0 - The Fool

"Nothing is more dangerous than an idea...

especially when it is the only one you have!"

Emile Chartier

June 3rd:

 

The Dream woke her again- but this time sadness, the yearning like some broken promise, descended over her. It was slowly killing her - the dream. Who was this man tormenting her in her deepest fabric of sleep? April knew.

 

April Leigh knew all too well!

 

The pillowcase, cool and smooth against her hot cheek, crumpled beneath the grip that brushed the tears that welled in her eyes. How many times had she walked down that aisle? No longer was the faceless figure unknown. She loved him now. That was not her first mistake. Nor her last. But this mistake would cost April her life.

 

It already had.

 

The Dream stirred the nether void, waking a creature that waited for its day to arrive. Today would be that day. The demon called desire was alive once more.

 

In recent times, he seemed farther away than ever. Now when she thought of him - his face, his eyes - the vision blurred to a smoky, gray shade of days so long ago. And while at one time she would have woken to a splendid day following such a night visit, now this dream began to depress her. Once upon a time, April's whole life had been wrapped up in this, making her feel like a child bundled safely in lamb's wool for a frosty winter morning. On this particular morning, however, April felt the wool begin to itch.

"Funny, isn't it?!" April mused. "Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Cry, and the world laughs at you. Some deal."

No answer came from the empty house around her. The only reply was the ringing bell of the telephone, shattering the silence. Although she was desperately glad to have a phone call, she wasn't quite sure she was ready to talk to anyone. Her voice creaked foreign in her ears from across the room.

 

The machine:

"I know what I want and you know what you want. But I don't know what you want. So . . . what the hell do you want?"

And the machine beeped.

April raised her head, tilting an ear to listen, tense in anticipation. She heard the recording that had the previous night seemed so clever it had even cheered her up a bit. Now, though, she began to hear a little too much bitterness, maybe insanity, creeping into the picture. Suddenly, she wanted to shut it off, embarrassed that right then someone was actually listening to it. As the machine whirred, clicked, and beeped ready to record the next voice on it, another silence fell. Breathless, she tightened, ready to pick up the receiver.

"Click," the machine snapped, paused, then rewound, clicking off to await the next call. It created an unnatural, uncomfortable hush.

April finally relaxed after what seemed to be a very long moment. She wished that she had answered the call. Just the sound of another human voice would have helped. Even a wrong number might have been therapeutic. Anything to penetrate the surreal that surrounded her these days could have saved her.

Had she answered that phone call, however, she would have been driven one step closer to the edge. At the moment she would have answered, after such a struggle inside, subsequently making the decision and executing the task, what April would have heard might have finally destroyed her. All April Leigh would have heard in the earpiece was . . . nothing.

That Texas-sticky June morning, a dream caused the spirit of a young woman to stare blankly at the ceiling and state,

"I'm DEAD!"

"Chance or no chance," she told herself in her most authoritative mind-voice, "you are blessed!"

The voice disagreed, "You are dead!"

 

She was convinced.

She slept.

I - The Magician

 

 

"You ain't never caught a rabbit and you ain't no friend of mine."

Elvis Presley

 

July 4th:

From the corner, a mirror watched the room. It was the doorway for a world of strange possibilities. Alice had found Wonderland inside the looking glass. A blind boy named Tommy saw himself. In this particular mirror, a green glow began to form.

Like Alice, young April had chased a rabbit. Like Alice, April caught up with the March Hare, had even taken tea with it . . . him. But like all storybooks, this one should have been coming to a close. Either way, April wanted to put this matter to rest and get on with the rest of her life, even if it didn't include:

" . . . and they lived happily ever after."

But because of things remembered, nothing changes. No matter how much she tried, she couldn't block it from her mind . . . block him from her mind. It wasn't just any dream that she was trying to erase.

It was The Dream.

And where once her faith in the dream cocooned her safely in the web of the possible future, the place where anything possible may occur, now it tormented, haunted, and threatened to drive her mad. It pounded into her mind, captivated her thoughts, motivated her every move, scared her. Yet she could tell no one about it . . . anymore. She no longer had the energy to talk about it, anyway.

"Besides," she told herself, "it sounds crazy. It is crazy! Stop it! You're at it again! Stop!!"

She drove her fists into her temples, a vain attempt to shut out the incessant dialogue taking place in her already aching head. She closed her eyes, squeezing them shut until the pressure produced flashes of pain and colored lights on the dark screen of her mind.

It had been a month since she had seen him in the last dream that night. A month and a day. But almost ten years had gone by since she had seen him by day. And now, since the dream, she hadn't quit thinking about him.

Quit thinking about him, girl! God dam Englishman!

It was just like old times. Only worse. He no longer came to town. No more news. Where have you been?

The clock on the night stand clicked loudly as it reached 6AM, triggering the alarm, which switched to music once she fumbled with the knobs. Although she was awake already and the alarm was anticipated, it still made her jump. Before she could groan about the routine wake-up, which would lead to a routine work day, heralding in the first day of the rest of her routine-now-becoming-pointless life, April froze.

"My song!"

April's heart fluttered, then raced wildly. Breathless, she listened transfixed. His voice told her to be patient because he was with her forever in spirit, as it always had been. As it always would be.

Then just as quickly as the thrill had come to her, it passed. The feeling sank into her stomach, and though she was no longer pregnant, it was by sheer determination that she was not ill. The song was over.

In that split second, she felt like she was being watched. She cringed, unable to turn around to look. If April had looked into the mirror, she would have seen the eyes form, floating, watching. Shimmering green and black, the eyes laughed at her. She felt the eyes, but no longer would she look into them. She was terrified. She had never gone crazy before.

"Oh! So this is what all the excitement is about!"

How would she explain this to everyone?

"You see, I'm being hunted down by the Devil or God, or something, and I have to save the world. So, . . . I can't come to work today because I have to have a nervous breakdown."

. . . calling in weird for work . . .

"Won't take much too convince them, I'm sure!" her mind-voice replied. "It would only follow naturally since they already think you're nuts."

Scenes from the Terminator movies came to mind, layers of time, perception, history. Then, as if to really piss her off, her brain conjured up another classic - Misery. #1 fan!

And that was the real reason why she knew she said nothing more about it. All these years and the only thing she had ever achieved was a headache and a text book case of nuts. And an illegitimate child.

"Oh, God! Why me?"

II - The Priestess

 

 

"I would set my life on any chance."

 

Shakespeare

 

August 5th:

And God replied, "Why not you?"

III - The Empress

 

"People look to me and say, 'It's me and you when it's the final day.

What's the future of mankind? How do I know I got left behind?' . . .

How am I supposed to know hidden meanings that will never show? . . .

Who's the prophet from the past, lights the stage and we're all in the cast?"

Ozzy Osbourne

I Don't Know

 

September 6th

Little children cherish fantasies, adults obsess. Maybe cinema corrupted, where Dorothy exclaimed,

"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!"

Maybe Barbie, the Beatles, or Bewitched re-runs set the pace. For April, part of it was definitely those prophesies from the Bible. Not the stories that they tell you about during Sunday worship, but the unspoken Truth.

It became impossible to determine when the fabric of the Eternal Now shifted. While April's world became routine, the other world changed.

"So when it's all figured out (which it never is), it should all add up (which it never does). Like a giant puzzle, it should all fit together. So why am I still puzzled? (Which I am)."

Over twenty years ago, the dream first came.

