Duchess and the Anecdote

Duchess

They come from miles around, my characters do, traveling the great distance from the fringes of my mind’s eye, some even making the long and arduous haul from my childhood, just to sit and talk. They do this whenever I’m alone.

As they gather ’round, I cast an eye upon their many and various faces and can’t help but feel the slightest twinge of remorse. Being in my company, locked within the confines of my imagination, is not wholly unlike a purgatory for them. A holding pattern, a waiting room, where they converse amongst themselves in voices audible only to myself, trying to catch my attention in the slimmest hope of being set free. Birthed into a story.

Some are fresh meat, the rest lifers, each easily spotted by the differences in their appearance and the strength of their voices. Fresh meats are gossamers—newly formed characters, little more than a stack of traits—who shout in whispers. Lifers, on the other hand, are as fleshed out as you or I, perhaps even more so, who have acquired the proper pitch and turn of phrase to catch me unawares during the times when my mind idles.

Before the talks begin–serious conversation, not the normal natterings they engage in–a flying thing the size of a butterfly, jewel-toned blue stripes, greenish-gold spots, with flecks of silver on the wings, lands in the palm of my outstretched hand.

“What is that then?” a childlike voice asks from somewhere deep in the crowd, low to the ground. I recognize it instantly.

“It’s an anecdote, Duchess. Come see for yourself.” I reply as the creature’s wings beat softly on my palm.

The throng–my personal rogue’s gallery whose roster includes reputables and reprobates alike–part like the Red Sea, making way for the noblest of all serval cats, The Duchess.

“An antidote? Have you been poisoned?” The Duchess queries as she saunters into the open space, a dollop of concern gleaming in her vivid blue eyes.

I try to not laugh, partly out of respect, but mostly due to the fact that though she is the eldest of my unused characters, she is technically still but a kitten. “No, Duchess, it’s an anecdote, as in a short, amusing, or interesting story about a person or an incident.“

“I know full well what an anecdote is, thank you kindly. I was merely attempting to lighten the dreadfully somber mood with a bit of levity.” Not her best faux pas cover, but it was swift, which should count for something. As casually as she could manage, the kitten turned to see if anyone found amusement at her expense. No one did. They knew better. “May I hold it?”

I hesitate and stare at the leapling. Created on February 29th all those many years ago, it was my rationale–on paper–for keeping her a kitten, seeing as she had fewer birthdays, she would naturally age at a decelerated rate. The actuality is I have an affinity for kittens. For full-grown cats? Not so much. And now the dilemma is if her kittenish nature should come into play, and without meaning to, cause injury to the anecdote, then all this would be for naught.

Her eyes plead with all the promise of being good and I have no choice but to relent. “It’s fragile, so be gentle. Take care not to crush it.” I gently place the anecdote in her cupped paws.

“Why does one need an anecdote?” The Duchess of Albion asked, her nose twitching whenever the creature moves its wings.

“To tell a proper story,” I answer. “More than just a sequence of actions, anecdotes are the purest form of the story itself.“

“But I thought characters are at the heart of every great story?“

“They are and anecdotes connect the hearts and minds of those characters to a story.” I try to feign calm but I can see the kitten’s body tensing up. Her eyes, those glorious baby blues, are studying the creature closely. Was I wrong in my decision to trust that she rules her instincts and not the other way around?

“They also add suspense to your story, giving the audience a sense that something is about to happen. If you use them right, you can start raising questions right at the beginning of your story—something that urges your audience to stay with you. By raising a question, you imply that you will provide your audience with the answers. And you can keep doing this as long as you remember to answer all the questions you raise.“

The kitten’s breath becomes rapid and her paws close in around the anecdote and I want to cry out, urge her to stop, but it’s far beyond that point now. She is in control of her own fate. Canines bare themselves, paws pulling the creature closer to her mouth.

“No!” she shakes her head violently. Her ears relax and her mouth closes as her breathing returns to normal. Then, the oddest thing happens…

The Duchess begins to vanish. All the characters look on in dazed silence, uncertain how to react.

“What is happening to me?” she shoots me a panicked glance as cohesion abandons her form.

