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  • Lucid Tales – Eve

    Cold masks smells. Something I found myself surprisingly thankful for, once my body began to adjust to the frigid nature of the bus. To coin a phrase, we were the unwashed masses. I, reeking of a Bake house in its last stages of life, the wino with her collection of candy colored stains on layers of jackets, the two bullyboys clad in leather and sweat from the kicking’s they gave the night before.

    The boys didn’t try to hide what they were, leering from the raised back end of the bus as if they along were the sovereign rulers of this small icy kingdom. They gripped the safety bars with bloodied knuckles and smiled at any that bothered looking up at them. The world was simple for these boys. Strength, that’s all that mattered.

    Was it so different for our kind?

    “Our kind.” The words escaped in a croak as I realized how exhausted I really was. A J-pop princess looked up from a hand screen. It was a brief look then she returned to whatever she had been doing.

    The sun was breaking as the bus pulled into the station. Already the morning crowds were swelling around the transit bays. Facing another blast of frigid air, I’m reminded of the lingering chemical stench on my body. Although, no one else at the station seems to notice over the general aroma of men and women being herded off to their jobs.

    A tube takes me underground; the trains in Tiergarten ran deep. Well below the old rail lines, these tunnels were virtual public bomb shelters. Inside the affluent districts, there was a series of security checkpoints before reaching the trains. Out here on the outskirts of the city, they only cared if you could pay the toil. Not smart security since it’s the same trains.

    The appearance of security for those that believed in it, out on the outskirts, there was no need for pretense. Until I knew what Ember was, there was no going home. I needed answers and soon enough I would be another worm sinking into the pristine garden.



  • Lucid Tales – Canaan

    There is little that makes sense when I step out of the amphetamine-laced walls of the hole I met, really met, Ember in. The stench lingered on me, the chemical smell of boiling drugs. Snorting into my cigarette, ash balloons out in small carcinogenic tornadoes  There was no telling where I was walking too, or if I was heading towards anything in particular as I spat the cigarette from my mouth.

     

    Filthy, not the cigarette, me. Walking into that apartment building, I had been righteous. Now, I was just a man that lacked the courage of his convictions. She called us Nephilim, the sons of gods and daughters of men. Whatever that meant.  Before, I had been a detective, afterwards, I still was. There was no divinity to Lucidity. We were the same scared children crying in the dark and looking for answers.

     

    Maybe that is what was appealing about the Keepers. The Keepers did not try to explain our nature or the supernatural connections. They understood that people with power tend to abuse the powerless and that meant protecting the innocent. Maybe that resonated with my cop mind. Was it that simple though? Ember was a killer, the Dark was a hungry place and she shared that ravenous need for life.

     

    Who did she kill though? Killers, would be killers? Wasn’t that the protection of the innocent as well? Was she damned because of her gifts? If she were one of them, they would call her a vigilante, mundane, weak and something ultimately destined for failure or death. She was Lucid, or Nephilim, or whatever, and so it was unlikely any beat cop, pimp or drug dealer was ever going to be able to stop her. Why should I though? What gave me any greater authority over her?

     

    Sliding down into the hard plastic of a transit stop bench my eyes drift over empty streets. What would it be if everything was even? What if she was just a fly by night vigilante and I was still a real cop? She would have killed at least four people, no matter how justified; she would be arrested, and be forced to stand trial. We weren’t normal though were we?  There was no arrest; there was no judge or jury of her peers. She was Lucid and a killer. According to the Keepers that meant she had to die.

     

    She wasn’t just murdering random people, Ember knew them. Knew them in a way no mundane cop or judge could ever know the heart of a man on trial. Did that matter? According to the Keepers it didn’t. The murder of the mundane was justified only in the most extreme cases of defense. In the eyes of the Keepers she had to die.

     

    What was I then? I had seen this woman, heard the stories that no one shares. Nephilim she called us, more than man. Did that make us the incarnation of angels and demons? Somehow, I did not believe Ember though herself a god.  So why the pretentious titles?  That alone would sanction her execution.

     

    Nearly four and there was no escape from the heat on the street. Trying to put together any coherent thoughts seemed doomed to circular logic. Sweating and staring down the street at the oncoming bus I felt like a line assembler in one of the big auto plants. Only my one arm, the one that screws down the frame’s bolts is malfunctioning. It keeps tightening down, and I can hear the frame grinding in my mind.