Six year old April glowed, fresh with all the life and wonder during those carefree days of summer. She and her secret twin, a girl named Sarah whose dark complexion otherwise contrasted April's fair skin, plotted the completion of World Peace, which consisted of lots of money and grand fairy tale balls to attend. Vietnam was still fresh in their young minds.

Mostly, though, perfection consisted of one theme. The boy got the girl, the girl had a baby, and the baby got a puppy. And no matter what time of day it was, when April's mother called out that was time to come home, the story would always end . . .

" . . . and they lived happily ever after."

Once, the twins found the world's first tree house / spaceship. It really consisted of one piece of rotting plywood nailed to the lowest three branches of an oak tree. Behind a neat row of suburban houses, the field was strictly forbidden. April's mother knew that older kids hung out there, smoking and sneaking beers. Her daughter, golden haired and bright eyed, might have been influenced.

The thrill of the taboo intoxicated young April. Sarah had, of course, been a regular. Red crayon scrawled her name everywhere as proof.

"Come on, sis, I've got something to show you."

Through the towering weeds, Sarah pulled her to the edge of a clearing. Two of the teenagers there were boys, smoking and drinking, laughing at the girl. Mimicking her with crocodile tears, they slowly, painfully ripped away her self-esteem. Like a poison, is effect was deadly. She tried to hug the handsome one ("the mean-looking one," April would later say), putting her arms around him. He pushed her away.

She wanted, no, needed some attention from him. Oh, he had given her his attention, just the night before last. Late night Monday, long after dark, not twenty feet from where they now stood, he had given her some attention. Her first attention. It had hurt some, but when she got home, all she could think about was him. Oh, how she loved him! All that day in school, she had written his name in different styles, her name 'plus' his name, and the ultimate: her first/his last name name. But at home that night, she waited for him to call. The phone rested silent in its cradle. It was the first night he hadn't called since they had been going steady, for six months.

Later, she reasoned that, perhaps, he had been too busy to call, all the while it never dawning on her that he might not call at all. Ever again.

As the evening wore on, she decided to go out anyway. At the local hang-out (Big T's, of course, even May knew that!), the girl saw him with his friends and felt only the slightest chill at she latched onto him, just as it had always been. His strong, leather clad arm belonged around her tiny shoulders. She was his little sweetheart. They were a couple everyone knew was perfect together, forever.

But now something was wrong.

Just as she stepped up to him, he turned as if on cue, and walked away with his friends in tow. What had she done? And when he left, not a word.

Today, she had seen him after school walking toward the field. Now it became clear. She had given him part of her. It was sacred. He tossed it aside afterwards. Although April might not have known all the concerns (the compromise of health, possible pregnancy, its news broadcast on the devil's radio), but she did know one thing.

This was not ". . . happily ever after."

And from the look on the girl's face as she felt the hand of his best buddy creep up under the front of her sweater from behind, it might not ever be again.

She heard the word slut for the first time that day. She heard the whole conversation. But then they heard April,

"Why are they doing that?"

Her whisper startled the guys, who turned and spotted two little girls hiding in the grass. The buddy, scruffy brown headed meanness, turned toward them.

"What have we got here?" He sneered, "A little freak, with her little nigga' friend!"

He grabbed the other boy's arm, "I think it's time for a little lynchin'."

He lunged at them, "Boo!."

Sarah ran. And ran. April tried to keep up with her but couldn't. She called out for her, but to no avail. She knew that they weren't being chased. Sarah didn't even hear her. April gave up and walked home alone.

Later that night, she thought about the day. It was the first day she heard the word nigga' but obviously not Sarah's. April wondered what these words meant. She would have to ask Sarah. Or maybe Mom and Dad.

Years later when April did give it up (her virginity), she did so with precision, and a calculated coldness. It was a rite of passage, nothing more. It didn't surprise her when he didn't call. It was fairly painless getting over him. As the years went by, it got even easier.

Love 'em and leave 'em became "Love 'em? Leave 'em!"

"Marry 'em and bury 'em!" Sarah always said, even after the death of her first husband. This, of course, raised many suspicious eyebrows. But April knew Sarah, her motives and dreams. She had been her first lover, in child's play.

Even now, though nothing was ever said, April wondered what it might have been like now that they were adults. Deep inside, she was afraid that sex would ruin their friendship. Neither believed in the perfect love. It didn't exist. But still she wondered.

As autumn blew in, she felt the chill in the air. April Leigh decided it was time to talk to Chance Lee.

But how?

It made her feel like before, when they first met. But that was so long ago, Twelve years ago, she figured.

Back then, it felt good to send him little notes, messages of inspiration. Year after year, she rocked OM silently as she sealed each envelope. Music penetrated her soul. His music spoke to her. She knew his songs weren't written to her or about her, but . . . then again. His words fit her calculations. His story is history. On paper, he is the one! So she just decided to let him be more than anything possible, on paper. And it kept her out of trouble, mostly. It kept her at home, at least.

That was then. One day it became unbearable. The redundancy of her poems drove her to realize how much time she wasted on this, on him. Why was he so important anyway? No one else noticed him, or her.

What once was the life line of her mind, now became the anchor dragging her under. She wanted to impress him, but not a word. It wasn't as if they hadn't met. He knows me.

But did he?

IV - The Emperor

 

 

"That power which erring men call Chance."

 

Milton

October 7th:

"April Leigh . . . " a voice whispered from the dark horizon, or from behind her. April turned into the church's doorway, into the shadowed aisle. Three figures appeared at the altar, shrouded in a veil of smoke. Drifting toward them, she passed her mother who wept into her hands. Stained glass towered overhead, but no light shone through. The choir, hooded and anonymous, hummed a chant.

"This sure seems depressing for a wedding."

Ahead, one figure - the groom, turned toward her, hand out-stretched. The sight was one that April would never forget. "Faceless," is how she would later describe it. But where that face should have been, there was nothing. "It just faded into nothing."

"April Leigh!" the voice repeated with a growing sense of urgency. The six-year-old sleeping girl stirred, still trying to recapture her dream wedding, but to no avail. By that time, April's mother had come bustling into the room, opening curtains in her path of destruction, calling cheerfully - for now - that, "It's time to get up! Rise and shine!!"

As with many people who are considered "night people," this phrase drove itself into the part of the nervous system that controls, or doesn't, the urge to explode into a rage. ("Every year, thousands die at the hands of loved ones," which might have been prevented had one of them not opened the curtains like that.)

April tried to wake but couldn't. She was trapped between two worlds. In the real world, Mother had already left April's little pink room, with its horses and doll houses. In the other world, April was being torn from this faceless monster, to whom she had jus been wed. She tried to hang onto him, as if he were her only salvation. She felt her strength fade.

For one moment she had been really happy for the first time in her young life. Then without warning, she had been thrust back into the body of a sleeping child who would be late for school at any moment. On the way to school, she stared out the bus window and thought about him. It was then that she fell in love with him.

Strange that it was no one she knew. Usually in dreams, April recognized someone, even if they appeared differently than they might in real life. It was impossible to put a name to him. It wasn't Eric, the cute boy in Miss Riggs' class, or Daniel from two doors down, or David, Ryan, or any of the boys she loved. Love is most serious to a six-year-old.

Sun streaked through the drawn shades of April's dark room of today. Nothing moved, except the flashing digital clock that replaced the one with the music alarm. April would have noted that a power surge from sometime during the night had erased the time and now was correct only twice a day, at noon and at midnight, had she seen it, but she was soundly sleeping now. There was no reason to get up. Dawn faintly lit Majestic, the town where she lived these days.