“Haven’t you sussed it out yet?“

“No… I’m scared!“

“Don’t be,” I smile. “Look around you. You’re at the heart of a story. You’re free.“

“Truly?” she is suddenly overwhelmed with delight, her expression priceless. “But — but what do I do with the anecdote now?”

“Open your paws, let it fly off.”

She unfolds her paws. Tiny wings beat their path to freedom. Then someone from the back of the crowd gives The Duchess a slow clap. Soon, others join in, building into a tidal wave of applause.

The now translucent Duchess waves a tearful thank you to the crowd, before turning back to me with a request, “Say my name.“

“Why?“

“Because you always simply address me as Duchess and I want to hear you call me by my full name one last time before I g– —“

And just like that, she was gone.

I bid you a fond farewell, Your Grace the Duchess of Albion Gwenore del Septima Calvina Hilaria Urbana Felicitus-Jayne Verina y de Fannia. Enjoy your journey. You will be missed.

Text and Audio ©2013 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

 

Please Read My Lonely Talk (Part 3): Blind Man’s Bluff

“Lonely Talk” Part 1 here…

“Lonely Talk” Part 2 here…

The elegance palace in which I work is huge, larger than most I have seen in the city, with at least two thousand working girls at an average age of twenty-five, which is fairly decent for a bordello.

In the center of the Hostess Center, there is a big stage, where a live band sets the mood of the palace. Why a live band at a sex shop? To help break the ice. Most of the clients are intimidated when they first walk in, which means it is the hostess’s job to make them relax via a series of activities.

One such activity is the Single Mingle, where I must dance with a client if they ask me. Refusing a client a dance means I am forced to pay a penalty. To date there was only one time I was ever tempted to face being fined. It was with a client who looked old enough to have great, great, great, great grandchildren.

He kept pulling me in close by the waist and I could feel his erection poking my thigh. Hard enough to sex four women at once. But that was the only solid thing about him. His grip around my waist was feeble and he had a body tremor that he desperately tried to suppress. My guess is that he was rounding the corner on eighty and found a pill that gave him an eighteen-year-old’s erection. Problem was if I kissed him hard enough he’d have a heart attack, so instead, I danced him around until his hard-on caught up with his age and sent him on his way. I considered that my senior citizen service for the month.

Not all of my clients are one-offs, though. I have a regular, a blind man, and if it is possible for a woman in my line of work to have a favorite, then he is mine. A hassle-free man that I do not have to dress up in silly costumes for or pretend to be someone else. Our sessions are almost always the same. Short, but sincere small talk, followed by kissing and heavy petting, then a massage followed by a leg hump in cowgirl position until he ejaculated. The very first time I put his erection between my lubricated thighs and moved up and down for several minutes, he exploded easily.

When it was over, he asked, “Did you use a rubber?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Why not?”

It caught me off guard, the way he asked. If I am being honest, I felt a little insulted that he thought I was so filthy that he could contract a disease from me from a simple leg hump. I wanted to tell him what I pack is far worse than any STD he could ever imagine.

“Is it really all right with you?” he asked.

Then I understood. He thought he was inside me. I chuckled and explained who I was, what I was capable of and what I actually did.

“Taking advantage of a blind man, eh?” If he was hurt, I could not detect it.

“That is not it at all. You did not know who I was. You did not come here looking to beat the odds or for an easy way to die. You did not judge me based on my appearance. I was not a spectacle. So, what I gave you was pleasure and allowed you to keep your life.”

He reached out for my hand and I took his. “I’m not sure how happy I am being deceived like that, but it felt real. The best I’ve ever had.”

And the damnedest thing happened. Despite the fact that I sell sex and death for money and I hate my job, this blind man paid me a compliment that made me feel good about myself. Pathetic, I know, but you have to take the good bits as they come.

And for the record, for all you that might think a leg hump is lazy, let me tell you that it is more work and harder to make a man ejaculate than either manual or oral stimulation.

Now, I hear you asking, “If you can do all this then why do you kill so many men?”

Human men die because human men are stupid! I offer them options but they always want what is worst for them. Who wants any other orifice when they have access to a taboo killer vagina?

