Early in the morning, my eyes shot open as I was awoken by screaming, it sounded like Granny, I moved to get up only to find the Wolf had one of his muscled arms wrapped around my waist. He moaned my name in his sleep, squeezing me tighter to him, and as much as I enjoyed his soft grinding into my rear, I knew I had to see what the hell was going on.
I slid out from the bed carefully as not to needlessly rouse him, grabbing the nearest articles of cloths to cover up, once I stepped into the common area of my suite, I could see Patience had heard the commotion as well. I told her I’d handle it, and sent her back to bed. Then with urgency, I made my way towards the suite Granny, Caiden, and Sera were staying.
When I opened the door, I had to immediately dodge a large bulky porcelain vase, it shattered just beside me splattering water along the wall and my back. The old woman saw me and fought the flaxen haired younger man that held her, she didn’t seem to recognize the familial resemblance of her own grandson so I knew this was bad, Serafi tried to help but only received vile insults for her efforts.
“Stay back you filthy one armed bitch, what kind of circus nightmare do you freaks have me trapped in?!”
“Gran, calm down, please! We’re only trying to help..” Caiden cried as he tried to reason with the older matron, but she continued to struggle, while sera and I cleaned up the mess. “Loki, I don’t know what to do, we have to get her to relax.”
“You’re not going to like any solution I come up with..” I warned, but from the look in his eyes, I could tell he was desperate.
“God! what kinda.. I never smelled any pot like that before, what kinda shit was Hunter selling?” Caiden complained, as Sera, Granny, and I smoked out the Betty.
“Some good shit..” Sera and I both answered at the same time, we looked at each other, then burst out into a round of laughter after a high five.
“Yeah, yeah..” He replied, shaking his head at us, he eyed his grandmother cautiously as she pulled from one of the spliffs we passed her.
Once we got the old woman smoking, her energy level was like she had gone from a hundred miles per hour, down to a pleasant stroll in the park. Thou still not talking to us, she appeared to be deep in thought, a far cry for the blank and glazed over robotic stare she had earlier.
“How you doing over there, ol’girl?” I asked her softly, as she passed it on to Sera.
“Better than I have in a long time, I’ll tell you that..” She said, easing back into her seat, I could tell something was on her mind. “I’ve just been sitting here thinking, is all.”
“Do you know where you are? Who we are?” Caiden inquired, a skeptical look on his face.
“You’re the bastard I raised for twenty seven years.. And this is the piece of shit we’ve been riding through Hell in.”
“That answer your question?” I elbowed him and smirked, as Sera giggled at his reddening cheeks.
“What are you thinking about Gran? Tell us what’s on your mind..” Sera asked her, as she started to roll another spliff.
“Oh please.” She said, as she scoffed at the thought. “You all don’t wanna the hear the ramblings of an old woman..”
“Better than the high and intoxicated ramblings of the two next to you.” Caiden muttered snidely, still sour at us for laughing at him, I smiled and pinched his arm.
“I don’t think my thoughts are decent for polite conversation..”
“Our generation is anything but polite, every subject is considered casual, there’s rarely anything taboo anymore.” Sera told her good heartedly, trying to coax her into releasing her burden.”
“Thats enough..” I could see the old woman’s demeanor change, she wasn’t ready to reveal the demons that plagued her, I recognized the look, I knew the feeling. “She obviously doesn’t want to tell us, just back off you guys.. Anyways, a motherfucka like me is getting hungry, I don’t know about y’all.”
“Yea, I should bring Gran something to eat.. I guess I’ll have to get you something too then.” Caiden replied, giving me an eye roll, as he was getting up from his seat.
“I’ll come with you, cause one of us has to make sure Patience and Buster are packed up to go, remember we leave in a few hours.” Serafi mentioned, standing up as well.
As they left, Granny and I finished off the last of the trees I had pulled, it had mellowed us out but turmoil could still be seen the in the woman’s eyes. As I held a hand out to her, she surprised me when she gently took it, her hand felt small and frail inside my own. The unnerving silence had lingered, but this time there was a small comfort in it, as I struggled to find words to ease her nerve, she found the strength to conquer on her own.
“You want to know what I was thinkin a little while ago? What I’m still thinkin of?” She asked, but I didn’t answer, I knew she’d tell me anyway from the intensity of her tone.”I was thinking about what my life could have been like, what it SHOULD have been like..”
“A wise woman once told me, the view from the back window is never gonna change, no matter how hard you look at it.” I said to her softly, smiling warmly, and remembered how she helped me through my grief.
“What idiot said that crock of shit.. I wish it was as easy as turning from a window with a crappy view! I have constant nightmares of being trapped within myself, trapped in the memories, tortured by them.. They haunt me..” She cried, taking her hand away to wipe a stray tear, she had such a delicacy to her that was beautiful.
“What went wrong? What’s wrong with the path you chose?” I asked sincerely, she had to have had an eventful life, she had to have had experienced so many amazing things through the years.
