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The Wind at Raven's Rest Part 2 COMPLETE

I, once again, found myself in a pub, or rather the only pub in Rest. It used to be called the Raven’s Wing, but after the second rebellion it’s name changed, along with the management and it’s now called Joe’s. Joe is the man who owns it, although he spends most of his time out back, beating his wife. He is best-friends with the mayor and in a small town that means a lot.

Riley sat opposite me, chatting with his work colleagues. Soon their boisterous talk turned into a game of dice, the currency was rounds of drinks and it was to the sound of Riley’s victory that I left the table. I made my way to the bar and ordered another drink. I wasn’t ready to face the cheering of Riley’s group just yet, but it was good to see that he is being looked after. He has friends here, more then he did before I left, or maybe I had never noticed him before. He was so quiet after Grandfather fell ill, I thought he was isolating the world, maybe he was just distancing himself from us, before we knew it he had left us emotionally. We didn’t give him much reason to stay.

I was just walking back to the table when some idiot exploded from his seat and knocked me into the wall. I spilled my pint all over him and hit the wall, sliding to the grimy floor.

“Watch where you’re going arsehole! You got me all wet.” I recognised the voice of the idiot towering over me instantly, through the gloom I could see his greasy red face. Vince Lamont, son of the chief of police and professional creep. He was well known for his bar crawls, his father would be furious if he knew he picked on someone who knew their rights as well as I did. There were enough honest witnesses in the room to sway even a totally corrupt town council. I may not have been as well liked as Riley, but I was certain I was more well liked then Vincent Lamont.

“Back off buddy, it was an accident.” Someone was getting in Vincent’s face, blocking me from him. He was tall and looked like he might be one of the loggers who work out of the old barracks. I couldn’t tell in this light but it looked like his hair was light-brown. It wasn’t long before Riley was at my side, picking me up and dusting me off. I still hadn’t seen my rescuers face but I could hear him doing a number on the Lamont boy, soon he had seated my wood be attacker, ordered another round of drinks. He was cracking jokes and Vincent was laughing so hard it looked like he would choke on his own spit, I kind of hoped he would.

“You alright Thel?” Riley was looking at me with concern. I was a lot smaller then Vincent, and had hit the wall pretty hard, but I was tough, and annoyed that Riley didn‘t think I could handle myself. Most of the beer had sloshed onto my chest, soaking the front of my shirt. My trousers were covered in grit and stains from sitting on the ground. Riley sent someone who owed him a drink to replace the one I’d lost while he sat back down at his table. The rest of the mechanics seemed a little cautious, still worried that trouble would start so they ignored the quiet conversation me and Riley were having.

“I turn my back for one second and your off picking fights.” The comment didn’t seem like much, but it was clear that Riley was angry at me.

“I didn’t pick any fight, that shit-head bumped into me, I didn’t even say anything.”

“Honestly Thel, I just wanted a nice evening out, and you have to go and antagonise the chief of police.” I was hurt that Riley thought I had picked the fight. I hadn’t even known Vincent was in the bar. We had come to blows a few times when we were at school, he was two years older then me and in Riley’s class. I managed to break his nose when I was 10 and did 2 weeks detention, he dislocated my shoulder and was suspended from school for a month. He didn’t like me very much.

I didn’t hang around much longer, Riley’s friends soon drew him back into some game. He played with a vengeance winning the first round and soon getting lost in the second. They tried to entice me into joining, but I declined and went outside to catch some ‘fresh air’.

Outside Joe’s, shadows flickered along the peeling paint and cracked concrete. The dirty windows filtered the lights inside the bar to a pathetic imitation of illumination. The match flared in the dark air, fighting back against the gloom for a brief moment. This high into the mountains it is so quiet at night. I just stood on the rickety porch and stared out into the night. In the distance I could hear the storm bell ring, a warning that an electrical storm was on it’s way, and we should stay within the town for safety. The door creaked in the still air, letting out a cloud of noise and stench from inside. I thought it would be Riley, coming to drag me back inside, I was surprised to be confronted with a man I have never met before. He had two drinks and as he made his way over to me he cleared his throat. Stan Clarke is the nephew of old man Clarke, not only my mysterious rescuer from Vincent Lamont, but also the person who I would be escorting in a few days to the outpost. He handed me a drink and introduced himself. I laughed when he said his name, and so did he when I explained what a small world it is. He seems like a nice guy, we chatted for while, and drank and smoke in between the silences. He’s staying at a bed and breakfast only a few minuets away, we have arranged to meet tomorrow to organize ourselves for the journey.