Did I mention how stupid human men are?

To be continued…

Text and Audio ©2014 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Prexing Elevator Chat (Please Read My Lonely Talk Pt 2)

image

Looking for Part 1? Right here, my friend.

For most of my life on your world, I have made my living working in an elegance palace. Before you ask, my place of employment is really nothing more than a bordello. I do not know who invented the name elegance palace, but I must tell you, neither I nor any of the other employees working there find anything elegant about it.

The elegance palace is hidden in plain sight amongst neighboring office buildings, yet secreted behind its by-appointment-only financial institutional facade lies a towering empire of adult-themed enterprises. From boutiques to restaurants, bars, clubs and pleasure suites, if it is something even remotely related to sex, an office is listed for it in the directory. I call it prex melata, which in my native tongue translates loosely as ejaculation building.

The thing I hate most about the prex is that it only has one entrance and one elevator. Yes, you heard me correctly. One. Elevator. When my shift eventually ends, no matter how carefully I time it, I always manage to get trapped in the elevator with potential customers who know who I am because I am the only person on the planet who looks the way I do…

Alien.

The thing that does not belong. The piece that does not fit. I have no idea how you ply your trade, but put yourself in my missionary position for a moment and try to imagine that after an arduous day of ending the lives of concupiscent individuals through intercourse, that you now have to ride in a crowded box with clients who have just engaged in the sexual practice of their comfort level or financial ability, all of them eyeing you and imagining themselves to be the one who could probably beat the odds and survive.

I hate it. I hate the looks, I hate the arrogance, and I hate the sameness of it all. Eventually, they all will come to see me. Eventually, they all will die.

At least in the elevator there is hardly any conversation. I envy the employees who do not have to speak to the clients they service. I, on the other hand, am legally obligated to strike up conversations with everyone interested in sleeping with me. I am the only elegance employee that comes equipped with a Surgeon General warning. Sleeping with me will kill you. You must be made fully aware of that and sign legal documents to that effect.

Occasionally, though, I will encounter a client that asks, “Do you work here?”

My initial response leans toward the sarcastic, but I always answer, “Yes.

I’d like to visit you. What’s your name? What floor do you work on? Do you see clients outside of here?”

I want to tell him not to come. Tell him that I do not want to see him. That I do not talk to, let alone service, clients outside of the prex, especially those who have not paid to talk to me.

Some clients do that, the smart ones. They come in and lose their nerve and I do not blame them. They are still contractually obligated to pay for my time but I cut them a discounted rate. And while I do not enjoy talking to people who view me as a sexable piece of offworld flesh, I take pity on the ones who back out at the last minute.  It must be similar to talking yourself down off of a ledge.

If I do happen to get a talker on the elevator, I do not smile or make eye contact. I simply answer their questions as curtly as possible and walk away abruptly when the elevator doors open. This usually avoids them feeling comfortable enough to follow me onto the street. It is the thing that scares me the most about the job, honestly.

I have a friend who prefers to be identified by the gender-neutral pronouns they, their and them, well, they are more of a colleague, in the business we call them sexociates, and I do not know if it is a vibe they give off or what, but they attract more gawker stalkers than all the rest of us combined.

Gawker stalkers are the creepers who lurk around the prex exit and watch the girls as they leave the building. It’s gotten so bad that Tawni, my sexociate, not their actual name but I doubt even I know their real name, has a taxi on call that they run into every night as soon as the elevator doors open.

Gawker stalkers never do anything to the sexociates, to my knowledge, they just watch. But it is still creepy. I get chills thinking about the possibility of some strange creeper following me home. They should just commit and pay the fee and get to play a little bit rather than being a loser that skulks in the shadows and goes home alone, unsatisfied.

Surprisingly enough, I have not crossed social paths with too many prudish types. When most people find out what I do for a living, they seem so fascinated with the concept of bartering intercourse execution for currency. I almost regret letting people know because all our conversations after that point turns to them pumping me for kinky or weird-but-true stories.

And that is when my relationships begin to die.

I do not have any eccentric stories. My sex organ forces orgasm and death, and if that is not enough to interest you, then what else do we have to talk about? My life is boring, really. So boring that no one wants to hear about it.