“I’d have to start from the beginning, when I was still but a girl, yet becoming a woman. It was before I married the boy’s grandfather, before I had given up.. everything. I’d given up my goals, I’d given up my dreams, I left my desires and true love behind, I sacrificed my sanity, I sacrificed my morals, And when I thought I had nothing left… My life was taken from me and given to another.”
When Caiden came back, it was to the two of us crying, I wasn’t even in the mood to eat anymore. I got up out of my seat, and brushed pass him, feeling sick to my stomach, as I walked out the door I gave one fleeting last look at the old woman. It amazed me how much suffering the human body could live through, between the mental and the physical, it was a wonder if one anguish outweigh the other.. It was only matter of time before the machine would start to breakdown.
As I let the door shut behind me, I had to squint from the bright morning sun, till my eyes adjusted. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, yet the cold Ohio winter still managed to be brisk and brazen, I wrapped my arms around myself as I thought about how foolish I was to come out without a coat. I heard someone depart the bus behind me, I turned to find Caiden jogging up he p, he didn’t look happy.
“What the hell happened while I was gone? What were you guys talking about?”
“We were just reminiscing about past times, it was nothing..” I said, trying to brush him off, it didn’t help that I had to wipe the wetness from my cheeks.
“Yeah.. nothing is why I come back to you two wasting three days worth of water, balling your eyes out!”
“Look, we’ve all just been through some heavy shit.. we need to have more patience when it comes to what everyone maybe going through, and we need to take the time to pay attention to what’s going on around us.”
“Like the fact you’re wearing HIS clothes right now?” He spat as he assessed my attire, I followed his eyes, shocked to find I had thrown on the Wolf’s white t-shirt and camo-pants when I had gotten up earlier.
I should have noticed I was wearing the man’s clothes, being that I was literally wrapped in his scent, the natural aroma of coconut that seemed to follow him filled my nostrils. I loved it, the smell warmed my blood, it aroused me. The skin of my cheeks flushed, a reddish tint to my cocoa complexion revealing my shame, as Caiden looked at me expecting some kind of explanation.
“You know what, I don’t even wanna hear it man.. just never figured you to be the type to take Easy st.” He replied trying hard to hide his disappointment, but it was all over his face, he couldn’t even look at me in the eye. “I guess as long as he makes you happy.. I’ll find solace in that, I suppose.”
“Don’t say that if you don’t mean it, we promised not to lie to each other anymore..” I reminded him, trying my damn hardest not to get watery eyed again.
“I mean it.” He said as he grasped me in a hug, it took me a moment to return it, but I slowly put my arms around him.
It was warm, and lasted maybe a second longer than it should have, but I was glad we had been able to mend our bond, even if was as brothers and not lovers. With all my heart and soul I still hoped to honor Hunter’s last words, we had to love each other, we had to find happiness.. we had to survive.
By noon we were ready to depart, I watched from the window as Buster and Patience ran circles around each other on the lawn, Sera looking on with a smile on her face. Caiden was trying to assist Granny to the Betty, but she was pushing and shooing him away, as she climbed aboard on her own. I heard footsteps, and turned to face the grand staircase, where Saundra Dee made her descent in a draped wine hued gown.
“Loki, I’m so glad you hadn’t stepped outside yet, I wanted to request a moment of your time before you depart, if you would oblige?”
“It would be a pleasure.” I answered warmly, but inside I knew I had to be wary of anyone remotely associated with Arkham, these people were dangerous.
“Excellent, let’s make our way to somewhere more comfortable..”
I followed her just a short ways down the hall, and we entered a room I hadn’t noticed just beside a bookcase, it was discreet yet obvious at the same time. Once inside, I noticed we had entered an office, with LCD screens aligned along the right wall. They gave her a view of the entire town and its outskirts, down to every inch of the grounds outside. I gave a sigh of relief when I didn’t see a feed to the graveyard, I would die of the horror if she saw that. In the middle of the room, there was desk that projected a three dimensional interface right above.
“This technology, it’s..” I couldn’t help but to look on in wonder, if we had really knew how the rich lived, there would have been anarchy and revolt till the system crashed.
“It is amazing, I know, many of the advancements are due to Caiden’s brother Zachari. They were planning to introduce the tech in incremental phases on the market, but then all this happened.” She mentioned off handedly, as she watched one of the screens intently.
“How did you know of their relation?”
“Darling, I remember every applicant’s file that crossed my desk over the years, his was one of note.. the file mentioned two brothers, I’m guessing the one not here is that lost lover of yours Wolfie mentioned.”
I found myself in a spell of silence, and it cause her to take her eyes from the screen, they appeared sympathetic and earnest as they came to me.
“Believe me when I say I’m sorry for your loss.. I admittedly feel indirectly responsible for the tragic events that have befallen you. I intend to make amends somehow, if you would allow me to try.”
“I’m listening.” I replied, and she pointed to one of the screens, the picture displayed over the desk in a crystal clear projection.
