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 Category:  Fantasy Fiction
  Posted: February 11, 2018      Views: 425
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I AM an author, salesman, optimist, dreamer: May the four always cohabit & produce wondrous progeny. In the swirling pool of life, I'm an unflushable floater.

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Chapter 39 of the book THE TRINING Book Three
And Kyre Bids Au Revoir.
"Pondria Leaves the Theater" by Jay Squires

Chapter Thirty-Nine
(The first part)
SUMMARY OF THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: With his men's failure to kill Pondria, Rhuether resorts to physical magic, and though its use opens the wound in his side, he has the terrible white serpent descend from the ceiling and return with Pondria wrapped in its coils. After a few bouts of near drowning, Pondria is raised to the surface where he discovers the god Kyre in the form of a bird, bobbing on the waves. Kyre enjoys viewing it all as a play, with him acting as director. Now the third act is beginning, and it appears Pondria won't be around to watch his brother being invaded by an invisible force ….

 It was obvious, not a cell of Rhuether’s body had escaped the unwanted invasion. The lower orbs of his silver irises twitched under his upper lids and the whites were stretched to their limit in a sightless gaping. His palms, one crimson from having covered his wound, now clamped over his ears, and that left the blood to pulse unabated from his side.

“Mama-a-a—I didn’t want—Oh, please don’t! It wasn’t fair-r-r-r ….” His final word dissolved into an open-mouthed gasping for air, and his entire body was wracked in a fit of vibration.

Now you must go, Pondria. I’d hoped you’d be able to see the play’s conclusion. I think you just might have enjoyed the third act. Ah, well … Au revoir!

As though I had been given the final and irrevocable cue from the play’s director, my foothold withdrew. Drawing in my last gulp of air, I slipped under and down through the fetid flesh-folds with no less a feeling of finality than did Viktor Brueen the moment his—the moment my—fingers loosed from the rope of the bridge and I began my fraction-of-a-second descent.

Then, I had chosen the manner with which I would meet death. It was a final dignity I'd allowed myself. I achieved it by attempting to execute a back one-and-a-half, with nothing to judge its success but the boulders below.

Suicide honors that final autonomy.

Now, I was given no choice. At once sucked down through the timeless, digestive chatter produced by layer upon layer of coils, I kept my focus on the only asset left me—my held breath.

As General Doctrex, during a number of those uneventful nights in my tent, I practiced holding my breath, timing it in my head, reasoning the development of increased lung capacity might come in handy, yet never imagining how.

Now, I had my answer.

Three-minutes and twenty seconds was the limit I had grown to back then, and I had learned to recognize several benchmarks along the way to achieving it. Ninety seconds into it, I felt a vague malaise, perhaps the body’s pre-warning system. At about two minutes, ten seconds, I started becoming lightheaded, and there were sparkles of light at my right and left peripheries. Now, at this moment, and in this darkness, the sparkles were a full-blown firework show, filling my entire field of vision.

I sensed I had a little over a minute before …

My descent was jerked to a stop by an abrupt constriction at some unseen center that settled its pressure just beneath my rib cage. At the same moment, the bottom fell away, and my hips and legs dangled in space. My arms hung free. I dug my fingers into the flesh that constrained me. It was surprisingly pliant.

My lips were numbing. The final benchmark of my experiment there in the tent, before my breath had exploded from my lungs.

My fingers found the softer under-flesh of the coil. The skin crawled away from my fingers, and its grip around my waist loosened. A residue of thought—more an observation—the serpent is ticklish!

Just as my lungs whooshed out.
At some far corner of my awareness, I found myself rolling to my side in some vast vacuum, dragging fistfuls of what could only be the serpent's flesh with me into my roll. Within darkness I opened my eyes.

What? Where?

I discovered, clutched in my hands, wads of blue blanket from the tangle that wrapped me in an untidy bundle. Where was I? I was not in my room. This was not the palace. My eyes roved only that space they could take in without moving my head. Too much had happened not to be wary. Walls fashioned of split wood, pitched to keep in the warmth. It seemed so familiar. Two walls intersected at the corner, the left wall held the heavy door, the metal latch hanging to the floor. Unlocked. Good, if I need to I can make a dash for it later. The wall to the right had a small window cut from it, and white curtains were sashed at either side by a blue cord.

Behind me,  metal clanged against metal, then stopped. Then scraped and stopped. Don't look. I released my grip on the sheet and sent my hand to my side as stealthily as I could, feeling for a dagger, then realizing at the same time its folly. The slosh, as of water in a container, followed, then its flow as it was poured out.

"Are you awake?"

I drew in a sharp breath. No! No! My heart thrummed in my throat.

"I'd have woke you earlier, but oh! you were having night terrors as you never had before!"

This couldn't be. Is it another of Kyre's cruel enactments—part of the play after all? Or did he mean I'd miss the play because I would be acting in it? I closed my eyes, refusing to turn, to acknowledge the voice—that voice—that sweet voice, the voice whose owner I'd have given my life to embrace! Wave after wave of the most profound sadness enveloped me, and then, without turning, I discovered myself overcome by spasms of sobs.

Fingers pressed into my shoulders and a warm heaviness fell across my upper body. Hot puffs of breath against my ear. "Darling … Doctrex … you're frightening me. Please."

"G-go away," I managed to free from my sobs. "Fly away."

"Go away! Look at me, Darling, please. What do you mean?"

