Posted by: lordkyler | September 20, 2014

A New Age – Short Story

The third addition to the tale begun here and continued here.

•••

Eliza couldn’t take it any more. With a cry of frustration, she threw the covers off herself.

“We’re going,” she said. “C’mon, let’s do this.”

Dustin propped himself up on his elbows. “Seriously?”

Eliza was getting dressed hastily, in dark clothing. “You said tonight, right? We don’t have much time.”

Still Dustin did not get up, even though she could see his desire in every line of his body. “You don’t have to do this for me, babe,” he said. “Your happiness is more important to me than anything else, okay?”

“I’m not doing this because you want to, I’m doing this because you’re right.”

Dustin was agape. “Has the impossible occurred? Has the moon fallen from the sky and set the ocean on fire? Did you just admit I’m right about something?”

“Do you want to go or not, dummy?”

Dustin grinned an enormous grin. “You don’t have to ask me twice,” he said, and threw back the covers to reveal he was already dressed in dark clothing and wearing combat boots.

“You were going to go anyway!” Eliza accused. Jack shook his head, utterly guileless.

“No, I just knew you would come around. I can always count on you to do the right thing.”

“And if I hadn’t changed my mind?”

“Then it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. You’re my guide. I have utter faith in you.”

“Dustin,” she said, clasping her hands at her heart. “That’s so sweet.”

Dustin leapt from the bed in a single motion. “Are you finished yet, woman?” he asked with exaggerated exasperation. “We’re going to be late.” Eliza rolled her eyes, warm fuzzy feelings extinguished, and tossed Dustin the keys.

“You drive,” she said. Dustin smiled a terrifying smile.

•••

“Oh god, oh god, oh god,” Eliza prayed, eyes squeezed shut.

“Umm, we’re here,” Dustin said.

“I know, but we got here so fast I haven’t had time to panic about it all yet,” Eliza replied, fingers to her temples. “I’m still back at the garbage truck. For the love of all that is holy…”

“He hasn’t shown up yet,” Dustin said. “I think it would be better if we were waiting in the bathroom or something. You know, ambush him.”

“-How many yellow lights was that, by the time we passed the park? Twelve?”

“You can throw a can of beans or something. You’ve got better aim than I do, from softball.”

“And did you open your eyes even a single time? No. Did you even pretend that you were scared? No. And I’m over here losing my wits-”

“I’ll get in close and get the gun pointing at the ceiling. I’m getting really strong now, so it should be easy. Then we just go to town on the dude and leave before the cops show up. Sound good?”

Eliza suddenly stiffened in her seat and let out a small gasp.

“What’s the matter?” Dustin asked. “Did you see him?”

“No. Yes. Sort of! He’s not coming here. They sent a cop car to the area and he headed for the Texaco by the freeway. We have about five minutes.”

Dustin didn’t question her for a second. “It’s ten minutes away, and that’s if I’m driving.”

“Then get going!” Eliza shrieked. “He’s ready to kill someone!”

Dustin pulled out and floored it.

•••

“Do you have the slightest idea how fast you were going?” the officer demanded. His badge said his name was Harrison. Dustin had known an officer Harrison as a teenager. Given his history, he didn’t think that would score him any points. He imagined they still spoke about the tuna incident down at the station.

“It’s an emergency, sir!” he protested. “We… well…”

He looked at Eliza. An entire silent conversation passed between them. He turned back to the officer.

“My wife, I think she’s giving birth!” The scarcest of pauses followed this declaration, after which Eliza doubled over shrieking.

“Oliver!” she screamed. “Oliver’s coming, baby!”

“I told you I hate the name Oliver!” Dustin screamed back.

“Well if you want a Kevin so bad you can get pregnant and have one yourself!” Eliza said before falling victim to another round of contractions.

The officer frowned. “I have several children, sir. Your wife is not pregnant.”

“Are you calling my wife fat? How dare you, sir! She is a picture of radiant… pregnosity!”

Eliza sat back in her chair. “I’m sorry, honey. I wanted to tell you, but I couldn’t. I… I ended the pregnancy.”

“What!” Dustin squeaked. “You promised me! And now you’re faking a premature birth? What the hell is wrong with you?”