     

    The bus arrives with a wave of heat and dust and neon adverts for some casino down the line in Little Osaka. Wiping the sweat from my face, my palm comes away wet and dripping grey. Automatic doors swing open and I go from the hell of a jungle’s fires to bitter snow. The blast of control air jars me, turns me into brittle and I can hear little chunks of myself breaking off as I stand to get into the bus.

     

    What part of me was being left out in the morning heat? I needed to think, and to do that, I needed to understand who Ember really was. I needed to know what it meant to be Nephilim.



  • Lucid Tales – Coins

    There was a distinct smell to a junk squat. It was a chemical smell that hung in the air, a smell that sober people knew instinctively to avoid. These instincts were cooked off, boiled from the primal lizard brain of a junkie’s mind. The smell of baking benzo carbazole meant pleasure not death to those so far gone they could be here.

    Pushing through the hall of addicts there was a different reaction. Those that still had mental faculties that extended beyond how to get their next fix scattered back into the walls. Feral eyes waiting for a badge, the swarm of armored men to come flooding in behind me. I wasn’t a cop. At least not in any sense they might comprehend judging from the state of this place.

    The carcinogenic stench was enough that I could smell it from the street. A late stage chemical hive, ready to burst, overflow spilling the death packed inside this worn out husk out into the world. Judging from glazed over faces from those too stoned to run I knew I was in the right place.

    Already I could hear people getting out of her way behind me. Turning into the stairwell residual training kicks in and I’m sprinting. Hand moves to where a shoulder holster had formerly resided. Cigarettes slap against the hand from inside the coat pocket as if to remind me I didn’t use a gun anymore.

    Rounding the fourth floor I gag gasping for air. There she was. Standing expressionless at the top of the stairs she waited for me.

    “How?” I hear myself say. Confused for a moment as to where the word came from. This wasn’t where we were supposed to meet. Worse she knew exactly where I had been going and now blocked the roof. As she sat at the top of the stairs her canvass jacket pooled, dripping down.

    “What do you think I am agent Harker?” She was in no hurry. Her words cold and smooth like polished steel. She knew my name and that made things worse. The only identifier I had for her was a case file number. “Ember, if that makes you feel more comfortable.” It didn’t.

    “What do you mean?” Trying to blank, words stumble out of my mouth. Can’t fight the training as the mental picture I had of this woman is updated from her display. The file had assumed she had been some low end fixer that had gone vamp. If that’s what the file said, I knew now it was only because she had wanted it too.

    “I had heard about you, the killer of Nephilim known to look the other way.”

    “Keepers.”

    “You are killers agent Harker, tell me why.” What good were any words I could muster?

    “I want to hear them, your words.” The stench of the drug lab, wherever it was in this building, seemed to thicken. Was someone starting a fresh batch of BCKD? It became hard to focus now. “Sit agent Harker, the fumes aren’t as bad.”

    Squatting back to the wall one leg eased out into a half slump on a stair. The other leg, two steps down, supported my weight. Hand clutching the railing I watched her, watching me. Pulling the pack of cigarettes from my pocket I offer her one. She shakes her head no and I go about the ritual of lighting my own.

    “Well.” Letting out a long exhalation of grey smoke I tried to put my thoughts together. “Well, you say killers, seems like your mind’s already made up. Maybe some of us are. I don’t know. Not if I can avoid it, but yeah, I’ve gotten burned for that.” Turning from her to the orange tip of the cigarette; ash drops onto the stairs below.

    “I don’t know who’ve you’ve dealt with in the past. There are always those that want power for the sake of power, to lord over someone. I know the Keepers, or the ones I’ve met, they’re not that type. It’s not about us, you know. It’s those people stuck in the real world, like that guy from tonight.”

    “Do you know what he wanted?” The calm in Ember’s voice turned arctic.

    “No.”

    “He wanted as many ampoules of ketamine as I could give him. You see agent Harker, he’s grown apart from his wife. Despises her now. She gets off on boys she brings home from the rave circuit. While K went out of style years ago he didn’t know that. What he did know is that his wife had talked about one of her partners ODing. A sad cuckold who’d rather see his wife dead, than live with the shame. That’s who you saved tonight agent Harker.”