Then the room rattled as the phone rang. April jerked involuntarily. Her hand crept to the night stand and found the telephone cord, which led to the receiver. She answered it as the second ring began. Her voice cracked,

"Hello? What?"

Nothing. Not even a click. Thinking that the line was dead, April groaned and replaced it. No one called back, so she drifted back off into peaceful slumber, unaware.

The one event that April waited for all her life occurred at that very moment. Halfway across the country, a man sat alone in a hotel room looking at her picture. Her face haunted him. She wore a smile in the photo, but it was her necklace that caught his attention. It was a pendant that hung from a leather strip, shaped like the full moon but molded into a face. It was a mysterious, hideous smiling face surrounded by a heart. It wasn't a pretty piece. Certainly not expensive, either, but from the first time he saw it, he knew he would see it again.

Here it was.

In his other hand, he gripped the telephone receiver. He listened intently into it before hanging it up with his index finger. Then he sat it down beside the base, leaving it off the hook on purpose. Because it was the hotel's phone, it did not, after a minute or so, begin to blare its annoying message to alert him to that fact.

The hotel room was quiet except for the music, which crackled from the corner table where a radio blinked 12:00 glaringly. A television show flickered on a silent screen. Its shadows danced in the dark room on the walls, on the face of a young man who sat entranced on the unmade bed. Even though it was only noon, the room was completely dark. With the shades drawn, the light tried unsuccessfully to creep in but only glowed in the outline of the veil. He had been there for a long time, not moving except to fill up the already overflowing ashtray. His name, or rather he calls himself, Chance. Everyone called him Chance. Night after night, the crowds would chant his name. Stage lights blinded him, making the vast darkness beyond the hot, white glare a smoky distance from which a voice of a million voices demanded,

"Chance! Chance!"

He was famous! He was loved by millions! And it wasn't undeserved. He had what it took to reach down and pick the crowd up. His shows became magic. While many rock stars might hear their names cheered in encore when they were well off stage in the dark recesses of the wings, this was no comparison.

Night after night, Chance would stand alone in the spotlight, staring into the vast empty void beyond the light, hearing that same compelling, hungry chant,

"Chance . . . Chance!"

At first the fans would only whisper his name. Then it would grow, echoing into an almost deafening single voice. Sometimes, he would get spooked. These days, Chance was packing in some twenty thousand people a show, or more. But once upon a time, it had been sixty. Sixty thousand mouths that opened and closed like they wanted to suck him in. And swallow. And the word had spread early during the first tour, so that each crowd in each town became better prepared for the trend.

By the end of the first tour, it was a tradition. A family tradition. This, the fourth tour was no different. Every night, it seemed a little bigger. A little more dangerous. A little more hungry.

Back when it started, it unsettled him. He felt defenseless. These days, though, he could laugh. He would often chuckle and mentally calculate the price of a single ticket times the number of people per show. Multiplied by the number of shows this tour, not to mention programs and T-shirts, and he wouldn't even have to add in the revenue generated by the initial record sales and his mind would be blown. For that moment, his eyes would twinkle in a slightly mischievous smile.

The look might have been mistaken as smug, and why not, after all he had been through to get there. However, he didn't feel very smug. Mostly he felt claustrophobic.

"Chance! Chance!" a voice came from the door.

Chance didn't move. He stared at the TV blankly. The voice became more persistent.

"Chance?"

"Who is it?" Chance asked flatly.

"Pizza!"

Chance replied in the same monotone, "Pizza? I didn't order a pizza."

A silent pause. Then the voice continued, "Candy gram!"

Chance got up slowly, and answered the door without looking, leaving it open as he returned to the bed.

"Hey, what do you know, it's my lawyer."

Chance didn't even have to look to know that Greg was following him into the room. This tall, sandy blond young man was Chance's manager and friend. However, it seemed that, even now, Chance was still alone. Greg sat in a chair by the window, watching the TV with interest.

"I've been trying to call you."

Chance, still staring at the picture, replied, "Oh yeah? I've been on the phone. Sorry."

Greg noticed the phone off the hook and reached over to replace it, saying, "I see that! I hope I'm not interrupting."

Chance snatched the phone out of Greg's hand and set it back down where it had been.

"Hey, don't do that! I'm waiting for a call!"

"It must be important." Greg leaned back again, looking at Chance warily. "I think you might not have to wait for it. She's here already!"

Chance snapped his head as he looked at Greg for the first time.

"What do you mean she's here?!"

"She's here! She just got here. I had to climb over balconies just to miss her. She's in Cowboy's room now, I swear!"

Chance relaxed a little. He fingered the picture for a moment.

"Who's here, Greg?"

"Tara! Who did you think I was talking about?"

Chance shifted, relaxing, "Oh! So, she's here, is she? Maybe I should just call the police now and save us all a lot of time."

Greg sniffled, rubbing his nose, with a laugh that he tried to choke back but betrayed his face with a smile. He made no reply.

On his lap, he clutched a folder. He sat up and opened it. From it, he withdrew a stack of eight by tens that Chance had earlier agreed upon. Now would be the only time he might be able to get Chance to autograph them before he became preoccupied with Tara, or Terror, as the crew called her.

Chance saw what was coming and tried to make a break for the door, but before he could even stand up, Greg thrust them in his direction.

"Can I have you autograph, sir?"

Busted, Chance settled back down. He picked up the first picture and studied it.

"Don't we have someone else who can do this?"

"I'm sorry, Chance, but I can't condone forgery. I do have ethics, you know."

Their eyes met. Both burst into laughter. Greg was not above reproach. Chance had learned that the hard way. He still couldn't quite talk about that day. Trust was gone and it might not ever be possible again. Nothing new to Chance, or so he told himself. It was better left unsaid. This tour had already been cut short. Chance had been kicked out of towns he had never even been to before that day. Kicked out of towns her had never heard of before . . .

Greg stood up, stretching his arms. He started to head to the door but paused to watch the television for a moment, commenting, "This is a great movie! I've never seen it before. Twice, in fact."

He continued to watch, waiting for Chance to reply. No response. Suddenly he became uncomfortable, self-conscious. Greg had seen this look before and it wasn't good. Whatever Chance was looking at came from deep inside his mind. He turned to leave, sad.

Lately, Chance didn't seem like himself. Backstage at New York's Light House arena, technicians . . . roadies . . . worked steadily to set up gear for the show that night. In an hour or so, Chance would arrive to begin sound check and everything had better be ready to go or there would be trouble. The last tour manager had been replaced for reasons undisclosed. Greg knew there was a lot of tension in the air. No one discussed but everyone knew why.

Her name was Tara, named for the Earth Goddess, Terra, and she definitely was a mundane spirit. News of her arrival that day spread like a fire in the Hollywood hills. It was every bit as destructive, too. Morale sank as time drew near. Her presence created magic sometimes and the show would shine! Most of the time, disaster. It made Chance moody. No one was safe then.

Chance left the phone off the hook most of the day but once she materialized, he couldn't avoid her. She was good. She was bad. She was here! Beautiful, stunning Tara captivated the man. Even Greg knew better than to try to stop her. Chance was no match. Something about her was wrong. Everyone could see it except him. Or maybe he just chose not to see.

Greg tried to play it off but he was sure Chance could read his mind. Small talk did little to change the mood. As he reached the door he remembered the envelope tucked in his pocket. Something inside told him to hesitate but before it could stop him, he tossed the envelope on the bed.

Chance signed the photos until Greg left. Once the door was shut, Chance caught the postmark on the letter. As always, there was no return address but he knew who it was. Like a flash, it hit him. He stiffened.