Clarke walked me home. It was raining so hard each drop felt like an icy needle and transformed into wintry caresses as they slipped and seeped into our bones. I said goodbye to Clarke and walked up to the door, the house was as dark and silent as death. I made as little noise as possible, heading for the stairs when I heard muttering from the living room.

Granddad was drunk, his eyes weren’t lucid and his hands were shaking. I collected a blanket from the sofa and made my way to where he sat, raving by the decaying embers of the fire.

“You!” He screeched, moving the brandy bottle out of my grasp, baptising the floor with booze. I flinched back as he lumbered to his feet and swung his knobbly fist back he furiously screamed, “What have you done?”

The first blow shocked me to my core, the second knocked me off my feet. Soon I was cowering beneath him, too confused that the only parent I had ever known was trying to kill me. I struggled against him and made a dash for the door, but he quickly blocked my way. He swung the bottle in a high arch as it to hit me again, but I was taking the stairs two at a time, running on instinct. My heart was hammering a million miles a minuet in my throat, slowly choking me with fear. The bottle didn’t smash as it connected with the floor, not like in the leisure-vids.

I reached my room and slammed the door shut, grateful that the lock slid easily into place. I didn’t stop to breath though, until I had wedged the bed against the door and hidden in the bottom of my wardrobe. I could hear my Grandfather yelling in the hallway. All I could do was pull an old coat from the rail and wrap it around me. I bit down on a sleeve to stifle the wail that was forcing it’s way up from my gut.

After a few minuets the shouting changed, and another voice, Riley, joined my Grandfathers, along with sounds of a struggle. After a surprisingly short period of time, the noise ceased. It took me another minuet or so to work up the courage to leave the safety of the wardrobe. Then there was a soft knock on the door.

“Thel? Thel are you in there?” Riley sounded tired and a little shaken, but it was the only voice I wanted to hear in the whole world. I pushed the bed out of the way of the door, slid the bolt back and flung it wide. Riley was on the other side, arm held in preparation to knock again. When he saw my face his eyes darkened and he pulled me into a hug. We stood there for a moment, clinging to each other, two shipwreck survivors lost in the world, hoping to find a way home. He whispered my name into my hair and I just squeezed my eyes shut.

Eventually we broke apart, and with a shaking breath I explained to him what had happened. On discovering I had left the bar, he had decided to call it a night. It was a good thing too, he said, he had managed to sedate Granddad. I looked down the corridor, and there he was, slumped against the wall, just a drunk old man. The drug had taken all of the fight out of him, not strong enough to truly knock him out. His eyes were unfocused and his breathing laboured.

It took me a few seconds before I could help Riley carry him to bed, it would have taken longer but I found it almost a humorous thought to be afraid of such a pathetic lump. While Riley went to fetch him some water and painkillers for the morning I set about undressing him and tucking him in. I was about to leave when he grabbed my wrist. Three words rang out in the quiet air of the dark room.

Please… kill… me.

I ran, pulled back from my Grandfather and just fled the room, barging past Riley in the corridor. Shaking and confused, I think those words will stay with me for a long time. To my shame, after my initial revulsion faded I considered it. It would be so easy. I could inject him with a triple dose of sedative. I could smother him in his sleep. I could choke him with my bare hands. It would be over in only a few moments. I felt sick. I still do.

I packed my things and checked the weather report on the device given me for my work. The storm would be gone by the time the sun was up. Riley found me sitting in the kitchen. He had changed his clothes. He just stood looking out of the window for a while, I was surprised when he finally spoke to me.

“Your leaving.”

“I can’t stay. As soon as the storm has passed, I‘ll speak to Clarke and then leave.” Riley nodded, he still hadn’t looked at me.

“I heard.” I didn’t need to asked what he was talking about. “Are you going to do it?” I was stunned. Yes it had crossed my mind, but I don’t think I could get past that intial revulsion.

