Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Episode Twenty One

Episode Twenty One 

Again and Again

we are made to bleed
and scab and heal and bleed again
and turn every scar into a joke

~Ani Difranco

   The bell rang. Tobie dumped his books into his satchel and stood, waiting for Holon who was still writing in his notebook.

   "Up for a game tonight?" Gus asked, shrugging off his uniform jacket. "Bet we could reach Prestige."

   "Might later, yeah." Tobie pulled his bag over his shoulder as Holon gathered his things.

   "Cool. See ya then." Gus snatched his books and hurried up the row. "Hey, Beca! Wait up will ya?"

   "Working tonight?" Tobie leaning into Holon's desk, his hand rubbing over his cheekbone. The crackled of dried blood flaked under his fingers.


   "How 'bout a sweep before we leave campus?"

   "If you're thinking of pursuing a particular spirit, it has no intentions of staying in the area without the girl." Holon pulled his bag over his shoulder, wincing slightly. "I will have Anemonè see if she can detect a presence, but it’s doubtful it left any trace behind." He glanced at Tobie. "Go home."

   Tobie's jaw set as Holon passed him up the row. "If you're going--"

   Holon didn't turn. "Go home, Tobie."

   "I don't take you're orders."

   "If you boys aren't on cleaning duty, get outta here will ya?"

   They both looked up. Lampman glanced at them, snapping his briefcase together.

   "Yes, sir." Holon headed for the door.

   Tobie followed with an exasperated sigh.

   Walking the South Quad, Tobie passed the Library and crossed the small memorial gardens between the media art buildings. The wind picked up as he mounted the stairs to Clark Hall. He shoved his hands in his pockets, searching for his wallet. Flipping it open he selected a key card and slid it into the reader by the large glass fronted door. A light at the top of the reader blinked green, the heavy metal locks clicked and he yanked the door open.

   After three flights of stairs, and more digging in his pockets, Tobie stopped in front of apartment 317. Taking a breath he unlocked the door. Keeping the door ajar with a hip he pulled his bag over his head and kicked off his shoes in the cramped entry way to leave each where they dropped. He turned towards the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and with one hand clawing at his tie he walked back across the entry way to his bedroom.

   Tossing tie and jacket to his desk chair Tobie flopped onto the bed. Staring up at the ceiling he groped blindly for the edge of the window and the mp3 player stashed on the sill while pulling a large set of noise canceling headphones out from under his pillow. He plugged them in and selected Arctic Monkeys. Slipping the head phones on he leaned back.

   Just as the drums cascaded into A Certain Romance, a spark of electricity trickled down Tobie’s spine. He lifted an earpiece. The front door shut softly and foot steps crossed the living room. Throwing the headphones to the bed, he swung his feet to the floor.

   The bedroom door near the kitchen was open, light from the inside bathroom spilling across the gloom. A military coat lay neatly on the bed, along with a Westin jacket. Tobie peered into the bathroom. Holon stood at the sink, both sleeves rolled up past his elbows, tie slung over his shoulder. Tobie leaned against the door frame. "How'd they manage to bite you?"

   Holon didn't look up from unwrapping the bandages from around his wrist; the strips closer to his palm pulling away with clotted red. "Swarmed the power shed on the roof." He peeled the last bit of cloth from his hand, soaked through and sticking to pull up the skin. Six deep, purple ringed, puncture marks oozed blood along the top of his right hand -- echoed by dots of blue and purple along his palm.

   Tobie squirmed, back pressing into the door frame. "Has...has Nim seen that?"

   Holon elbowed the bandages into the trash can beside the toilet then turned on the facet. "Not yet."

   "Where is she?"


   Tobie chewed his lip, watching Holon pumped soap onto his hand and rinse it in the steaming water. Red frothed into the bubbles, then pooled, staining the white porcelain. "That won't help, ya know."

   Holon pumped more soap, smearing it over the Gremlin bites and pushed his hand back under the scalding water.
With a sigh Tobie grabbed a hand towel from the wall. He waited until the foam circled down the drain, then snatched Holon's wrist before he could cover his hand with even more soap.