Greg might have noticed his reaction had he not escaped into the hallway. What else could he do at the point? He sensed what was inside the envelope. It was none of his business. Actually, it had been his business all along. A glorified mailman, he called himself. It hadn't come to pass but if it did, he believed that it would be the only thing to tear their friendship apart. Not only would he lose his friend but Greg could lose his job.

He didn't have many friends. Or jobs.

Chance reached for the envelope. Perfume wafted from the inside as he tore the end of it. Its contents spilled onto the bedspread. The first line stood out:

"Where have you been all my life?"

It was cliche` but it hit him like a freight train anyway. Shocked, he reached for his notebook. Still open to that page, the words screamed. He didn't even have to look to know, to verify. There, in his own handwriting, was the latest entry. Not even fifteen minutes earlier, he had written:

"Where have I been all my life?"

What a question. It was the story of his life. He didn't remember where he came from anymore, which tour he was on. When interviewed, he had answers stick in his throat. Sometimes, he would read the article later and be surprised. Had he really said that? It was the pressure.

Instant success had scared him. It could have crumbled at any moment, and if it had, where would he have gone? Even though by now he had his career mapped out before and behind him, like a guide through the wilderness, he still sensed a threat.

What if the house of cards crumbles to the ground?

Who would be with him? What about Tara? Or Greg? Would they stick around if the whole thing just collapsed? He wanted to believe that they would, but . . .

As each year passed, Chance became more jaded, more thick-skinned to it all. Inside, however, he felt like a target. Years of pain froze behind his intense hazel eyes. His wide-eyed innocence faded, replaced by a look of cool indifference that now passed for charm. Sick apprehension no longer followed him on stage. He turned pro. Now his eyes twinkled, pouted or just stared into the distance, but said nothing more. At least in public.

Now staring blankly into the smoke, his eyes filled with tears, stinging, blurring the light from the TV. Blinking back the pain, he noticed the picture. It was new. Nice, too. The girl wore a silk robe. Surrounded by candles, she looked like an angel. Next to her stood a mirror. Something was in the reflection. He strained to see it. It was him! Surprised, he laughed out loud. Shaking his head in disbelief, he mused,

"This girl goes to great lengths, doesn't she?"

Reaching for the pen on the nightstand next to the clock radio, Chance knocked over the ashtray and sent it tumbling. Ignoring it, he picked up the notebook. Automatically, the words poured forth in blue ink, gliding across the white lined paper.

This song would one day go on to be recorded, re-mastered, released, performed, aired, licensed, sold to the highest bidder, commercialized, plagiarized, bastardized, loved, hated, satired, and would one day infiltrate even the daytime soap opera's list of popular background music. It was destined for better elevators everywhere.

But this, on the first day of its creation, was nothing more than a pick-up line. The question posed a sense of sadness that would forever haunt him and drag him reluctantly back to this occasion. He looked at the page before him, at words that stared back:

Where have you been all my life?

Just as he set the book down, a knock came from the door. It was familiar, causing his heart to race. His hands felt clammy, a cold sweat. It was that knock he had been avoiding but now that it came, he felt his self-control slip away. The night ahead was going to be good. He slammed shut the notebook and slid it under the mattress.

"Yeah, tonight is going to be good!"

Her scent drifted in ahead of her, as always. As he swung the door open, Tara charged into the room uninvited. Falling into his arms, she covered his face with kisses. It was great to see her. He had forgotten about the last time already, and besides, what did it matter? It was over now.

"Oh, Chance!! I'm your #1 fan! I am madly in love with you! Take me right now! Take me right here on the table, Chance. No, wait! Over here, take me over here. No, that's no good either. Damn it, Chance, you never take me anywhere!"

He reached for her, bent her backward into a deep dip, and kissed her roughly on the neck. He knew it would begin to tickle. It always did. Soon, she was giggling, squirming to get free. He never let her get away too easy.

Magic happened that night!

Chance arrived late for sound check. Tara went on her way, wild-eyed with hair to match. She'd be back. Or not. He knew better than to expect her. It was understood.

The auditorium was filling up nicely, considering that the show wasn't scheduled to start for another hour. His limousine sank into the throng of concert-goers. Faces and hands appeared in the tinted windows of the ride. The local police had to hold back the crowd. Television reporters waited anxiously at the back stage door. That's when he began to laugh.

"What's so funny?"

Greg was trying not to be ticked off as he followed Chance to the dressing room.

"You missed sound check! But at least you're smiling!"

Greg trotted to catch up with him.

"Uh, the green room is this way!"

He reached to grab Chance's arm, who yanked away and kept walking.

"You're not going to do sound check now, are you?"

"Yeah, why not?"

Greg pulled him to stage left, pointed into the light. From the darkened stage, Chance tried to estimate the number of people milling about the arena.

"Seven thousand people, dude! There's seven thousand of 'em out there."

"No, there's not! There's seven thousand and two. There's two more . . . uh, two more just, you know, came in . . . You're not amused, are you?"

Greg tried to look stern but couldn't. A huge smile spread across his face.

"Don't worry! I had Gene check your stuff so we shouldn't have a problem with . . . hey, where are you going, Lee?"

With a shrug, Chance Lee mounted the stage.

The audience recognized him immediately, went wild. This venue held over twenty thousand people, but the echo of the fans swelled, filling the hall with life. A spotlight appeared, jerkily searching for its subject. His hand shaded his eyes, a gesture he wouldn't normally do on stage, but then again, neither was this.

"Hey, New York!"

New York yelled back. This was certainly unusual, people commented to each other. Aren't you glad we came early?

"I was detained this afternoon . . ."

The crowd laughed. Realizing what he implied, he amended his statement.

"Delayed! No, I didn't go to jail, thank you for your concern! I, uh, . . . had a visitor, and I just track of time, and . . ."

"Who was she, Chance? " One tiny voice cried out.

"Ooooooh!!" screamed the others. "Whooooo?"

He looked back at Greg, who shook his head and laughed. This was going great. The media would have a field day with this. Chance turned back to the mass.

"Gee, guys, it was great talking to you! See ya!"

At that, he spun around and walked off stage.

The fans went hysterical. They were sorry now. But just as Chance began to step off, Greg met him at the stairs. With one spin, Greg had him facing the other way again and pushed. It was sheer slapstick.

Now back at the microphone, Chance continued.

"What do you say, guys? Should we kick his ass after the show?"

Someone yelled, and everyone laughed.

"What was that?" Chance squinted, looking in the direction from which is came.

"Why wait?" Chance chuckled, looking back at Greg, who had his fists poised, ready. From the dark, they could hear his tiny voice yell,

"Bring it on!"

The concert hall roared. Greg jumped backward, into the tech that brought Greg a live microphone, just in case. He took it, clearing his throat over the P. A. system.

"Ahem, is this thing on? Uh, Chance, this is Greg. Um, there's something I have to go do . . . faraway from here . . . so if you'll excuse me . . . I'm, uh."

He shoved the mic into the technician's chest and ran like hell.

Back in the hospitality room, some of the crew asked him what was happening out there. He just shrugged, speechless.

On stage, Chance was primed! He was beginning to feel alive. As he explained to the crowd his situation, he watched people running into the arena doors at the top of lower prom, scrambling to find their seats. It was the quickest he'd ever seen a place fill, and quite fun!

"You see, I was answering some fan mail and I had a lot to say. So, I'm running a little late for sound che . . ., wait a minute. From your point of view, I'm early! What do you know, Greg? I'm early!!"