“What do you mean, of course I’m not going to do it! How could you ask that?” And I suddenly knew, he could ask that because he had considered it. Grandfather had asked him too, and Riley was hoping I would do it and take the decision out of his hand. I choked on my stomach, the bile leaving an acrid taste in the back of my mouth. “Riley,” I said, the whisper sounding impossibly loud in the small hours of the morning. I felt betrayed.

“It’s all very well for you Tel, you’ll leave as soon as you can. I can’t, I’m here, I’ve watched our Granddad slowly decay and transform into that husk upstairs. Have you ever watched anything die? Of course I want it to end, he‘s not the only one suffering in this damn house!”

I was a coward, I left. He was shouting after me, begging me not to leave, telling me he didn’t mean it, he was just tired. We all were tired.

My Grandfather had devoted his life to the cause of dignity and freedom. Somewhere inside his shattered mind was my Granddad, continuing that struggle. I couldn’t help him, I thought he was wrong. I hated him for asking me, for making me an accomplish to his knife-edge ethics. I had always thought I was liberal minded, that people had a right to choose, but when tested all I found was that I was deeply disgusted that anyone would give up so easily. Was there nothing worth living for anymore? Were we, family, no longer a reason to fight, but instead a means to an end.

I wandered about in the rain for an hour. The town is dead at this time of night, and no one is stupid enough to walk in the rain. No one except me. Eventually I found myself at the B&B where Clarke was staying. He was surprised to see me again so soon. His cheeks were flushed from sleep and his eyes groggy. He stared, unblinking for a few moments until his sleep addled brain took stock of the situation. His eyes darkened and his hand gently reached for my chin, turning my head to the side too look at where Grandfather had hit me, which was no doubt painted with a vivid bruise by now (I could at least feel that it was swollen quite badly. He whistled low and long and then released my chin, I couldn’t look him in the eye, suddenly afraid of what he would see there.

“I guess you better come in.” He stood to the side and motioned me in. The room was small and clean, sparsely furnished, and what was there was built to be tough and functional not beautiful, but the walls were painted a warm terracotta, so it didn’t feel as utilitarian as it otherwise might.

Clarke didn’t ask me what had happened, he got me a set of warm clothes and a towel and then left me in private to change. When he returned it was with a token for the small space heater in the corner and a spare blanket. We argued briefly about who would take the bed, but I gave in sooner then was probably polite, Clarke didn’t seem to mind, instead he commandeered the pillow, my thin sleeping mat and the warm quilt. That seemed only right.

We didn’t hang around for too long the next day. I woke up and was all alone, so I took the advantage of the moment of privacy to wash and dress. He returned a few moments later with a covered tray that smelled delicious. Clarke shared his breakfast with me, although I have a feeling that Mrs. Greaves had taken pity on us and given him larger portions for his unsanctioned guest so that he wouldn’t go without.

We didn’t talk about the night before until we were well away from the town. The weather was pleasant with no indicators to the storm the night before. I remained on alert for pteroraptors for the whole journey, and having a second pair of eyes was a great comfort.

Clarke told me about the village he came from. I’ve never seen the sea in real life, only in vids and pictures. I told him this and he just nodded, promising to take me if I ever wanted to change that. There was an awkward moment when he asked me how my father was.

My father has been in prison since I can remember. There are vague images of a house in a city from my childhood, more smells and colours then shapes. He was sentenced with treason and the assault and accidental manslaughter of my mother. My Grandfather says that he would never have hurt my mother, but he keeps his mouth shut about the treason. When he was arrested by the establishment, he traded rebel secrets. Riley’s whole family were implicated, and my uncle never forgave him. There were rumours that his death could have been suicide or possibly revenge, but it didn’t make much of a difference, I no longer had to travel for days to visit him. I simply told Clarke that my father had passed away a while ago, he was sorry to hear that, in that awkward way people who have never met the deceased are.

Clarke asked me what I thought of my father’s crimes, which has always been an uncomfortable position for me. My Grandfather never encouraged us to talk about our parents at home, afraid that we could be targets for their beliefs. Part of the reason he moved us to Rest was to get away from the rumours, but he had no love for the establishment. He believed it was corrupt and tailored for the strong and wealthy, not the people who really needed them. He had written articles saying as much when he was younger, before the censorship had been put in place, and after the censorship I suppose he just stopped.

