispered. “You can go in either direction. It is why you are here … to find out.”
I followed Renhet to an elevator. We moved inside with the door closed. Three Gim surrounded a balding man, who was hunched-over and trembling in the corner, clutching a brief case. “You were right to evict that slut and her brat kids from the apartment!” A Gim whispered as he moved in circles around the man’s head. “Who cares if she has medical bills?”
“She should have kept her damn legs closed if she couldn’t feed that many little bastards,” another reasoned.
“Money doesn’t grow on trees,” the third Gim sang, “and only fools give to those on bended knees.”
I could sense the man was in great emotional distress. “Do something!” I urged Renhet.
“This man’s conflict is with himself,” Renhet said. “His good heart fights against an infection of greed. Anything I say or do at this point will only make matters worse.”
“She said she understood and she wasn’t angry,” the man mumbled as he reached for the descending elevator stop-button. “I watched her and the children pack everything they owned into three battered suitcases!”
The elevator stopped on the thirteenth floor and the door opened. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” The first Gim growled as the man pushed past him.
Renhet and I followed behind.
“Her youngest, a boy no more than three, offered me a big smile and a plastic Giraffe that was probably purchased from a Salvation Army toy bin,” the man was sobbing as he dropped the brief case and sprinted toward a floor to ceiling window at the end of a long hallway. “He saw his mother crying and thought he could make me his friend … and I own sixty-three rental units, a home in the Hamptons and have a net worth of sixteen-point-eight million dollars.”
“What a waste of wickedness,” one of the Gims yelled after him.
Renhet shook her head sadly as we heard the breaking glass and watched the man plummet one-hundred thirty feet to his death. “Your greatest foe is always yourself,” she said. “It knows your dreams as well as your secrets.”
When we reached the street level the Lans and Gims were everywhere. A woman wearing dark glasses and with bruises on her face, hurried past on the sidewalk with three Gims flanking her. “He’ll never give you a divorce; you’re his prized possession,” one whispered. “Just a few grains of Arsenic in his morning coffee and you’ll be a widow in two months!” another added. The third dark figure fought with a Lan trying to catch up to the fleeing woman.
“When crazy people claim to hear voices I guess it’s true,” I said.
“It depends on who you listen to,” Renhet looked indignant. “Some voices are there to help!”
We passed by an obviously homeless man with dark glasses playing a guitar on a street corner. The tin cup next to him was full of bills and change. A teen wearing a Snoop Dog tee-shirt bent down and plunked his ring against the side of the cup. When he stood-up he had a fistful of cash. “Sounds good!’ he told the blind musician. “Keep up the good work!”
Renhet flew after the punk; I had to hurry to catch up. Just as I reached them, the teen turned, walked back and dropped the stolen money into the musician’s cup. “Sorry,’ he muttered.
“What did you say to make him give it back?” I asked.
“I planted an impression that stealing from others can make you lose your sight.” Renhet was glowing.
“And that street hood believed you?” I was astonished.
“I also flicked a bit of grit into his eye,” Renhet grinned.
“So you Lans and Gims can touch others with more than your thoughts?”
“Not always,” Renhet said, “but sometimes.” She seemed to float a little higher as we made our way down the street. “I once blew away a newspaper that was covering a set of car keys for a distraught man who had had a very ugly argument with his wife. She was flying to another country on an airplane and was due to depart in less than an hour. I knew the plane would crash and this was his only chance. He was sorry for the things he’d said and wanted to go after her, but couldn’t find his keys.”
I was impressed. “So this guy caught up with her, brought her home and they lived happily ever after?”
“Not exactly,” Renhet seemed to shrink. “They were happy when they both boarded the plane … and they died together in each other’s arms.”
“That’s terrible,” I gasped.
“You can try to steer fate,” Renhet sighed. “But sometimes it goes where it will.”
“The world is still a better place because of angels like you,” I told her.
Renhet turned and looked at me with those large blue eyes. “I’m no angel,” she said. We were walking past a bar where loud rock and roll music was playing. “That’s an angel,” she said turning toward the sound. A young girl dressed as a hooker danced away from the building where she had been leaning, swaying her hips to the dull throbbing of the music that seeped through the brick wall. She walked right up to Renhet talking through a mouth full of bubble gum and barely glanced at me. “It’s been so long since I’ve talked to a human, let alone a musician. I hope I can pull this off.”
“You’ll do fine, Compacta,” my companion told her. “Let the magic flow.”
Compacta blew and popped a large grape bubble. “I hope so Renhet … I was never a good Lan.”
“What was that all about?” I asked as Compacta returned to the outside of the nightclub.
“Lans work with thoughts and emotions,” Renhet said. “It takes angels to do most of the physical interactions.”
Ten minutes later, we were passing by Madison Square Garden. Hundreds of taxis were stopping and pulling away from the massive sports complex. Most were filled with Gims riding on the hood the top and the trunk. Storm clouds of insects followed the dark funnels and the crowds inside. “It has to be a concert,” I said. “The Nicks never drew this big of a crowd.”
“You’re right about the venue,” Renhet turned causing me to look at an illuminated billboard advertising Paul McCartney. “But only one event draws this many Gims.”
“What’s that?” I was almost afraid to ask.
“Death,” Renhet said, “and a massive amount of destruction.”
To be continued …