    “How did you know?” A stupid question but I couldn’t help myself.

    “We are the children of gods; his sins are no mystery to me.” There was something about the way she spoke. “Nephilim.” Listening to her was like watching a period piece movie, but the dialog was sideways.

    “How old are you?”

    “Does it matter?”

    “No, I guess it doesn’t. So what happens now?”

    “That’s up to you.”



  • Lucid Tales – Our First Kiss

    She moved like heroin through a junkie’s veins. Never rushing, there was no point. Her prey always came to her. In the two AM light she was just another girl walking the street. No girlfriend experience just heat and sweat and bliss. That’s what everything she wore told you, from the black latex that sculpted her legs like swords to the thick leather belt straps that pretended to be a shirt. Black cherry stained her lips and eyes. Always moving; slow strides, a predator waiting for the right moment.

    If she saw me she didn’t say a word. We have a way of playing coy with one another, professional courtesy maybe. The other girls on the streets didn’t seem to notice when the neon from the bar across the street actually bothered to work. Maybe they didn’t care that every time the purple green rose sparked to life part of her seemed to snap out of focus, slipping back out of the shadows.
    Two AM and the heat still rolled up from the asphalt in waves of rubber and tar. I thought about lighting my cigarette but what was the point? My job was simply to stay still and pretend I was just another spectator.

    A low growl eases around the block. Headlights cast a robotic smile from behind a ram prow. The other girls scatter. They were too far from the red light district to pretend they were just walking home. Not her. Eyes stare into mirrored window of the police vehicle challenging them. I can feel her tell them to drive on without uttering a word. The light strip on the roof goes red yellow and back off. She watches expectantly. The police click their siren once and move along.

    The whir of the siren kicks off again as the turn the corner as if to say, we showed them. She hadn’t broken her stride as she paced the block. Looking at the concrete below me I force down a smile.

    Once I was naive enough to think cops took the job because they wanted to do the right thing. I was six. Now I wonder how many on the force weren’t just bullies that grew up or cowards waiting to prove how tough they are with their toys. Maybe I shouldn’t think that. It’s the kind of thought that if overheard meant you were never going to make it home. The kind of thought you’re never supposed to think even though you no longer bothered to play with those old toys.

    Another set of headlights, softer this time, radiating waves of guilt and fear. Inside the car was a tired looking man. Grey hair draped over his face in shame. The exchange was quick. She slipped into the car with hardly a word spoken. Timidly the vehicle lurched forward and into an awaiting alleyway. The engine idles with a purr.

    Dark shapes move inside the cab of the vehicle. She’s judging him. This was our third week together. She had to know I was judging her in the same way. Rummaging my pockets there’s a half used book of matches. Jáubā Lilly, I can’t help but look to the bar at the end of the street, absently tapping the matches against my hand.

    From below the yellow haze I watch as she mounts him. Bodies move awkwardly as they search for their rhythm. Arms slide around his neck as she leans in. Maybe it was a sense of tradition. Wincing I strained to see past the shadows. Lips graze his cheek as her head dips to just above her arms.

    A deep inhalation turns my cigarette into a vermillion flare. I was never good at following orders. We’re separated by half a block and a two lane street. My mind filled with a single message, let this one go. Under the shadows of towering buildings and the grey of the city night the spark seemed to catch in her eyes as they locked on to me, burning orange.

    Let this one go. You know who I am, what I am. Tonight you can be discerning, you know the ones, bastards, the beaters and abusers. There’s no point for this one. I had felt her message to the cops. No reason to expect she couldn’t hear me now. The question remained though, was she listening?

    He’s finished before my cigarette. All the while her eyes remained fixated on me. I don’t know if she could hear me but that was good enough. Out of the car, she hadn’t finished adjusting the vinyl thong that masqueraded as pants before it was out of the alleyway racing off at a speed I didn’t think it was capable of. Dropping the remainder of the cigarette my foot pivoted snuffing out the trail of smoke. She was moving towards me.

    It could have been that I was bad at following orders or maybe it was just time we met. Either way she was coming for me now.