I told Clarke that I knew that the Establishment had it’s faults, but rebelling had killed both my parents and the anger had, in my eyes, broken my Grandfather. I couldn’t fight because I knew it was useless, we just have to make the best of what we’ve got, I said. There was no point rocking a boat that would never sink.

I then asked him about his family.

“My mother was a teacher, she loved to read poetry. She met my father at work, he was a school inspector for the establishment. When censorship was brought in she joined the rebels and left my father. I don’t know if she ever asked him to go with her.

Then one day, one of her contacts in the justice system warned her that someone from her faction had been captured and soon all their cover would be blown. She took me and fled to a tiny fishing village. The Establishment never found her, and if they did they probably would have left her alone, she couldn’t cause trouble in the middle of nowhere. She died two years ago of a heart attack while gardening, and I finished my schooling and then came here.”

I stopped dead, unable to make my feet move, a chill sliding it’s way down my spine. Riley’s face had gone dark, and when he noticed I had stopped in my tracks he smiled and turned to face me.

“The man who had warned her fled into the mountains, taking with him his godchild, as a favour to a friend. For many years I didn’t understand my mother’s reluctance to continue fighting, when she dies I joined the rebels and discovered something quite interesting with the help of my uncle. The man who had been arrested and betrayed us, was innocent. He hadn’t known enough information to be of any use to the Establishment, but his wife’s dear friend had known plenty. He worked in the courts of the Establishment for years. When they were betrayed all thought it was the man who had been arrested, but it turned out it was the lawyer, Simon Coor. He fled from the city, afraid that the rebels would find out what he had done, he had traded a whole faction of freedom fighters for the lives of his Goddaughter and her mother. However your mother was killed a few weeks before your father’s trial and in another perversion of justice he was blamed.

For years we searched for your Grandfather to make him pay for what he did, only to find that he had taken in two rebel orphans. Riley really is your cousin by the way, he was sent to Simon when the investigation implicated his own parents. So instead of a monster, I found a confused old man. What kind of revenge is that? Is that justice? Does it change anything? I wanted to kill him, and failing that I would have killed you and your cousin.”

I was confused, but to tell you the truth, as I write now, I find it hard to dredge up and explain the truest extent of my feelings. The only real thought in my head was that I had to stay alert, this was a man who wanted revenge, it had been denied him, but it could take the form of my death instead. I know that had it not been for that thought, I might have been lost in my own despair. I have thought about it, and I believe I will continue to think about my origins and family for the rest of my life, but I have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t change anything. I will never know why my Grandfather chose not to tell me.

Stan was looking at me, I don’t really know why, what did he want me to do, apologise? I could, but it wouldn’t mean much. Did he want me to beg for my life? That wouldn’t mean much either. So I just stared at him, waiting for the next move. I think I was scarred, but despite the rising panic (or perhaps because of it) I didn’t move a muscle.

“So?” He said, spreading his hands out. “What would you do?” I honestly didn’t know, I said as much. “There isn’t much we can do, might as well keep walking.” He said, and with that just turned around and continued walking. I didn’t move for a while, It took me about half an hour to catch up with him when I finally did, and then we continued on in silence. I hoped he was keeping an eye out for pteroraptors swarms because I know I wasn’t.

My mind eventually began to tick, and when it did, I couldn’t stop it racing. Everything my Grandfath- Simon Coor, had ever told me was thrown into sharp relief. I couldn’t trust him, I couldn’t tell Riley, and the man who had been my saviour last night wanted me dead. I kept a careful eye on him until the outpost was in sight.

I was going to continue on to my own home, and leave him behind, but he just laughed and invited me to stay the night. There was no point me walking home now, I would have to camp in the forest, and that would be more dangerous then staying in the outpost.

“If I was going to kill you then I would have done it by now.”

Old-man Clarke was suspiciously absent but I was thankful for that. Stan made me a sandwich and then we moved into the bar, and had a few beers. Both of us seemed determined to ignore the topic in favour of small talk, but eventually that ran dry. I surprised myself by being the first to broach the subject.

“Why didn’t you kill me?” Maybe I was tempting fate here, but I wanted to understand him, I was compelled to get inside his head. He just shook his head and stared into his drink. If I had been in his place I don’t think I could have answered that question.