How about you?

Will you please read my lonely talk?

To be continued…

Text and Audio ©2014 – 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Having Heaven 13 – The Undeniable Truth

BETHANY

Everything was normal the moment before the ultrasound wand touched Mayra’s stomach. Upon contact, reality lurched suddenly and normal no longer existed. Bethany couldn’t move, couldn’t even breathe. She was frozen to the spot, feeling her heart pounding in her chest, the hairs on her arms and the nape of her neck stood at attention, as a wave of chills washed over her body. A knowledge whispered in her mind, a knowledge older than her years, older than the earth, older than time or the universe itself. And it kept getting louder and louder, this cacophonous thrumming rhythm of knowledge and although it made no noise, the sound was intolerable and just as it reached the point at which her mind would have splintered, it stopped, leaving in its wake an undeniable truth.

Although she had not physically moved, for as long as it took the foreign thought to implant itself within her mind, Bethany was elsewhere and then her consciousness suddenly snapped back to her body in the hospital room and it took a moment to reorient herself. Electric shock sensations danced along her brain, similar to when she abruptly stopped taking sertraline once her depression was manageable. Her ears popped, she felt a slight wooziness, and her breath hitched once she found she was once again able to take in air. What happened to her? Was it some sort of panic attack? She had felt something else in the room with them in that frozen instant, something inside her body, inside her mind, she was sure of it. It couldn’t have been her imagination.

Before she could contemplate it any further, Bethany’s eyes focused on the ultrasound monitor. What she saw looked nothing like a baby. It looked more like a swirling blob, and she was sure that wasn’t meant to happen. She glanced around, trying to read the faces of the others, hoping someone would have said something, anything, to clear matters up but Mayra looked shocked and the sonographer stared at the screen with narrowing eyes. Whatever they were looking at was far from normal.

“Let me get one of the doctors in for a second opinion,” the sonographer said before dropping the wand and rushing out of the room and that was when the undeniable truth flooded her mind.

Bethany began snatching up both her and Mayra’s coats and bags in a hurried fashion.

“Bethy, what are you doing?” Mayra said sluggishly as if she had been awakened from a deep sleep.

“Sweetie, we need to get the fuck out of here, now!” Bethany said, hooking her arm around Mayra’s elbow and yanking her to her feet.

Bethany peeked her head out of the room and looked both ways to check that the coast was clear. No sonographer in sight, she led Mayra into the corridor, scanning the dazed faces of hospital personnel as they hurried past. Eyes tracked them as they made their way to the exit, mouths opened to speak and closed again as though people weren’t sure what they wanted to say.

Pulling out her phone, Bethany started to order an Uber but that nagging little voice in the back of her mind made her put the phone away and hail a taxi instead. When they climbed inside she gave the driver a wrong address, an address that was close to but far enough away from their apartment and shushed Mayra before she could offer a correction.

For a few seconds, Bethany thought the getaway, the putting distance between them and the hospital wasn’t going to work, by the way the taxi driver stared at Mayra in the rearview mirror, as if he knew her. Out the window, down the block she saw the sonographer and a man she assumed to be a doctor rush from the hospital, heads on a swivel checking the streets.

Bethany banged on the plexiglass partition to get the driver’s attention. “Hey! Is there a problem here? If you’re not going to drive we can get out and catch another cab.”

The sonographer and her companion started down the block in their direction and Bethany had one hand around Mayra’s wrist and the other on the car door handle, ready to bolt but the driver pulled the cab away from the curb and into traffic.

The ride felt longer than it actually was with Bethany continually looking out of the rear window, checking if they were being followed, not that she would have had the first idea how to spot a tail. During the drive, she had to stop Mayra from talking twice, eyeing the cabbie who was taking sneaky peeks at her friend every so often. And he wasn’t the only one. Whenever the taxi stopped at a red light, the heads of pedestrians and drivers alike would turn in their direction. Their eyes seemed to be drawn to Mayra if by some magnetic force. It was hands down the creepiest thing Bethany had ever witnessed in real life. People stopped dead in their tracks and just stared, their mouths opening and closing mouthing words she couldn’t make out.