Hands tugged at my shoulders, rolling me to my back, then the other side. I saw a face, shattered by light and wet lenses. I ran my hand across my eyes. She came into focus. "No! I can't do this. You took her away from me once, Kyre, then you teased me just today with her—her—her—with a breath of her—of someone passing me—and now this! Go, just go!"

This ghost, this … whatever it was that Kyre produced for his pleasure and my agony was manufacturing tears now. But it was Kyre, only Kyre, and he ran a hand through his hair, his eyes glazed, and tears followed the contour of his nose to his lips.

 "Don't do this to me, Darling. Was it your night terrors? That's what it was, wasn't it?" He removed a strand of hair that had trailed across his tear-dampened mouth. "Why are you say-saying this about Kyre, Doctrex? Kyre never took me from you. Why? How could he? We're here. We've been here."

I remembered the simulacrum of the jelly-bean-popping Viktor Brueen that Kyre had manufactured during my grief in finding Axtilla's cold, dead body—how real he'd made him.

I sat, and slid to the edge of the bed. "I know how you work now, Kyre. Nothing is too sacred for your damned play, is it? Turn back into your bird-self and fly away from—from wherever you brought me."

Kyre lunged toward me and threw his arms around me, his wet cheek against mine. "Please, Doctrex, I'm me, I'm your Axtilla. " He squeezed me more tightly to his body, jerking frantically with his sobs.

"You bastard! You killed the only Axtilla I'll ever, I'll ever—"

"Doctrex, look at me." Kyre pulled back from my face. "Look at me, Darling. I don't know what happened in your night terror. I should have woke you earlier—I know you're still possessed by it. But how can I be anything but what I am?" He released a sudden gurgly laugh that came from the same place as his tears." I'm not the same Axtilla. Of course I'm not. I'm not tough like I was back there." Kyre put a slim finger across my lips. "No, listen, Darling. I'm not the same because you, and our life here, made me different. But you're not the same Doctrex, either, now that you have calluses on your hands and plow-dirt under your nails. Look at us. We're both different."

Kyre ran his fingertips over the cushioned part of my palm. It was tough and ridged, not yielding to his touch. "Are these the hands of General Doctrex? Or of Pondria?"

 "I left Axtilla dead," I said, flatly.

"Dead? Dead! How could you have left me dead. Where? Left me where dead?"

"On her bed, damn you! On her bed!"

"On my bed? Oh, my darling Doctrex, the last bed I was on was your bed. I hardly think I was dead there." Kyre smiled the same taunting smile Axtilla had used, there on my palace bed.

"No, no, no, Kyre, don't play that game with me!" I tried to keep the desperate pleading from my voice; my eyes were filling again. "Don't you dare do that! After she left, I followed her back to her room, just the way you had it planned. She was there where you had either convinced her of her …" my throat let out a groan, "…of her high duty. Or more likely you forced the poison down her throat."

Kyre pulled back and seemed to be studying my face. "Now I know it was the night terrors. Don't you see, Darling? There is no way you could have followed me back to my room."

"And yet I did, Kyre," I said, emphasizing his name.

"No. No," he said with forced patience. "We escaped the palace just like I begged you to do. Has your night terrors wiped that clean from your mind? I know you struggled against going. I used every argument I could think of, but you were honorable, and you had your troops. It was only because I thought so completely that your honor had won out, that I left you in your room. But escaping was the right thing for us to do. It was. Deep inside, you knew it was the right thing, didn't you, Darling? Our right for happiness—that was even greater than your honor. When you caught up with me in the hall, oh, I was so joyous I thought my heart would burst through my gown. Love had won out!"

I stared at the one Kyre had fashioned. He hadn't quite mastered the beauty of the original. He made her only slightly flawed. He made her with crows-feet, tiny though they were, on the outsides of her eyes. Her smile lines were carved too deep, the skin of her cheeks a bit more porous, and her hair, cut now in a more rustic fashion than in the palace, he'd woven a few strands of gray in the midst of the brown.

"Can you honestly say you've regretted one moment of our life here?" Kyre challenged me. "Can you, my Doctrex?" He chuckled. "Remember how frustrated you were in the beginning, telling me you would never be as good a farmer as Klasco? But after seven years of working the soil, planting and harvesting …"

Seven! Seven years! I found myself staring past him, rubbing my calluses. I looked at my hands, the backs, the palms. My nails were chipped and dirty. I had a scab on my right index finger and one on my wrist. My work as General Doctrex had been more cerebral in nature. It hadn't been three days earlier when I'd bathed and had my nails clipped in preparation for the marriage ceremony. And the barber had given me—I reached my hand to my shaggy hair hanging over my ears—Damn! A haircut ….
Give me a moment more? I have a couple of things I'd like to cover: first, you may be aware I am publishing my Noah Winter mystery/thriller novel at the end of this month. If you're not … I am. While the doors for admittance to the Book Launch Team is closed, I do have the PDF for RSVP: Invitation to a Chumash Massacre available for free. All I ask is the courtesy of an Amazon review when you complete it. Fair enough? PM me your email address. Secondly, if you've not subscribed to the Sticky Words Newsletter, it's not too late to receive vol. 2 next week. Use this link to sign up and snag a free e-book bundle. A sweet deal! (I'm working out some kinks on that site, so if you don't get your books, let me know. I've got pull with the big man. I'll get 'em for you. BTW, you'll have to paste the link to your browser to get it to work.)

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