I did not sleep well that night. I was visited by nightmares that would have be waking up choking on a scream, but when I tried to make any sense of them they vanished into the back of my mind. I gave up trying to sleep an hour before dawn and instead dug my cigarettes out of my bag and went down to the kitchen. When I had a mug of ghastly coffee, I went out onto the front steps to watch the day start.

The forest is quiet enough at night. There is a little noise from insects and nocturnal creatures, but it tends to soak into the general sounds of the mountains, I don’t notice them so much anymore. Around dawn though, the forest changes, it become dead still, and then as if cued by some unseen force birds begin to sing all at once, although none will leave the safety of the trees until it’s light.

That morning was like being in the centre of a storm, for a moment I could believe it really was over, that the world was back to being calm and boring, just like it had always been. I could pretend that Stan wouldn’t be awake soon, and that I could come to the outpost without guilt and at I now felt.

Out of sympathy, and pity for his story, I hadn’t expressed my anger to Stan for shattering my comfortable life, but I had realised at some point last night that I was furious at him. The anger was clean and clear, but brighter and easier to feel then any of the other emotions I had experience in the last week. I had clutched to it last night like a life-raft, but even that was washed away as the sun broke over the treetops that obscured the horizon.

I knew then that Stan Clarke would not have hurt me, I had come and asked for his help, and he could do nothing but give it freely. I also knew that had he killed me yesterday, I would not have fought back. Not because I agreed with the act of murder as virtuous or righteous, even with his sob-story, but because I didn’t want to live. I couldn’t face dealing with what had been revealed to me. I think I understood my Grandfather, I couldn’t forgive him for what he asked of me, but I felt more at peace with his request. With that realisation arrived a feeling of resigned power. No matter what happened today, I would experience it, let it wash over me and in the end I would be there, not necessarily untouched but fundamentally unchanged.

I had not planned to make another entry into my diary today, but much has happened that I think is worthy of recording. From this moment on, I will no longer be entering my private journal into my electronic log, in fact I will no longer be keeping a log, as I am no longer a legal citizen of the Establishment.

Once the sun had ridden I gathered my things and prepared to leave. I knew that after my holiday there would be a few days of solid work before I was once again on top of maintenance. Temporary teams would have kept everything in check, but they often didn’t have time to do more then rudimentary repairs on some of the more sensitive equipment.

I was in the foyer of the out-post, having rung the bell for assistance, ready to say goodbye when Old-man Coor emerged from a hatch that lead to the family’s quarters.

“Thelma! That was quick, you got my message then?” I of course had received no message, and said as much.

“Oh well, it doesn’t matter, you’re here now. I thought it was quite quick, even for you.” He made his way out to the small courtyard, motioning for me to follow.

“What did you need to see me about Mr. Clarke?” I had a sinking feeling that I would have to stay nearby for a while longer. I dropped my bag as we passed through the kitchen and out into the yard. No sense lugging about the heavy pack if I was going to be here for a while. I took comfort in the slim dart gun shoved into my boot however, after the last few days, I wasn’t going to be walking around unarmed anymore.

Once we were outside in the yard I could see why Mr. Clarke had wanted to see me. The storm must have dislodged a branch and as it fell it damaged the roof. Stan and I had been too tired, we hadn’t even ventured near the courtyard and had not noticed the damage. Not that we could do anything about it last night. The damage was primarily superficial, but if it rained the water would rush in, More importantly, when the branch had fallen and damaged the roof, the shield must have been damaged along with it, otherwise the branch wouldn’t have broken through. If this was the case then the out-post would be extremely vulnerable to pteroraptors and the electrical storms themselves. That would have to be fixed before the repairs to the roof could be made, and since I was the only wind-catcher on the premises, I would have to fix it.

When Mr. Clarke had discovered the damage, he had messaged me in Rest to request our speedy return to help with the repairs, since the nearest communications officer was three days travel away.

I was pleased I had thought to carry my repair-pen with me. There would be one in the out-post, but the subtly that was required for really good shield repair was nearly impossible with an unfamiliar tool. I began work on the damaged shield modulator, only to discover that some of the wire casings for the conductors had cracked and worn away and lead to water damage. I replaced the wires, repaired the casing, and by lunch the shield was working at minimum efficiency once again.