When they eventually stepped out of the cab, Bethany regretted giving the cabbie a fake address because it was raining bullets. She threw her coat over Mayra’s head and refused to get under herself when Mayra offered to share. They stood under a store awning until the cab pulled away before making their way to the apartment.

Once inside, Bethany started to peel off Mayra’s wet layers.

“Okay, that’s enough!” Mayra pushed Bethany’s hands away. “I can get out of my wet things by myself. What’s gotten into you, anyway, dragging me around like a little kid, stopping me from talking—”

Mayra’s outburst caught Bethany by surprise. “I—I’m just trying to protect you.”

“From what?”

“I don’t know. Everybody. Everything.”

From Mayra’s expression she could tell her friend wasn’t on the same page, so she tried again, “Sweetie, I know how crazy this is going to sound but it’s no less crazy than what’s been going on lately. Something happened at the hospital. I felt it and I know you felt it, too, hell, everybody did. Don’t ask me how I know it, I just do. And that something made me—I don’t know—super protective of you.”

“It did?”

“Yeah, you know, like when people say they’ve found their calling and it sounds like bullshit? Well, I think—no, I’m sure—that I’ve found my calling and it’s not bullshit. There’s something deep inside of me that’s urging me to keep you safe at all costs. You and your fake pregnancy.”

“Fake? You think I’m pretending to be pregnant?”

“No, that’s not what I mean. Of course, you’re pregnant, but not really, you know?”

“Bethy, you’re not making sense.”

“I’m the one not making sense here? That’s not a baby, Mayra! That thing inside you. I don’t know what it is.”

“You know exactly what it is,” Mayra said in a low, confident voice that was so unlike her that it spooked Bethany.

“Of course, I do! I don’t think there’s a living or dead soul on the planet who doesn’t know what it is.”

“Then say it.”

“I—I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because that would take something that I heart and soul don’t believe in and make it real.”

“But what if I need to hear it? A confirmation outside my own head from someone I trust? Can you make it real for me?”

Bethany hung her head low, inhaled deeply and let the breath out slowly. “It’s heaven, Mayra,” she said. “You’re carrying the new heaven.”

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Your Higher Self

Never be afraid to let others know that you are a writer, whether you have been published or not, because that is not what defines you.

Embrace it.

Space Case

Everyone I knew wrote me off as a space case, as if I was insane or some sad eccentric with little grip on reality but none of them, not a single solitary person, bothered to get to know me, to peer beyond this veil of all too fragile flesh in order to witness the infinitude that lay within.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Having Heaven 12 – The Scan

Researching on her tablet, Mayra discovered the first functional fetal organ to develop was the heart, typically eighteen to nineteen days after fertilization which began to beat and pump blood around day twenty-two. But when it came to ensoulment, the closest thing she found to a specific answer dated back to the time of Aristotle, where it was believed the human soul entered the forming body at forty days for boys and ninety days for girls, which was of exactly zero use in explaining why there had been no sightings of child or baby spirits and if her as yet unborn child currently had a soul.

“How long do you think you’ve been pregnant?” Bethany asked.

“Um, I don’t know,” Mayra said, counting the days back to when she first took the test.

“At least six weeks?”

“Sure, I think. Maybe? Why?”

“Because six weeks is the earliest you can get a dating scan.”

“A what now?”

“An ultrasound to find out how far along you are and detect the presence of a heartbeat. Don’t you want to hear your baby’s heartbeat? I know I do.”

Mayra felt slightly ashamed that Bethany had taken the reins with regard to the clinical aspects for the pregnancy while she was preoccupied with the metaphysics of soul creation and death.

“It’s been over six weeks since I missed my period,” Mayra said.

“So, should I book us an appointment?” Bethany asked, and received no response. “What’s up with you?”

“You’re not going to like this,” Mayra sighed. “But I think Gavin might be right.”

“About what?”

“Maybe it’s not right to bring a child into this new world.”