   "You can't just keep cleaning it like that," he muttered, dabbing Holon's hand, leaving smears of blood on the gray towel. He pulled it away, examining the wound in the light. "If you don't purify it, it'll just keep bleeding." He glanced at Holon who was staring transfixed at the soap pump. Tobie rolled his eyes. "Leave it alone and just call Nim, will ya?" He dropped Holon's wrist. "You're no good to anyone poisoned. Hungry?" He tossed the towel across the shower rod and headed into the kitchen. He had already started a pan of fettuccine when Holon came into the living room and sank heavily on the couch, eyes closed, his injured hand resting on his chest, bites once again weeping.

   "Call her," Tobie said, irritation punctuating his voice as he glared over the bar. "Or I will."

   Holon took a slow breath through his nose, and exhaled through his mouth. The air around him shivered and distorted as a heat haze. "Anemonè."

   A soft shimmer caught the back of the couch. It gathered, twirled and etched the air in an outline of a girl in a simple white dress, long silvery hair flowing down to her bare feet, perching just behind Holon's shoulder. Slowly the image solidified, color seeping in from the edges as watery paint flowing free over too thin paper. Strands of silver hair cascaded over the brown upholstery, soft light moving up and down like iridescent metal playing with the sun.

   "Feasgar math, mo gradh," Holon murmured, eyes still shut.

   A glistening hand touched his temple, and then slid to his injured hand as the sprite knelt beside him on the cushion. Her delicate mouth moved, whispering with the sound of a distant brook, slow and calming. Holon winced as she threaded her fingers between his, her free hand pressing against his shirt, just over his heart. Silver drained from her form, pooling around his hand and staining his shirt, leaving an imprint of silver and white. The sounds of a brook melted into an irritated chatter of leaves in the wind. Holon opened his eyes. Anemonè's large doe like eyes were clouded, her cupid's bow a pout.

   Holon's free hand gently clasped the wrist at his chest. "Careless. Yes. Apologies. I will be less so." The leaves calmed, light left his body and flowed upwards, once again filling in the outlines of the sprite. She ran delicate fingers through his hair, the silver igniting each deep indigo strand.

   "Have my smokes, you little thief?"

   The sprite jerked back from Holon, leaving thin silvery vapor trails across the space between them, and, spinning on her tip toes, perched on the edge of the couch; hair tumbling around her.

   "The demon today." Tobie slammed the pan down and came around the bar, arms crossed over his chest. "The one with Layah. What does she know about it?"

   Form still heavy on the couch, Holon tilted his head towards the sprite. "Do you know what it was?"

   A tinkle of wind chimes, then the gentle lap of water in a shallow pond. Tobie looked to Holon.

   "A spirit." Holon gazed down at his hand.

"Well no shi--"

   "From the ether." The deep purple bruises slowly seeped into his skin, the holes shrinking. "Tapad leibh, Anemonè."

   The sprite giggled in cat bells and falling rain.

   "Wait." Tobie's arms fell to his sides. "A new demon? She's creating..."

   "She's not creating anything. She couldn't do that without purpose."

   "Sure about that?"

   Holon leaned back on the cushions, the slur of exhausting creeping into his voice. "She's just creating interest. Everything within this sector can feel her presence. She's pulling at lesser spirits. Making them curious."

   Tobie laughed. Holon glanced up. "Sorry. I just heard Luc’s voice in my head say something about a disturbance in the force."

  Holon shut his eyes. "Wouldn't be entirely inaccurate..."

   "So really this is your fault. For triggering her. Early."

   "It wasn't early. It was convenient. I saw an opportunity to expedite the acknowledgment of her abilities and took it. An influx always happens at initial resonance." He lifted his healed hand and cupped Anemonè's cheek. A wave of gold rushed down from his fingers. "Rest. I'll call you again soon."

   The little sprite nodded and smiled. She stood up on the armrest and backed away, feet standing firmly on thin air, outlines fading, form loosing solidity. She melted into a misty version of herself, a vaporous ghost. Then, just as she would have hit the kitchen bar, she vanished.

   Holon took a breath and heaved himself up from the couch.

   Tobie glared at the bar. "You going out again?"
   "In an hour." Holon passed Tobie on the way to his room.

   "I'll leave food out. Eat."

   Holon stepped into his room without acknowledgment and shut the door.

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