After a pleasantly awkward lunch with Stan and Mr. Clarke, I fine tuned the shield, while they began clearing the debris from the damaged roof. At one point Stan accidentally dropped a very large chunk of wood on his own foot, and it took all of my will-power to remain straight-faced as he hopped and danced around the courtyard, swearing like my old training supervisor. Mr. Clarke didn’t bother to try and hide his amusement, laughing long and loud and declaring it time for a break.

At 4:56 (I remember the time exactly because I was testing the shield’s response time) we heard the bell ringing alerting us to someone’s presence. We all stopped doing what we were doing and I looked across to the two Clarkes. Mr. Clarke looked at his nephew to see if he was expecting anyone, most people alerted the out-post that they were on their way, but Stan just shrugged and went back to tiling the roof. So Mr. Clarke climbed down and went to investigate.

I assumed that it was just another traveller who had stumbled across the out-post and decided to rest up, so when Mr. Clarke followed by two criminal investigators I was surprised. One was a potbellied man, with ruddy cheeks and thinning blonde hair, the other was a meek looking man who had thin lips, pursed with what looked like disgust.

“Thelma, these men would like to talk to you.” I just nodded, my mouth oddly dry. I hadn’t committed any crimes lately that I could think of. Then I remembered Grandfather’s book, illegal under the censorship. I could feel the now familiar emotion of panic bubbling up inside my chest.

“One moment please gentlemen,” I had learned as a child that when confronted with authority it was best to be polite as possible, and keep your mouth shut. I finished my work in less then a minuet and then sealed everything shut and put away my pen.

I followed Mr. Clarke into the kitchen, who pulled out a chair for me and then made some tea. The two criminal investigators had to seat themselves and were not offered any refreshments, to which they shared a look, but didn’t comment. Once Mr. Clarke had left, the chubby investigator puffed his cheeks up.

“Thelma Coor?” The man’s voice was surprisingly squeaky. I almost rolled my eyes, but instead I just confirmed that yes, I was Thelma Coor. He then asked to see my identification, almost as if he was stalling for time. I showed him my coms-badge and his partner verified it. Once that was over he cleared his throat and tapped the table with his fingers nervously.

“Thelma Coor, it is my duty to inform you of the death of your Grandfather.” He went on to say that he had died early this morning, seemingly in his sleep, but that was yet to be confirmed by a coroner. Riley was missing, and apparently that was enough to make him the prime suspect.

“Miss Coor, I need to know where you were last night. A neighbour saw you leaving upset, would you care to explain?” The man had reached across the table but I withdrew mine. I didn’t want him touching me in mock sympathy while he grilled me to see if I had killed my Grandfather.

“I was with Stan Clarke from when I left my Grandfather’s house until I arrived here, he can confirmed that.” My voice sounded distant to my own ears. At that point the other investigator left with a nod and some false statement of grief on my behalf, he was probably going to check my story with Stan. The fat investigator leaned back in his chair, the big pink face tilting into the harsh light of the kitchen, making it look more like a caricature then a live being.

“We knew that a nice, upstanding young communications officer such as yourself couldn’t have been mixed up in any nasty business such as your Grandfather..” I looked at him sharply, and the corner of his lip twitched upwards, he knew he had my undivided attention. “We found quite a remarkable collection of contraband in your Grandfather’s office, and it seems that he was in league with the enemies of the state.” The man licked his great chops. “You wouldn’t have any knowledge of that would you?” I shook my head no, pretended to be quite shocked by the idea.

“There must be some kind of mistake officer, my Grandfather worked in the Establishment Law department in the capital for many years.” There was a grotesque burst of laughter from the lump opposite me.

“Sounds about right, you’d be surprised how many of the rebels infiltrate our good organisation.” He said this with a wink as if he hadn’t just accused me of treason. Uncomfortable my hand slipped from my lap and pushed my hair behind my ear. Too late I realised what I’d done.

“That’s a nasty bruise you have there young lady,” patronising pig. “How did that happen?”

“I walked into a door.” He looked at me for a long time, probably trying to discern whether I was telling the truth or not. I had perfected my look of wide-eyed innocence in my youth, and it proved to have been a worth-while life skill.