Bethany sat across from Mayra in complete silence, lost in her thoughts for a long while before saying, “I don’t know how to respond to that. I mean, if that’s Gavin’s voice in your head, I’d tell you to tell it to fuck off. If you’re thinking it because you’re nervous, I can totally understand that but like I’ve told you a hundred times, you are not alone, and I’ll keep telling you until it finally sinks in. But if this is truly how you feel, then I support you and your choice and I’ll be here for you however you need me to be so don’t feel guilty because you have to do what’s right for you.”

“I have to admit, Bethy, I have no idea what’s right anymore.”

***

It was an odd thing but being in the hospital to get the ultrasound made the situation real. Mayra was going to have a baby, she was going to be a single mom which meant she had some growing up to do. She was afraid the sonographer was going to make assumptions about her since Bethany was at her side instead of Gavin but it was one of those childishly foolish notions that she needed to push out of her head.

“At this point we should be able to see the baby take shape,” the sonographer, whose name was Gloria, smiled. “Your little one is slowly becoming a person and I have to admit this is the point I find the most exciting. Nine months might seem like a long time but it will fly by. Make the most of this experience because once you hold your baby in your arms everything will be different.”

“Do you think this is something I can do alone?” Mayra had no idea why she asked the question. The words just slipped out before she was aware of what she was saying.

“Yes, even though it’s obvious to me you aren’t alone,” Gloria said without missing a beat and nodding a smile at Bethany. “Somehow I can tell there are always going to be people around to help you. Pregnancy can sometimes make you feel like you’re in it by yourself but you’d be surprised at how people will step up to help.”

“That’s a curious bedside manner you’ve got there,” Bethany said.

“So I’ve been told,” Gloria replied and to Mayra she said, “The scan usually takes about twenty minutes.”

“Twenty minutes?” Mayra said.

“I know your bladder’s full but we’ll get through this as quickly as possible,” Gloria held up a squeeze bottle and a small hand-held device. “First I’m going to apply some ultrasound gel to your tummy and move this transducer over your skin to get views of your baby.”

Mayra looked down at the gel being spread over her stomach. Her body was still in the same shape it had always been, something the baby would soon change and she wasn’t quite sure she was ready for it. When she glanced at Bethany, she saw her friend was staring across the room at a ghost midwife standing nearby, watching the monitor, waiting patiently. It was impossible to pretend she wasn’t there but a strange phenomenon was taking place where people began ignoring the spirits, they had become so commonplace. Exhaling deeply, she turned her attention to the screen. Being able to see her growing child was the whole reason she was there, and she wasn’t about to let the dead spoil this moment.

“Okay, Mayra, this is going to feel weird, but I promise you it’s truly worth it,” Gloria said.

Mayra said a silent prayer that the scan turned out normal and the baby was healthy but the moment the transducer made contact with her belly—everything changed. Her vision filled with starbursts. A million points of light filled her mind and she was overcome with a sensation that was simply too good, too pure to exist in this imperfect world. Her sense of existence expanded beyond the limitations of infinity and for one brief moment the edges of her mind brushed against the minds of every person, living and dead, linking together like a jigsaw puzzle of peace and all was right in the universe for a nanosecond before infinite knowledge avalanched onto her mind sending shards of information into her brain and out through the back of her skull over and over eternally and existence filled her mouth, filled her throat, filled her lungs, suffocating her with its presence and it would not let up, would not let her fight, would not let her scream as she was engulfed by the unending blinding whiteness of everything until she became nothing at all.

The bits and pieces that made her unique no longer existed in this pearlescent void and how could it? The totality of everything had pushed everything she had ever been out of her. She was now a hollow lifeless shell—until she wasn’t. Reality, her reality, the only one she personally experienced, had begun reknitting itself, stitch one, purl two until she was back in the examination room with the sonographer and Bethany. Both women stood stock-still as if they had been turned into stone by a basilisk, mouth agape, staring at the monitor. What they saw on the screen looked nothing like a baby at all. It looked more like a blob, a swirling mass that resembled a distant galaxy viewed through a space telescope.

When Gloria recovered enough to form words, she said, “Let me get one of the doctors in for a second opinion,” and bolted out of the room before Mayra could ask a question.