“I couldn’t go through with it because you weren’t the father! It was Jeremy’s, and I knew you’d know so I ended it. Are you happy now, Dustin? Are you?”

“Hey!” the officer shouted. “I’m going to write you a ticket! And then you two are going to find a marriage counselor that’s open at midnight! Is that understood?”

Dustin and Eliza stared bashfully at the floor. “Yes sir,” Dustin said meekly. “Sorry, sir.”

“I feel like I’m on a reality show,” the officer muttered, scribbling out a ticket. He handed it to Dustin and added, “You’d best be driving out of here real slow, son.”

The officer walked back to his car, shaking his head. Dustin rolled up the window and whispered, “We should pretend to yell at each other before we go.”

“Agreed.”

“I LOVE YOU SO MUCH,” Dustin screamed. “THAT WAS AWESOME.”

“I KNOW. I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT WORKED! CONTINGENCY PLAN THREE, WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?”

“ONLY US, YOU SEXY THING.”

“WHAT IN THE HELL IS PREGNOSITY, DUSTIN?”

“WHO CARES?”

Eliza dropped silent, as though rebuffed. A few seconds later the officer’s car pulled past.

“Oh my god the robbery.”

Dustin said an oath to vile to recount here.

“He’s finished the robbery,” Eliza said. She had closed her eyes and was rubbing her temples again. “He got away, but nobody was hurt. He’s headed to his house.”

“Well let’s go then.”

“What, to his house?”

“Yeah, to his house! We’re gonna stop him before he tries this again.”

Eliza bit her lip. “I don’t feel right about this,” she said after a second.

“Why not? It’s not like we’re playing capture the flag or something. There’s no safe zones.”

“I know. I just, I don’t think we should do this.”

“Who else will?” Dustin asked. “Officer Harrison?”

“Yes, Dustin. The police are capable of stopping crimes.”

Dustin blinked. “Oh. Yeah.” A moment passed. “But are you sure? Because we don’t have any proof or anything. How would they-”

Eliza held a finger to his lips, quieting him. “Remember how you said you trusted my judgement on what was right or wrong? Well, this is wrong. This is not the way to do it.”

Dustin took a long breath and exhaled slowly. “All right. But listen, we should be doing something, right? We can help stop guys like this. We can do things other people can’t. We could make a big difference in people’s lives.”

“I agree. But we need to do this the right way. We need to know what we’re doing, we need to practice, and we need to decide what our limits are.”

“Sounds excellent,” Dustin said.

“But I want to be clear about a couple of things,” Eliza said sharply. “We are not vigilantes. We will not break the laws.” Dustin looked a little crestfallen. “Also, I will not wear spandex, and my underwear will remain on the inside of my clothing.”

Dustin drew a deep breath then exhaled. Then an idea appeared to strike him. “I’m not sold on that last part,” Dustin said. “We can try with and without.” He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Rather than firing back as she often did at such remarks, Eliza looked deep into his eyes and then wiggled back. Dustin pulled out and floored it.

•••

Richard Lopez finished his rounds early, double checking his schedule to make certain that he had completed all his necessary tasks. The floors had been vacuumed, dusting had been completed, and the bathrooms were clean. He didn’t see any special notes, so he was done for the night.

Sighing, he pushed his mop bucket into the janitor’s closet. Before long, he hoped, he would be able to put this life behind him.

He set the alarms on the building and left, riding his antique bike through the midnight traffic. He had often thought it ironic that he worked a night shift, but it gave him the time he needed during the day, and he didn’t require much sleep.

At last, he reached his apartment complex. It was quite literally his, though he ran it through several false organizations. It provided good housing for the warriors and a meeting place for their temple. He entered his apartment and began his transformation into Xipil, his true self.

His street clothes were replaced by the garments of a priest, white and gold. His long hair was pulled back into a warrior’s braid, and crowned with the plumes and feathers of a king. He was all of this to his people, and more. As Richard Lopez, he was a servant among slaves. As Xipil, he was a god among men.