Backstage, all eyes turned to Greg. He was on his second shot of Cuervo. "We're having a little technical difficulty right now . . ." Chance continued. "Technically, I'm not ready. So, as a special segment of tonight's show, free with the purchase of one ticket at regular price, I bring you the portion of the show that we in the industry refer to as sound check. But before that, I want to hear from the people who bought their tickets at regular price."

The crowd boomed.

"Now, just the scalpers!"

Even louder.

"That's what I thought!!" Grabbing the microphone dramatically, Chance did his best Elvis impression, "And a one, and a two, a one, two, three, four!"

Just as he leaped into action, he froze. Straightening back up, the performer looked over his shoulder. Dead silence filled the dome. All watched as he turned away from them. He started looking all over the stage, behind speaker cabinets, even offstage. He returned, appearing confused.

"Where's the band? Didn't I have a band on this tour?"

He put the microphone back on the stand.

"Show up early and for what? Sound check?! Hello? Is this thing on?"

He tapped the mic.

"I want to introduce my band to you. On the drums, is Manny."

He cupped the microphone and spoke in a low, creaky voice.

"Greg, uh, could please give a message to Manny. And the others. There's some people here to see them."

He encouraged the crowd.

"Uh, Greg? Tell them New York wants to see them!!"

A moment later three guys came running onto the stage. Once introduced, they took their places. It was a little harder to get Manny to come out of the bathroom, where he had locked himself in for the last two and a half hours. He wasn't alone this time, at least, . . . as if that ever mattered.

By the time the show was supposed to have started, the house was lit. This show was on . . .

Hours later, Chance sat alone in his hotel room. The lights were out, the TV was on but silent. Just as he finally stretched out to relax, he snapped on the radio. A voice told him the time and temperature. Then the guy said,

"Tonight's show at the Light House arena sold out. And I mean that in a nice way. And in a surprise move, Chance actually tuned up for this show."

"What the hell do you mean by that?" Chance sat back up. He almost called the station but decided that it wasn't worth his time. If April had been there, she would have dialed the phone for him. But she wasn't there, and he didn't call. Looking at his clock, he calculated it to be 3 AM in Majestic. The true witching hour.

He turned off the television. A few minutes later, the radio followed.

During the night, he tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable. He was being chased. Out of the hotel doors, he landed in the woods. Behind him, the hotel had been swallowed by the void.

"I've got to get home!!"

Leaves rustled ominously, but from which direction? A low, rattling growl came from the right. He could smell something, and thought,

That's strange! I can smell in my dreams.

That's when it attacked! At first, he saw nothing but a blur as it missed him the initial time. But when he turned, he saw her. It was a she-wolf, red-eyed and bloody from a recent kill. He could smell the blood.

I'm coming to get you. I'm already here!

He ducked behind a tree, came face to face with it. Spinning around, again he was trapped! I'm too young to die! I've got to get home! Then a thought flashed into his mind. Packs! There's more!! Others appeared from the brush. The bitch's lip curled back into a sneer, its face distorting into a grimace that made it look like it was trying to smile. Chance ran. Once out of the woods, he came to a clearing. On the other side of the field, home.

Warm light spilled from its windows, the door was open. Haloed in brilliance, stood the woman. We've been waiting for you. He stopped in his tracks.

It's another trap.

That's when he saw the dragon. It hovered in the sky over the house. Behind him, he heard the dogs. Then he felt them strike. He died.

When the scream ripped from his throat, he woke in a cold sweat. Now on the floor, he sensed a warm wet liquid spreading through his clothes. Oh, God! I've peed the bed. Switching on the light, he saw the blood.

Pieces of the broken ashtray protruded from his arm. The dream faded from view. Now that he was fully awake, he made it to the bathroom to treat his injuries. Later, he would take some teasing from the crew. Fell out of bed, huh? Explain that. He wasn't sure, but he might need a couple of stitches. And some aspirin.

Far away from the hotel where Chance tried stop the flow of blood that now seeped through the complimentary towels, a veil fell over the netherworld. In the swirling fog, the dragon paced to and fro, impatiently awaiting for the return of its minion. Alive again! The spell was cast.

V - The Hierophant

 

"I've been waiting a while to meet you. For the chance to shake your hand. To give you thanks for all the suffering you command. And when all is over and we return to dust, who will be my judge and which one do I trust? Angst . . ."

Stone Temple Pilots

Naked Sunday

November 8:

Now that she was back in Majestic, Texas, April felt foreign. Hometown friends eyed her with envy, or was it contempt? Unfortunately, what bothered her most dawned on her one morning as she watched the sun rise over the tree line. Torn from her vision was the view. Trees towered overhead like prison bars. Now she saw only trees where once she saw the forest. No mountains here, only molehills. And no one seemed to understand that either. How could she explain flying to people who refused to even walk?

Los Angeles wasn't so far away, was it? Only 1500 miles or one phone call away. But she was here now. She didn't miss the mayhem but the chaos couldn't be matched here. Utter frenzy did have its entertainment appeal. Here, she was safe, comfortable, and bored out of her mind!

Too much time to think, to remember!

Majestic stood to remind her of all her failures, now and back then. She might have been safe but she was also sorry. This wasn't better than the insanity! Each passing day brought another gray hair, another wrinkle, another daydream. Silence seemed deafening. Scanning her new 'hood, April could see one, maybe two houses from the porch. No life anywhere!

'Cept that dog over there. Get out of here!

Back inside the trailer, she opened the windows and shades. At least summer was over. The bugs weren't bad either this time of year. Back in August, she had been so miserable! No window unit air conditioning have could produced enough cold to make her happy. Snow spitting out of the vents might have been acceptable. It was her re-initiation into Hell.

Now those were distant days. Farther away than LA. She had managed to get a job here, at Big T's of all places. Gone were all her illusions of the place. She lived farther away from the bar than she had as a child and spent the summer hitching rides to and from work. Walking was the last resort. She wasn't scared to hitchhike here. After LA, not much here could scare her. She wouldn't take rides from drunks, vans, or cars with more than one guy in it. Most of the time, she felt safe. Half the time, it was someone she knew. In LA, it was the people she knew that scared her the most. Not here!

As the sun began to set on her day off work, April sat in the quiet darkness of her living room. Natasha slept peacefully in her bedroom down the halls. In the mirror across from her, she saw that her honey colored hair was messy. Her face hadn't seen make-up today, maybe not even yesterday. And maybe not tomorrow either. It wasn't hard to compete with the women in this town. Having teeth was a big plus. This was her down time anyway. Even at work, she didn't feel pressure to look fabulous either. By closing time, any redneck loved her. Tried to.

Tonight however, this was her time! She stayed home suddenly inspired to start, re-start, an old project. Her blue shag carpet became a sea of papers, notes, and books. Candles flickered softly in her eyes. Before her, a deck of ancient cards, the Tarot, were spread out across the floor. To one side, a stack of reference books waited. In front of her, a chocolate leather, hand-bound journal lay open. Its pages now scrawled notes and memos, illustrations and poems. Its written testament represented April's life. My neurosis.

To the untrained eye, these notations seemed unintelligible. To April, these symbols contained the secret.

On the first blank page somewhere near the middle of the book, with Jimmy Page on the stereo, she re-created The Chart. Years of dedicated study resulted in this one picture, still unfinished and yet so familiar that it now seemed elementary to her. What is it for, anyway?

She knew what the circles meant, the crescents, and each squiggle. But what relevance does it have to the real world? Fourteen years ago, this flooded into her mind. Twelve years ago, she met Chance. (Symptom of the universe, a love that never dies.) Luckily, she discovered that Black Sabbath was awesome and because of her twenty year late coming, she wasn't burned out on them. They spoke to her, like all music does, but it didn't make her want to stalk them.

