Jumping down from the trains dark interior, I peered through the steady downpour. Even as thorough as I’d been about masking my scent, I knew it wouldn’t take the Guardians long to know I was here. To my right I caught a glimpse of something dark slip beneath the shadows of the loading dock.
Good. I thought. The council had decided to get right to the point and not waste my time.
Tipping my head back, I let the rain cascade over my face, water tickling the hairs on my muzzle, the leather on my nose. Each drop supplying me with what I would need for the battle. When I was finished, I turned and headed towards the gravel parking lot.
I’d chosen the open rather than the tighter quarters of docks and buildings to let my opponent attack me. Guardians might be faster than werewolves, but our natural ability to know when and where the enemy will strike often gives us the advantage. As a mage wolf, I was counting on it.
On silent pads I trotted across the lot careful to avoid puddles. Water is a powerful conduit and I wasn’t about to give the Guardian any advantage if I could help it. Between the gloom and the heavy rains I was forced to rely upon my sense of smell, hearing, and taste.
The pungent scent of pheromones told me more about the jaguar than the Councils earlier briefing. Approximately my height, next to one hundred fifty pounds, and female, not male. Interesting! They’d sent a breeder rather than a warrior to kill me. Interesting. Males tended to be less calculating and easier to predict. Female assassins on the other hand-made up for their lack of size through stealth and skill.
I’d calculated on the open space and the assassins knowledge of my impairment to draw the attack to the left, giving me the advantage and letting me use her weight and speed to help carry her up and over me.
I should have listened to my earlier intuition. Instead of landing where I wanted her, she twisted in midair, throwing her body to my right. Then, like a battering ram she used her shoulder to propel me off my feet and onto my blind side, momentarily disorienting me, exposing the vulnerability of my belly to her claws.
But I hadn’t lived this long without learning a few tricks of my own. As she followed me across the gravel, razor-sharp claws extended, jaws wide, I shoved a foot into her open maw and growled ‘avativacn’.
Her eyes widened moments before the implosion.
Once I was back on my feet I shook off bits of rock and animal debris from my coat. Then, picking up the obsidian remains of the Guardian with my teeth, I headed back to the waiting train.
Leaning over, Arturo pried the relic from between my teeth. “Staying or going governor?”
“Staying. It seems there’s been a recent vacancy in the Guardianship that may need filling.”
It was called Zelda’s. Third entrance on the left and the only one of its kind to offer true pleasure at a subterranean level.
An underground French bakery with just enough avant-garde to make me feel as though I was never less than the center of the universe and the ruling attraction of eighty-eight hundred square feet of confectionery bliss.
My days were full of catering to the imaginary diets of the wealthy, while my nights were spent indulging their every whim. I became both the confessor of their sin and the purveyor of their desire. I ruled my world like a god. For those who were willing to confess their carnal cravings of the flesh, I was the all-forgiving one. But to those who gave in, I was the monkey on their back, the needle in their veins, the addiction they could not live without.
Or at least I was until Bill showed up.
Bill of the tall and dark.
Bill who’s mouth-watering curves brought back memories of pre-dawn refrigerated trysts, turning even matrons of the staunchest dietary regimes into puddles of carefree ecstasy.
Bill who was a heart attack simply waiting to happen.
When Bill was placed under fluorescent filled lights, a person couldn’t help but find their senses undulated by spice filled bouquets of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and honey; aromas to make even the most resistant palette stand up and yell, “Help me Jesus!”
Bill . . . The epitome of every dream, the impetus behind every longing. A mixture of dark chocolate, creamy butter, more eggs than should go into a single serving and enough cream cheese and Amaretto to satisfy the most frigid of desires.
Bill . . . The agony of my soul and the downfall of my world.
At least the one I ruled.
The one in which I had once been considered tall and dark. Me, who’s curves were whispered to be the essence of mankind’s wildest dreams. A ruler whose power to weaken even the most resilient of determinations, legendary.
I tried being gracious, sharing my place among the racks and glass enclosed displays with an attitude of evenhanded felicity. I even went so far as to allow Mrs. Heilech’s dog, Melba, a taste of Bill’s mouth-watering, “Turkish Delight”.
But no! Bill wasn’t satisfied to share my generosity or remain regent to my throne.
He wanted it all. Every square inch of stainless steel, glass, deep-fryer and gas-powered oven.
His greed knew no bounds as he lured customer after customer into his den of iniquity.
Even to this day, had Bill but shown the least amount of remorse, I would have relented and not pulled the plug on his refrigeration unit. But he didn’t. And so the only evidence of Bill and his “Turkish Delight” is a sign saying, “Turkish Delight Cheesecake” $4.99 a slice, and a 22″ springform pan.
Jonathan had been preparing for this day since he was six years old and stepped through the canvas parted opening of his first Big Tent meeting in a wheat field just outside Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Even now, if he closed his eyes and concentrated, he could still hear the ripple of murmured voices, smell the sweet tang of ozone and rain-soaked earth, feel the crackle of anticipation in the movement of freshly iron shirts, summer dresses, and long, cool, cotton gloves.
The image he saw staring back at him from the floor length mirror he’d installed only last week in his eldest daughter’s bedroom, assured him that the suit he’d chosen was the perfect shade of blue to complement the Icelandic blue in his eyes and the carefully gelled strands of harvest gold hair slicked back from a high forehead. Clare’s suggestion that he wear the red pinstripe tie and gold clip only added to his over all demeanor. Leaning in close to the glass, he drew back his lips, checking to be sure he hadn’t missed any food or bits of snuff.
He smiled in remembrance of his daddy’s advise; “Boy, all the God-given talent in the world ain’t gonna mount to a hill of beans if your mouth looks like it’s filled with nothing but an old, broken down picket fence. Don’t make the Almighty regret His decision to touch ya’ son – do whatever it takes ta keep them there teeth lookin pretty.”
From the inner left-hand-pocket of his double-breasted jacket, Jonathan extracted a much worn sheet of paper, it’s college ruled lines showing signs of wear from the constant folding and unfolding. Stepping away from his reflection, the forty-two year old cotton farmer from Muskogee gently drew back each quadrant until the paper lay open, and the words written with red ink, on evenly spaced lines, was visible.
He’d thoroughly researched everything Mrs. Crabtree, over at the Dewey Creek library, could find on the subject, including the two videos she’d discovered squirreled away on a shelf marked, “Historical Phenomenon and Supernatural Documentation”. Jonathan had even managed to unearth a copy of “Signs, Wonders, and Miracles” his daddy had once subscribed to in the early days, before mamma had threatened to move back to the city if he didn’t stop with what she called, Holy Ghost nonsense.
Now, glancing down out of habit rather than need, Jonathan once more rehearse the oddly pronounced words, careful to use just the right amount of variation, the correct intonation and the perfect modulation. Every vowel, each consonant flawlessly articulated in such a manner as to convey to those listening that what he said was not drawn from any sense of self, or personal exaltation, but was, in every sense of the word, a divine impartation of the Almighty Himself.
Sunday had come, and it was time for Jonathan Michael Foreston to speak to the members of Muskogee’s Free Will Pentecostal-Baptist Church, in tongues and interpretations.