I could see two people talking, concealed from everyone else by the Betty, it was Jerry and Karishma. They seemed to be in a heated discussion, I noticed every so often, she would peek around at Patience playing with the dog. Jerry seem to be in disagreement to something she was saying, but she was relentless. He must have said something she didn’t like, because she slapped him hard across the face, for his credit he didn’t strike her back but I could see the fury in his eyes.
“These two here, are some of the most despicable characters that I have come across in all my time with Arkham Inc.” Sandra mused, as we watched them in secret. “Jerry, he was always a rat bastard and money hungry, but Karishma, that poor girl was once a decent person..”
“I find that hard to believe, I would have wager she came out of her mother a total raging bitch ravenous for power.”
“Haha, oh my, yes I see how one would assess that, but no, that’s not the case with her. I’ve learned many lessons in my years and one of them is that time isn’t always kind, and the years can be cruel. Especially when one has great ambition and a thirst for power, it can be all consuming, it can change you. Now think about a girl like her, ambition and an intellect that comes once or twice in a generation, yet she only gets occasional sips of the power she craves.. It could change the best of us.”
I continued to watch the two on the display bicker, while Saundra stepped over to her desk and started typing into some invisible keyboard, even her desk was completely interactive it seemed. The Doctor had final words with Jerry, before the man stormed off visibly upset, what I wouldn’t give to have been able to hear their conversation. Karishma pulled out that damn notepad and started to write, her gaze kept lifting to where the young girl played, and a smirk crosses her lips. It was times like these that made me question her motives, why was she so enthralled with Patience? What did she know that we didn’t?
“Loki, please step over this way..” Saundra called out to me, motioning me over to her.
The table top was a touch screen running on the latest iOS, I was felt like I was in another time, the world we lost just didn’t have things like this yet. She took my hand and placed It palm down on the desk, and it scanned my hand print, creating a file of me in the cloud stream. I looked at her questioningly, but she was typing in some information, when finished she looked up at me with a smile.
“I’ve given you a gift, I hope with all my heart you will never need.. It may not ever be enough, but it’s the most valuable thing I can think of to give you.”
“What is it..” I asked, still confused.
“I won’t speak of it, but you’ll know of it when, and if, you ever need it.” She answered, with a sad and worried look in her eye, it was foretelling of something but I didn’t know what.
“Well.. Thank you then, I accept it as restitution for your redemption.” I replied, pulling her in for a hug, she returned it warmly and had to wipe a tear from her eye. “I want to thank you for the hospitality as well, this rest was much needed..”
“Don’t mention it, you’re always welcome back, I don’t get nearly enough visitors.” She said, as she lead me to the doors, that automatically opened as we approach.
“I try my best to stop by and see you again, Mama Dee.” I replied with a warm smile, I could see why the Wolf loved her some much, her face lit up and she pulled me in for another hug.
“I hope life is kinder to you Loki, I truly do..”
This time when we hit the road, I opted for a ride in the hot rod, I was glad when the Wolf offered to ride with me, while Tzar and Bloodhound hopped in the back. The rest boarded the Betty, and we headed back to the freeway.
As I drove, I could see the signs leading to the Silver Memorial bridge, and was happy to finally be leaving the state of Ohio. There was something about this place, that made mere days feel like weeks had passed, like some twisted twilight zone. The closer we got, the more vehicles crowded the road, it was clear they had been abandoned due to heavy traffic out of state during the first wave of infection.
“Holy hell, look there, just ahead!” Tzar yelled from the back seat, pointing to what blocked our way in the distance, it was the General and his men.
“Oh god, they have Kahlil..” I cried, stopping the car, I could make out the boy held at gunpoint in the back of one of the jeeps, luckily we hadn’t been noticed yet because lord only knows how they would react.
“We can’t risk it.. There has to be another way to cross.” Bloodhound said, causing my eyes to cut sharply to him in the back seat.
“Did you not hear what I just said? The kid is still alive.. We already failed him once, I won’t allow us to again!” I replied, raising my voice, unable to hide my rising anger.
“He’s right Bae, we can’t just leave the kid.. not again.” Balthazar said, backing me up, much to the Hispanic mercs disdain.
“Well what are we supposed to do?” He replied snidely, throwing his hands up. “Just barge the fuck down there and demand they return him?! They outnumber us, outgun us, and they want Loki served up on a goddamn platter! Please, tell me this great plan you have, and how does it NOT get us killed?!”
I turned away from him, too angry for words, and too upset to think clearly. He was right thou, No, I didn’t have a plan.. and yes, we were out off our league, when our enemy literally had a couple battle tanks and a small army. Still, we had to do something, we couldn’t abandon him again. I looked to the ebony skinned Adonis next to me, finding little comfort in his eyes but at least there was a little, he had been silent since I stopped the car but there was a resolve in his eyes that gave me an inkling of hope deep within, under a ton of despair. He reached up and wiped a stray tear that had fallen from my eye, and I didn’t retreat when he leaned in to gently kiss my lips, when he pulled back, I could feel the intensity in his eyes.
“Loki, don’t worry.. I just might have a plan.”