So why is Chance different?

In the chart, it showed.

But so what?

From time to time, a new revelation would come, its insight would be recorded, dated, and memorized. Then the pattern appeared. After fourteen years, even this became routine. She read over the chart carefully, searching for even a tidbit of new information. Nothing.

As she saw it, everything she had ever written had been so directed to him that she wondered if she hadn't met him or fallen in love, maybe this chart would look differently to her. Unfortunately, she couldn't imagine anything but what she still saw here.

Twelve years.

Tonight, she wasn't going to worry about that stupid old chart. Tonight, she was going to do what she should have done back in Los Angeles. It had to be done.

I've been thinking about this for too long! It's the only way!!

You are cordially invited to attend

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party & Charity Ball

 

Like so many times before, she wrote this with determination and enthusiasm. Once again, she filled page after page with details. Who to invite, what would be served, how the invitations would look. These were important decisions, but after years of practice, she was getting too good at this part of the assignment. It didn't take her too long to finish.

Then came the unusual part. She stood up to retrieve the package that she brought home the day before. She felt her heart race as she kneeled back onto carpet. From the plastic bag, she withdrew a rather large box. She ran her hands over it lovingly. It represented a lifetime of work, and a good chunk of her last paycheck. Inside the box, she possessed a thousand dreams. It was the only one of two of its kind. April made sure of that. The other, she locked away as a souvenir.

It was only natural that she started with him, after all, he was the reason she even did this. But which one should he get? She ran her fingers through the box, shuffling the only puzzle she ever bought. On top of that, what made it unique was that she designed it herself. Two-sided, it revealed all of her secrets. On one side The Chart. On the other . . .

She gave up looking for his piece. It would tell her when the time came. At this rate, at the very least, she had a nifty puzzle. This time is different!

All night into the early morning hours, April went through the stack of notebooks, retrieving names and addresses of the guests. Her files overflowed with names and numbers of the celebrities that she had come into contact with back in LA. It became a monumental task, all the while her mind raced with discouraging thoughts. Thoughts of embarrassment and failure surfaced throughout the whole night, but by dawn, she had completed enough to realize that this project lived.

Several blanks existed in each invitation, such as date and place of the event but otherwise, she felt satisfied with her efforts. Blowing out the candles, she decided that she needed to rest before the baby awoke. Creeping softly past her sleeping daughter's bedroom, she paused only long enough to watch the faint rise and fall of the child.

Startled, she turned her head quickly just to see a small figure fade into the shape of a chair draped with laundry. Oh my! I need to get some sleep!! She chuckled under her breath, and sighed. It's been ages since I've seen something like that! But she didn't really want to conjure up those old memories. Ghosts were better laid to rest.

From her bedroom, she noticed a glimmer of light in the hall. Exhausted, she had to force herself to get back up. In the living room, a single flame burned brightly. I thought I blew this out! She puffed it gently, then waited to make sure it was extinguished. Smoke wafted upward, fanning like a ribbon. She smelled the burning wax but with it came a sweet smell. Closing her eyes, she tried to place it. The scent was very familiar.

Stretching, she gave up and returned to her bed. A moment later, she was out.

The trailer was motionless, except for a shadow that floated over the furniture, across the floor, and to the journal. It coiled around itself into a orb, which spiraled downward until it touched the page. Then it disappeared. First one sheet rose, then another until The Chart appeared. There the entity drew itself into the picture. The book slammed shut.

Chance dreamed about the past, but not his past. Night visions flashed relentlessly across the screen. War and peace, heaven and hell, love and betrayal. Just as he solved one problem, another arose. Why are these my problems? His mind saw hidden cameras, the beast computer, the world of human slavery. Books burned by the believers, who suffered silently behind their walls of fear and shame. Intolerance, indolence . . . nothing ever changed.

But I don't want to be . . .

He pushed away the world and the world went dark. Coming to the surface once again, he focused on the television. Oh Jesus! I spent an all-nighter with Mr. Optimist. He switched off Jimmy Swaggart.

Now that he was up anyway, he decided to look at the package he had gotten from Greg that morning. All day long, he stared at it, anxious about opening but too intrigued not to do so. Now seemed like a good time. In it was a dark leather journal. Inside, page after page of hand written text. It fell open to the chart in the center of the book, as if years of use warped it to that page.

Just like Mom's National Geographic magazine collection.

He read the slip of paper that fell to the floor.

No way! I'm not going to do that!

But he couldn't help himself. Walking away didn't help, nor did television. His mind nagged endlessly. Twenty one minutes later he lit the candle and sterilized the needle. Ow! His finger gave up one drop of blood. He dotted it onto the page, right in the center of the fore head like instructed.

Now what?

Nothing happened so he went to the bathroom to doctor his finger. When he came back, he noticed that the candle had blinked out. The smoke reeked like burning wick so he reached over to retrieve the air freshener.

There, that's better!

Sleep came over him, so he went back to bed. The Los Angeles sun would blaze in his eyes in a few hours. Looking at his clock, he figured that she would be seeing it shortly. Dreams were sweet but unremembered when he did finally rise for the show.

April dreamed of a man that she needed to find. Gods and dogs, all of them. She was summoned to church. Find the priest.

VI - The Lovers

 

 

"This is everything that I have in my life - all the stupid junk I thought would bring me luck in finding the bastard. It's time to write a letter. I ain't got no ink besides lipstick and blood. Somehow, that's very fitting!"

Winter Steele

Liquid Television / MTV

December 9th: Yesterday had been especially rough on April, as a storm blew Majestic unseasonably rough and hadn't let up a bit. Thunder quaked the tiny trailer, mercilessly. Sleepily, she went to the baby, whose tears streamed down her red, flushed face. Lightening flashed dangerously close. Counting the seconds between the flashes and the crashes, she knew it was heading her way.

As Natasha, whose first birthday was a little over two weeks away, attempted to feed herself, April prepared for the oncoming storm.

Batteries, get the jugs of water, and, what else? She told the toddler how to get ready for bad weather in Texas. Having a kid sure comes in handy when you talk out loud to yourself.

She tried to locate the manual can opener in case the electric opener went out during the storm.

I guess that would make it a can't opener, wouldn't it?

After breakfast, a quick scramble of eggs and toast, the two settled down in the living room. April watched the weather reports while Natasha scribbled on her banner, which was intended to hang in the girl's bedroom. She steadily worked on the S of the huge printed paper, which read N A T A S H A.

Mostly, though, the baby wanted to chew on the crayons.

Today, she would finish the first draft of the invitations. All she needed to do was fill in the blanks. But, she still didn't have the information yet.

No matter, it'll come . . .

When the lights went out, around ten that morning, it scared both of them. A thunderclap boomed, rattling the house, which sent tumbling the pictures that had been on the mantle. Four fell but only the picture of the Virgin Mary (Madonna and Child) shattered on the brick fireplace. Now she's crying! April felt along the edge of the broken glass, secretly hoping to cut her finger. It didn't. That's when she thought about the journal.

I wonder if he got it.

She put Natasha down for a nap and that gave her time to think about all the crap that ran constantly though her mind. Science or religion, politics and life in the universe, would rise to the surface, flit briefly through her vision and then sink back into the quiet recesses.

If nothing exists in a vacuum, then why do I have to empty the bag?