He checked that his appearance was befitting, then ignited his inner light. His appearance became radiant, though no visible light could be seen. It was the last and most important step of his appearance, the quintessence that defined him. Much like the newly made sons of shadow, he had been specially invested with the power of light, and in some indefinable way, it made him glorious.

He swept down the secret stairs into the chamber of judgement. He was growing weary of these failures. Why was it so hard to find these darklings? The power of night invariably led its practitioners toward violence, greed, and corruption, so why had they heard no tales? He took his golden staff from the hands of an attendant and frowned. His sunseers could feel the presence of darkseers, but they could neither track it nor discern it. It was as alien to them, as light was to the darklings.

No, it could not be much longer until they revealed themselves. When they did, Xipil and the People of the Sun would be ready. They had waited a thousand years for this time, and Xipil did not intend to disappoint his forefathers.

But one thing must be dealt with at a time, and right now he had a heretic to judge. An execution now would be most useful, to show his warriors that he was quite serious about order.

He entered the chamber of judgement, staff clicking against the marble floor. Above him on the ceiling was embossed the golden face of the sun, light of the day, and his wife the moon. Their star children encircled the room. All were lights, to one degree or another. He would determine the man’s guilt the same way, by degree. No one left the chamber of judgement without some recompense, even if it were as simple as an apology. Such was the cost of bringing their impure and shadow-tainted selves before the great lights.

The heretic was bound in the center of the chamber, though he stood proudly despite his chains.

“Blasphemy.” Xipil announced to his crowd of one. “A most serious charge, Huracan.”

“It is not blasphemy to malign one that is not a deity, Xipil,” Huracan said boldly.

Xipil sighed dramatically and sank down upon his golden seat of judgement. He was haloed by metallic sunbeams. “What am I to do, Huracan? You were once the most loyal of my priests. I taught you how to call upon sunfire myself. And now you speak blasphemies about the light and its chosen one.”

“I have been reading the old texts,” Huracan said. “From before the imprisonment of Darkness. They have opened my eyes. We are not the paragons you make us out to be. They are not the enemies you describe.”

“Speak no further,” Xipil commanded. But Huracan would not remain silent.

“We have been staring into the sun too long, Xipil. It has blinded us, and yet we delude ourselves with talk of enlightenment.”

“Enough!” Xipil roared, casting off his world-weary facade. He stood and flared his brightness. “I will not hear any more of your lies!”

“If you wish me to be silent, you will have to kill me,” Huracan said.

“Very well,” Xipil cried. He reached for his ceremonial knife, a bone-white dagger at his side. He would have preferred to burn Huracan alive as he did his other minions, but the man was a priest, and blessed with sunfire besides. He would be impervious to the flames.

“Our tyranny has lasted long enough,” Huracan said. “A new age is beginning. The return of the gods, a renewal of things long lost. It is time for the world to be reborn.”

“There is no god but me,” Xipil declared, descending the stone steps, “and I have found you guilty.”

Xipil cloaked himself with fire, calling upon the powers of light. He was a glorious, radiant being. Huracan did the same, but he was a mere candle next to Xipil’s blaze.

“You are wrong, Xipil!” Huracan said. “The other gods live yet, and they return as surely as the shadow has.”

“Lies! If there are such gods left, why do they not show themselves?” he challenged. “Where are their followers?”

“Waiting for the right time,” boomed a voice behind him. Xipil whirled around. He found a man standing in the doorway of the chamber, dressed in green clothing and wreathed with mist. He carried a long staff, which he pointed at Xipil.

Clouds sprung into existence, obscuring the entire room, and small forks of lightning began to spark around him. The rain priest – for the newcomer could be nothing else – began to chant, and the chamber of judgement became a monsoon. Xipil’s fire was extinguished, and he had trouble keeping his radiance lit.

While his back was turned, Huracan grabbed Xipil’s cloak and pulled him backward into the rapidly accumulating water. He was caught off guard, and it took him a moment to right himself. By the time he had regained his feet, the heretic and the impossibility had vanished, leaving only dirty water and a few breaths of vapor curling in their wake.

Xipil was left standing and staring at the empty doorway, white robes stained with brown, golden cloak sodden and limp, feathered crown bent and broken. Then he screamed.

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