“You should be more careful.” Said the man, once again leaning across the space between us. I managed to dread up a smile from somewhere, although I’m sure it was as unconvincing as it felt. The investigator no doubt would chalk that up to the fact I had just found out my Grandfather was not only a rebel, but also dead, he wasn’t expected to know I had lost my Grandfather along time ago. I mad my excuses and we went in search of his partner.

Once I was sure he had left I ran in search of Stan. I barged past Mr. Clarke in the who had come in search of me, and made my way out back once again. Stan was smoking a cigarette drinking a glass of water in the last of the day’s sun.

I made some undecipherable noise of rage and launched myself at him, knocking him off his feet. He was shocked but it didn’t take him long to grab my fists to prevent me from hitting him in the face, but I just squirmed and smashed my knee into his upper thigh, missing his groin, but still getting a satisfying grunt of pain.

He gasped something unflattering and threw me off him. As I landed I smacked my head. I felt him pin me under his weight. I was a spitting, hissing animal and the only thought in my head was that I wanted him to hurt. Instead of hurting me he held me still, swearing softly as I continued to fight him.

“I am not letting you go until you act like a rational human being,” He said, his voice so calm, it only served to make me angrier. But I couldn’t fight him forever and he knew that. Eventually I began to get tired and my struggles lessened, although the venom pouring from my mouth didn’t lessen. I called him every word that entered my head. Murderer I screamed finally, fucking murderer. I think my heart was breaking.

“I didn’t kill him” he said calmly, as if it was the truth. The fight left me even more suddenly then it had come one, and all that replaced it was a desperate sadness. I cried and cried and Stan just held me until it was over.

Mr. Clarke appeared and helped me back into the kitchen. A short while later a cup of tea was set in front of me, and that made me cry all over again. I poured it all out and when I was done I felt raw. As if someone had rubbed my soul with sandpaper. There was an empty space where my heart had been, and I was scared by the true depth of my grief.

After the tea had gone cold and had been replaced with a plate a food, Stan sat beside me.

“I didn’t kill him Thelma.” His voice was low and more serious then I could remember it being since we’d met, even more serious then when we’d journeyed from Rest just a couple days ago. He took my hand, and I didn’t pull back, but I didn’t respond. “I didn’t kill him, but it’s important that you know that I would have. That morning when you woke up and I was gone, I had gone to kill him, but I was too late, he was already gone.”

I pulled away from him then. I had known he had wanted to kill my Grandfather, did it change anything that he didn’t? I had wanted to kill him, Riley had, did that make us as bad as Stan?

“Thelma, I need you to listen to me, that morning when I left, Riley asked me to hide him. He said that he didn’t do anything wrong, but he had seen something he shouldn’t have seen, so I hid him. I sent him to stay with some friends.” I blinked at him, surprised by his act of kindness, he had no love for my family, and I was surprised that he would do that. I should have given him more credit then that.

“They’re going to come for me Thel,” the Establishment, everywhere I went this year they were chasing away the ones I loved. “I have to go into hiding again. I think you should do the same.”

“Where would I go?” My voice was rougher, it didn’t sound like my own.

“Come with me?” I was shocked, again I should have given him more credit then that. By following him, I would be putting him at risk. We would be twice as likely to be found, I could betray him at any moment, and some darker part of me still wanted to kill me.

Hope is a strange thing, it made me believe that I could one day leave Rest and make something, even when all my teachers said I was a lost cause. I kept me going when my Grandfather first forgot my name. It woke me up some nights with memories of my mother, thinking she would be beside me. It made me believe I would see Riley again and it was hope that assured me he couldn’t have killed our Grandfather. It was the only thing that made me wake up the next morning, pack my things and lead Stan to my little hut were I packed everything I valued, including my flight kit and follow him up into the mountains. When all the evil is in the world, hope is the last piece of light in the corner of your broken heart, it may be small, but it has the power to change the world. At least that is what I believed as we walked further then I had ever been in my whole life.
Leaping lizards Caped-Crusader!

Welcome to the Strange

"An inch or so above the bed
the yellow blindspot hovers
where the last incumbent’s greasy head
has worn away the flowers.

Every night I have to rest
my head in his dead halo;
I feel his heart tick in my wrist;
then, below the pillow,

his suffocated voice resumes
its dreary innuendo.
there are other ways to leave the room
than the door and the window."

Monthly mayhem

February 2011
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