Numerous times, people witnessed her streams of visions, and sat transfixed by her words for hours, even days. They came and went, marked by the meeting with the strange little woman who talked too much. Later they recalled that what she had said was rather important, but which now slipped the mind. One person understood her if anyone did . . . May. It's too bad that she stayed out there. April knew that her younger sister loved California, and while she wouldn't have dreamed of wanting her to come back to this dingy, boring little town, I just pray that she's safe.

While the storm raged on, April let her mind drift back to when she and May went to that first show. She hadn't really wanted to go but if she didn't take her younger sister, Mom and Dad would have. Social death to any teen. All May talked about that month was how Chance Lee is coming, listen . . .

May wore out the forty-five record that she bought, and was still saving up for the album. April had plenty of cash but wasn't convinced by the pleading of her sibling. The album would have to wait.

The day of the show, some of May's excitement rubbed off on April. She felt the chills run through her body as she dressed for the show. She dressed carefully in an outfit that Mom would have hated, had she been there. Luckily, she and Dad went out to dinner that night. May oohed and aahed over it.

Clad in black, April looked like lady evil, lace and leather. Her lace shirt hugged her breasts, then tapered into the full length black skirt. Underneath she wore silk stockings with thigh high black suede boots, and nothing else. The March air caught her by surprise, as it was her first time to go bare. May wore jeans and a t-shirt with his picture on it. April hurried out to the car before she got busted. May read the map and controlled all stereo functions. Of course, she brought the tape she made by holding the cassette player in front of the radio. On the way to the show, she listened to the first song he ever made . . . over and over.

At the theater, the crowd was bustling, trying to get into the building. April and May locked up the car, a 1966 Mustang with pony interior. The crowd looked pretty tame, but by 1985 crime had hit the suburbs. They followed the crowd through the parking lot.

Outside the main gate, a gnarled, hunched woman sold roses. April fumbled through her purse, pulling out a dollar for the yellow rose. The yellow rose of Texas. As she turned to walk away, the woman called out to her.

"You're going to need this one!"

When April turned back, the woman held out a red rose tied with a tiny white ribbon. April shook her head, "No, thank you 'mam, one is enough."

"No, girl, come take this one to the man inside. You're all dressed up for the party. You need to take a gift to the host! Or didn't your mother teach you right?"

The rose lady wouldn't take any money for it, so with a shrug and a giggle, April entered the concert. Their seats were toward the back of the room, disappointing April immediately. It wasn't that far away, but since the venue was rather small, she felt like they were in the cheap seats. But down in front, she saw two seats, first row. Then she saw a whole row.

The first act magically appeared on stage, amidst smoke and lights. Halfway though the third song, she decided to go down front. She dragged May down the aisle, who protested the whole way. By the time Chance came on, it was clear that they had found their seats. By his third song, April stood up to go get a drink. As if that was the cue, everyone rushed the stage. April and May scrambled for position, and landed front and center. The show was on . . .

I was sitting in the doorway, looking at both worlds,

You came right through me. You weren't like other girls.

I had never seen you before that day,

Not really sure, so what more can I say?

Who were you to me?

Out on a limb, I let myself go,

Who were you then? How will I ever know?

I don't know who she is to me.

I haven't met her yet.

She might not even be for real.

But I know that I'll never forget . . .

Momentary magic

Out on a limb . . .

Waiting for the call, when did it start?

And when will it all come to an end?

And the crowd sang in unison, Momentary Magic . . .

Chance's eyes met April's.

By the fourth song, her heart was pounding. He was the one running back and forth on stage, but she was perspiring. She stood transfixed while all around her screaming fans jostled her about. In her left had, she remembered the rose. She held it out for him. A moment later, he came back and gently took the rose from her. He kissed her hand,

"Thanks for coming to see me!"

May screamed in her ear.

Lightening crashed again, startling April. She looked at the television, brought silent by the storm. Nothing on TV today.

After that first show, April remembered waiting in line for a t-shirt. She put it in her purse, making sure no one followed them too closely. Some people jumped others in the parking lots for their shirts, or so she had heard. Outside, the two stepped up to cross the street when a white stretch limousine pulled slowly past. April froze in her tracks.

Inside the limo, Chance watched the crowd outside. He expected attack, but people were more intent on beating the traffic than noticing the car. That's when he saw her. Their eyes met, but how? These windows are tinted, aren't they?

She crossed the street behind the limo, which pulled to the intersection and turned left. Across from the theater was a parking lot, which was emptying out rapidly. She and May approached the stairwell, which led to their car. Before May went through the door, April stopped her.

"Wait a minute!"

The limo had made another left and was slowly cruising in front of them on the street across the lot. At that light, it signaled another left.

"May, see the car? Do you think that it might be Chance in there?"

"I doubt it."

"Well, they are watching us, whoever it is!"

Both girls stopped to watch. Now the car headed back toward the theater, having made the circle. April waved. Suddenly, the car veered wildly to the right, made the right turn without signaling and with a screech of tires, it disappeared into the distance.

April smiled, secretly hoping it was him.

Back in the car, April asked May, "What did you think of the show?"

"It was awesome! What did he say to you anyway?"

April sensed jealousy, "Oh, I don't know. I couldn't hear him, really."

May stared out the window, "You're so lucky! Did you see? He put your flower on the piano. What do you think happened to it?"

"I don't know. Somebody probably threw it away."

Back at the hotel, the band piled into the lobby, fighting for the elevators. Security had been alerted but the motley crew dissipated before anyone could react. Chance led eight people to his room. Inside, the party began. Clothes came off, and the alcohol kicked in. Two girls later, he noticed the rose.

"Who brought that in here?!"

No one replied.

"No really! Who brought that rose in here?!"

Eight blank faces turned to him, but no one spoke. Greg sat upright, looking through one bloodshot eye. The girl next to him slept.

"Maybe the maid brought it for you, Lee."

Chance didn't argue but he knew that rose. It still had the ribbon on it.

Who are these girls?

"Greg, I'm going to your room. Gimme the key."

Chance packed up his stuff and left the room. The last things he grabbed were a bottle of Stoli and the rose.

At home, April had gone straight to her room, having to sneak quickly past her parents' room, evading a sighting. Mom hated when she wore her favorite clothes. And this outfit was the best, the worst.

Stevie Nicks ain't got shit on me tonight.

Shutting the door behind her, April put on the t-shirt. It smelled so new. In the mirror, she looked at his face. Then she lit a candle and smoked a joint. Snapping on the stereo, she heard a re-broadcast of the concert. Quickly, she slammed in a cassette and pressed the record button. May had passed out in her clothes, so she knew better than to wake her. She can hear it tomorrow.

Music swelled in her ears, the headphones hugging her warmly. The silent room glowed in candle light, hazy from the incense. Her eyes glimmered in the mirror, like his. She studied his face. Then the song came on.

I was sitting in the doorway, looking at both worlds . . .

She moved rhythmically to the beat, when she contemplated,

I wonder if you can hear him say it.

"Thanks for coming to see me!"

Her heart skipped a beat. It's there!! She laughed, exhilarated, and hugged the shirt, No, thank you!

That's when it started.

By dusk, the storms had subsided. The power came blinking on, making April clap. Right away, she put on the first album As Fate Would Have It. The first cut on it was Momentary Magic. Chills ran through her, standing her hair on end. She listened to that version, then followed it with the live album. There, right on the album, it said it:

"Thanks for coming . . ."

That night, Gramma (Mom) came to take Natasha home with her. The stillness of the house left April daydreaming endlessly. She forced herself to get back to the project. A month had gone by without any work, but since she had no deadline it was easy to slack. This time, she felt like she made progress but it was still the same old song.