Mayra turned to Bethany who was gathering their coats and bags in a hurried fashion.

“Bethy, what are you doing?”

“Sweetie, we need to get the fuck out of here, now!”

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Evaporating Destiny

While Amelia couldn’t quite put her finger on it or explain how the devil it happened, she knew her reality had somehow shifted because the air smelled wrong—not just of engine exhaust but of evaporating destiny and melting fate.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

No Clowning Around

I thought I could handle any trouble that came my way but the murder investigation had gone riotous way too fast and I was caught at ground zero.

I tried to beat a hasty retreat to call for backup but standing between me and the Big Top’s only egress was the Circus Authorities, a bundle of fast-moving, nimble as fuck, acrobatic clowns armed to the teeth with corrosive acid pies and rubber chickens filled with ball bearings.

There was no way this was going to end well.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Having Heaven 11 – The Blowback

Turning on the television was almost always a bad idea. The one sure thing in all this madness was that every channel with a news outlet, syndicated and cable alike, provided twenty-four hour a day updates of variations on the same stories: people dealing with the spirits of loved ones. The sad fact of the matter was daily life seemed to stop the moment the dead returned to Earth. And that was the good news.

Interspersed between dramatic reenactments of tearful afterlife family reunions was the blowback religion was suffering due to its failure to provide answers for the reason Heaven was destroyed, the purpose of dead spirits returning to Earth and the overcrowding it was causing, and why anyone should continue worshipping if they were no longer a reward for living a righteous life. The suicide rate continued to climb but not all of the disillusioned practitioners were taking their own lives. Some took it upon themselves to express their anger in the form of the vandalization of churches, mosques and religious community centers which quickly escalated to bomb threats, physical attacks on parishioners, then to mass shootings and bombings. In order to minimize the death toll in America, the President passed an executive order to close places of worship and urged other countries to follow suit but failed to gain any traction as religious congregations across the states defied the ban.

Experts assembled comprehensive databases of bombers and mass shooters who aimed their attacks on religious groups or places of worship to try to better understand and help prevent future violence of this kind. They stated, normally the statistics would have indicated the perpetrators being men, mostly Caucasian, single and unemployed, ages ranging from twenty to forty, with histories of mental illness, substance abuse, and victims of serious childhood trauma. Worship murderers also typically fell into one of two distinct categories: ethno-religious hate groups who target a specific group of people to blame for their grievances; or angry individuals in crisis motivated by domestic issues. But new studies showed no gender, ethnicity or age correlation among the offenders. In fact, the common thread seemed to be people prepared to commit suicide who were afraid of dying alone. If they had to exist in void, they wanted to be surrounded by their family and friends.  

To combat the escalating tension, celebrities formed organizations to hold Death of Heaven vigil simulcast on tv, radio, podcast and across all the social media platforms around the world to offer support for those suffering as a result of the loss, as well as counseling for those having difficulty adjusting to having dead abusive spouses and family members return into their lives.

Mayra shut the tv off. She couldn’t be bothered flicking through the channels to find something to momentarily distract her. Even the soaps had been forced to add current events into their storylines, thanks to deceased actors appearing on set and going through their former character motions.

Stretching out on the sofa, her hand reflexively reached out for her smartphone.

“There’ll come a time when you’ll have to face facts,” Bethany said as she crossed from the bedroom, heading for the kitchen. “In your own time, of course, but sooner would be better for your mental state and the baby’s health.”

Damn. She had been busted by her friend once again and though Bethany tried not to sound too judgmental, Mayra felt a sense of shame that she wasn’t strong enough to admit the truth and move on with her life.

“Yeah, I know,” Mayra said, thumb hovering over the number keypad. “I keep going over it in my head, but our lives are too entwined. Gavin hasn’t touched the bank account, not that there’s a lot in there to begin with, so that means he doesn’t have a lot of money. He has to either be crashing with a friend or maybe he moved back to his parents’ house.”

“And you’ve already dialed all those numbers a dozen times. Sure, maybe if you pester them enough someone will eventually break and fess up, but you don’t know what story he spun to them and you could wind up looking like the psycho stalker ex-girlfriend.”

