No matter what she did – covering her ears, humming incessantly, trying to escape to the astral planes – the electronic tone just seemed to intensify, it felt as if it were liquefying her brain, memory, motor functions, death; she tried to remember where she’d heard it before, somewhere in the past, almost like a dream the voices were real and at the same time an illusion. She managed a slight grin, she attempted to shrug but the gesture only caused more agony, she relaxed on the cold metallic flooring trying to ignore the dirt, grime and mildew that surrounded her, either way it’s not exactly the worst way to go. Her pain continued and she began to slam her head against the floor, the heavy metal only causing her to bleed, the sound wouldn’t stop but she noted that she had to be in so much pain the hand banging didn’t change much. Tears formed due to the pain, she felt very nauseated and yet still she refused to leave. Just above her, it was eye level when she had the strength to stand, was something she’d never thought she’d live to see again, a note from her mother:
Please Mayu, wherever you are, come home. I know you wanted to be alone in these last months but I have to beg you to let me see you one last time. I love you and I always will, I hope you know that. I’m sorry for what I’ve done and that I couldn’t help save you. Please forgive me.
Mim. She reached up to try and grab the sheet of fading water-logged parchment, she could smell the trace of lavender among the uncanny sense of home emanating from the page. She allowed herself a moment – her ability to shield herself had steadily weakened as her body had begun its descent into death, her people knew all they had to do was place the message close enough; They knew I’d search for this.
She cried out, All right! You know I’m here. I’ve walked for miles to come and find this. Where are you?
She took a breath but nothing had changed. For the last mile all she’d sensed was the thin trace of her mother’s letter. They’re not here. I’m alone. The moment of clear thought was again shattered by the deafening noise coming from all around her, it echoed reminding her of times she spent living in caves, the vacuuming sounds of waterfalls and a swarm of bats searching for food. Her head was spinning with colors being distorted from the pain, her dizziness and nausea increasing, Not hypothermia, she tried to control herself, perfect timing.
Everything amplified, a crescendo of life from every corner, but through the fog she sensed someone was coming closer and pushed herself as far back as she could trying to phase through the wall to free herself from the agony and eventual discovery. She squeezed her eyes shut, enjoying the sight of the colors, waiting to hear, ‘Oh, my God.’ ‘What is it?’ ‘Is she dead?’
The ringing stopped but there was a new noise invading her thoughts, “Julie. Sorry baby, you called earlier than we agreed. Yeah. Yeah. I can meet you. There’s a bus, five-six minutes. Ok, wait, wait, I need to find something to write this down.”
She opened her eyes, momentarily blinded by the sudden incoming glare from the street lights, to see the man looking around, Don’t touch my paper, use the flippin’ phonebook, it’s got enough pages torn out already. Look, there’s paper down here near this – I don’t even want to know what that is but use it.
He pulled her mother’s note from the glass door and was about to write when she gave a warning growl, “Goddamn, what the hell,” he shouted as he scrambled out the booth dropping the phone leaving it swinging, almost hitting her in the head. A woman’s voice, Julie, panicked asking what had happened and where was he and ‘Baby, are you there? Are you ok?’
We don’t use the Lord’s name in vain, she smiled, reaching down to secure the paper, and after taking a long moment to breathe left the booth shakingly but with the determination to return home.
There were a group of African-Americans sitting near a fire playing poker and discussing a wide variety of topics, there were four different conversations but everyone seemed to participate – they were making crude jokes about the economy and women, talking about plans for tomorrow, possible job opportunities they’d heard about and needed to investigate, and what court they were going to use to play ball. Cameron, a small thin male in his late forties who always wore military gear even though he’d never served, motioned with his head to Twan who looked back and noticed Mayu returning in her Eidolon form but still looking as small and frail as a newborn kitten.
Twan, who in his late thirties was a stocky man but carried an inner strength and self-confidence that caused most people not to even notice, had known her a few weeks but he could tell that she was in excruciating pain and being that she was the bravest and strongest woman he’d ever known, seeing her look so weak broke his heart. He put his playing cards down and excused himself, Cameron and the others acknowledged the reason, avoiding staring at Mayu while they all felt the same concern, “We’ll come, too,” Cameron offered as he gestured the others to stand up.
Twan motioned them to sit back down, “Nah, she’d want to be alone,” he refused to look away from Mayu, he didn’t want to admit it to himself or the others but before he took his first step forward he felt he had to make things clear, “It’s time.”
Cameron nodded his acknowledgement and motioned for two others to come with him to help find Kisa, Mayu’s son, while the rest stayed behind and began to pray for her to pass without much pain and allow her soulless body to be admitted into heaven. It didn’t take long for the word to spread and soon people started arriving from all sides of the community with various religious ornaments and candles lit, unity while they waited. Mayu wasn’t a nameless nobody, sometimes it took a while for newbies to be welcomed into the community but she’d been welcomed from the first moment they’d seen her with her little boy strapped to her back and a brown leather satchel around her neck. She always had a smile on her face, a light step and a joke, she always dismissed whatever she’d had planned for the day to help someone fix something, watch someone’s child, prepare a meal, or teach a class – she knew so much for someone so young – it was hard to believe she wasn’t some doctor or lawyer living in a three-story mansion somewhere overlooking a bluff or sitting next to a spring in the middle of the forest. Everyone had to agree, even before they knew she wasn’t human, that her life wasn’t meant to be sitting in the middle of a barren tent city waiting to die.
© J.O. Vaughn 2010
J. O. Vaughn lives in Winston-Salem, NC where she spends most of her time researching having a passion for knowledge which she uses for her writing. Feel free to check out her website Inkslingers Anon. She appreciates constructive criticism.