Envelopes and invitations mounted in the finished box, but there was still so much work to do that she had to distract her thoughts to keep from becoming discouraged. The memories returned.

After April had gotten a buzz, she got an idea. Slipping out of the shirt, she posed topless momentarily in the mirror. Her nude body curved, shadowed in soft light, and she wondered if Chance would have liked it. Amused, she sat back down on the bed. Flipping over the shirt, she read the upcoming dates for the tour. The itinerary was right there! She got a wild idea.

She found an envelope. In a week and a half, he'll be in New York . . . Hello, I need the phone number of the Light House . . .

In a matter of minutes, she had what she was after.

The first envelope she sent had to be simple. She just wanted to say hello and remind him that she had been there. But what should I say? It had to be perfect.

I LIKED YOUR SHOW!

You are really sexy!!

Thanks for coming!

She sent it the next day.

She would have stopped there, except the dream came back. Six nights in a row, she floated down the aisle. On the seventh night she saw Chance. Behind him at the altar, she saw something else. A dragon.

The next day, she and the baby hung up the banner in Natasha's room.

VII - The Chariot

 

 

"To avoid complications, she never kept the same address."

Queen

Killer Queen

January 10th:

Beautiful, stunning Tara!

Beautiful, dangerous Tara. No one knew where she might be found. She never took them home. For months at a time, she would vanish. Then one day she would breeze through, brimming with excitement, full of stories from her adventures. To some, it might have seem grossly exaggerated, fabrications of fantasy, but those who knew Tara knew better.

She moved through life, stealth and sleek. Her long, nightshade mane fell wildly around her shoulders, down her back, framing a face so sensational that strangers stared. Even women caught themselves doing so. And, of course, there were the men . . .

More important, though, she was rich! Tara wielded money like a weapon. Anyone could be bought, . . . or sold. Growing up in Beverly Hills, she knew wealth, privilege. Power, corruption, greed, inequality, she recognized her lot in life very young. And no matter how much money came, it didn't erase the dirt.

Now she resided in the new estate. The rich and powerful moved away from the old neighborhood, replaced by the influx of the newly rich, immigrants. At one time, having a sheik or prince living nest door would have been an honor. But these days, the news of crime and immorality permeated this respectable community, forcing many of the good people to relocate farther down Sunset Boulevard. Her family went west, settling in Bel-Air.

Tara went east.

If the vibration of Beverly Hills resonated at middle C, West Hollywood sounded at a D. East of the well-manicured lawns where the children of the hired help would never play, Sunset turned nasty.

Tattoo parlors dotted the boulevard at night, cruised by the steady throng of the wild. Tourists feared this scene but always came, The Whiskey, the Roxy, the Rainbow. Ask for Mario. During the day, boutiques and bourgeois sidewalk cafes were filled with laughing people hoping to be seen by that one person driving by, most duly impressed. Past Fairfax, the nest section began to exhibit the strangeness that lay ahead. Bikers, rockers and hookers mixed appropriately enough, for the most part left alone by the boys in blue. At times, the police would stage busts, which would clear the area for a few minutes at a time, but ever since that King thing, the LAPD had been on the defensive. They had been offensive enough, or so the world said.

Then came Hollywood! Beautiful, stunning Hollywood. Beautiful? At one time it was the Mecca of desire, attracting the famous and the rich to its glamour. The glitter of fame and Fortune brought the huddled masses. Excitement radiated from the fresh-faced tourists and insanity gleamed in the eyes of the locals who were ready to help them part with their money.

Her streets were filled constantly with cars driven by the anxious who were in the way of the obnoxious. Exhaust, so thick now, veiled the sky in a muddy haze. Helicopters, banned from the air space over Beverly Hills, appeared constantly here. At night, they circled the neighborhoods using a spot lighting technique that would have made Hitler cream his jeans.

The back streets lit up by night, casting circles of light onto the sidewalks from the few remaining lamps. Small groups moved through the shadows like apparitions. Some were ghosts, but mostly the people who roamed until dawn were the hardcore. My kind of people! America witnessed the horrors of street life here during the day-time talk shows, but few understood that today's guest really does live under the bridge!

Tara wanted to go under the bridge.

"Why?"

"Why not?" She asked, conditioned to answer one question with another. It gave her time to think.

"Because," Ghost replied, " it could be dangerous!"

Had someone said that to him he would have laughed right in their face.

"Please, Ghost! You're the only one I can trust. I want to see this for myself. Come on," Tara pouted, batting her eyes.

While she knew this technique always worked, her mind raced in another direction. On the inside, another voice dominated her mind. It uttered its constant stream of obscenities so loud that quite often Tara was surprised that no one else could hear it. Even now, as she giggled in that perfected pitch, her mind-voice grew disgusted with the little creepy bastard.

On the surface, she seemed so attached to Ghost. She was one of many fine women in his entourage. She wasn't a regular and she had money, too. Big tits and drop dead gorgeous looks. Just his kind of woman.

Come on, you prick! I ain't got all night. I can do it without you, so you better make your choice now.

"But why?" He asked again.

"Because, I told you why! I saw them on TV and I want to help. Little kids homeless, living under the bridge . . ."

Now she bounced, as if no became maybe, jiggling her breasts noticeably. Ghost, the huge hulking biker, tossed his helmet to her, even though the bridge was only two blocks over. No one walks in LA.

She went under the bridge and came out with a couple of young runaway girls. The fifteen year old girl was new to the streets. Her sixteen year old companion had been there for two years. After a quick meal, the four left the diner, hailed a cab. Ghost followed closely behind on his motorcycle. The energy level down-shifted through West Hollywood into The Hills. Past Bel-Air, the night cooled into blue ocean.

Ghost knew where she lived, more or less, but he hadn't been there. Nor would he tonight. Tara checked the two girls into a seaside room in Malibu. She slipped the older girl a little something for the two of you. They disappeared down the hall.

"Now what?" Ghost pondered aloud, half expecting see ya! Instead Tara took his hand, and led him back to the bike. She pointed at his helmet. He cranked the motor while she fastened the bucket to her head. She had a plan.

The next day, with fake passports in hand, two young American girls set sail for France. Ghost and Tara split the money.

April managed to get a car, good luck or magic. She asked enough people for a free car, she actually got one. With a little work, she had wheels. Her mobile stereo blazed with Chance's Momentary Magic first. Wind in her wings, she felt alive again.

The Fate you create is your own she remembered some movie stated once, the bad guy, I think.

But it was true. She believed that all things had purpose, relevant to the spiritual growth of the soul. If it isn't meaningful then it's meaningless. She practiced the art of understanding and it came easy to her. Unlike most, she could see the wonders of life in all things. It wasn't a very popular position. Big T's wasn't exactly the center of enlightenment, and if she did go back to church, she'd say something and everyone would move away from her on the bench there . . .

Being a hermit was what she did best.

But now she had a car.

Chance drove past the hotel, seeing the biker couple in the parking lot and without a second look, he turned toward home. He'd only have two days before flying out again. Better make 'em good.

After Tara arranged the trip with Ghost's connections for the documents, and her friends, she slipped him a couple hundred bucks extra for his trouble, and summoned a cab. She was gone again..

Back at home, Tara laughed as she entered her new estate. Malibu was light years away from her family, and though they knew she bought the house, they hadn't managed to drop by yet. Just as well . . . they are the reason I moved. She wondered how the girls were doing, but decided against calling. She'd see them tomorrow.

Tonight, she had more important things to do. Chance was back.