“I don’t care what people think. I just need to talk to him. I need that, Bethy, I need it.”

“Sweetie, I’m not telling you not to call, not to try. All I want is for you to be happy and if happy isn’t possible right now then I want you to feel comfortable moving forward without that dead weight hanging around your neck. From what you’ve told me the two of you were more like house mates for a while now. If that’s what you want out of life then go for it and I’ll support you the best way possible, but if you want someone to love you the way you deserve to be loved I think you need to accept the reality that you kissed a frog and instead of getting a prince, you got warts.”

“I know calling him probably isn’t the smartest thing to do, but I need to hear his voice. Don’t hate me.”

“Never,” Bethany said, continuing to the kitchen. “I’ll leave you to it.”

Mayra dialed Gavin’s cell, cursing herself for being a weak-willed idiot.

“The number you have dialed is not in service, please check the number and try again.” The automated voice wasn’t what she expected to hear. She hung up and tried again. “The number you have dialed—” She disconnected and carefully redialed his phone number one more time. “The number you have dialed—” Mayra hurled the phone across the room and screamed, “Fuck!”

Bethany ran into the living room. “What is it? What happened?”

“That bastard changed his number,” Mayra said and suddenly the floodgates opened. Everything she kept bottled up came spilling out. Gavin hadn’t left a note or emailed her or even sent a text message. The very least he could have done if he was at his parents’ house was to have his mother or father call her to let her know he was safe. But no, all she got after five years of dating was an apartment full of the empty spaces he used to inhabit. She ended with, “He’s gone,” before breaking down into uncontrollable tears.

“Yes, he is, sweetie,” Bethany pulled her friend into her arms and gently rocked her. “But you’re not alone.”

***

Bethany had done more than Mayra could ever have asked. She worked out the apartment lease with the landlord, removing Gavin’s name and replaced it with her own, as well as smoothing things over with Mayra’s boss so she could take a few days off and still keep her job. At times Mayra had been overwhelmed by it all, and the complicated emotions that came with accepting her relationship with Gavin was well and truly over came and went like the tides. There were days when she hated her ex-boyfriend—and it had taken a while to adjust to thinking of him as an ex—for what he’d done and the only thing she really wanted to do was to hurt him the way he hurt her. Then there were days when she accepted the way things were, realizing there was nothing she could have done to change what was.

One of the best reasons for having Bethany so close was that Mayra could open the release valve when her brain became too cluttered with random, disturbing thoughts and voice things she ordinarily wouldn’t have been able to speak with Gavin about.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about miscarriages,” Mayra let slip while she and Bethany were working on a jigsaw together. It was a three thousand piece Educa Amsterdam with Red Bike Puzzle. Challenging enough to focus her concentration on since besides the red bike, the rest of the puzzle was in black and white with reflective surfaces. Still, idle thoughts had a way of creeping in.

“What?” Bethany gave her a look she’d grown accustomed to since moving in together, the look of being blindsided. “You shouldn’t be worrying about things like that. Stay positive. Everything’s going to be all right because there’s no reason they shouldn’t be.”

“You don’t understand. I’m not worrying about miscarrying, not yet at least, I was just wondering when life begins. Is it at conception?”

“I—I’m no expert but I’d say, sure, why not?”

“Then why haven’t we seen the souls of any aborted children? Or still births? Is it because their souls hadn’t properly developed?”

“Okay, that’s disturbing on a number of levels. Have you actually been looking for them? I wouldn’t even know what that would look like and I don’t think I’d want to know.”

“You’ve got a point there,” Mayra admitted. “But what about kids? Of all the people who’ve died and returned, why hasn’t anyone reported spotting children?”

“Oh man,” Bethany said. “With all the confusion going on, I never realized all we’ve been encountering are adults. What happened to all the kids? And people are tripping over ghosts outside but I haven’t seen one in our apartment yet. Have you?”

“I—” Mayra began, then thought about it. “No, I haven’t.”

“Somebody must have died here.”

“Bethy!”

“This isn’t a new building, is what I’m saying. What are the odds this is one of the few places on Earth where no deaths have ever occurred?”

To Be Continued…

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