Heavenly Reckoning (part III)

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He hadn’t even reached the bus stop outside the hospital when his cell phone started buzzing. A mild frown creased his lips as he looked at the display. Normally he didn’t answer anything that came up as UNKNOWN, but for one reason or another he felt compelled to answer the line. Hitting the SEND button he placed the phone to his ear and said “Hello?”

“Is it over then?”

“Excuse me?” He recognized the voice, but was taken back by the words as he could picture the face of the speaker. She was a very attractive woman by the name of Samantha Fuller. They’d been working together at the World Link building for the past three years and had even grown friendly enough to be on a first-name basis, but this call was something out of the blue. If it was her that was.

“Is your mother gone?”

He felt a sudden flush creep up the back of his neck, but strangely he wasn’t angry or even embarrassed. In fact all he felt right at that moment was shame, shame that he didn’t care, that he didn’t even want to talk about it. Instead he offered her a single, noncommittal answer that was the best he could muster.

“Yes.”

There was silence for a moment, then:

“She was a good woman, and she loved you dearly. Are you going to do as she asked?”

“What the hell are you talking about?” He almost shouted into the phone as his shame was quickly burned up by fear and outrage. Who the hell did she think she was? Instead of an answer however he only heard her sigh across the line. Then it went dead.

Thankfully the bus showed up in that moment as it came to a complete stop and, letting out its customary hiss as the doors opened, seemed to beckon him inside.

(to be continued)

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Heavenly Reckoning (part II)

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“They are not my gods,” he repeated in a whisper, pulling free of the fingers that went limp as he stepped away. He could hear the shuffling of feet behind him, smell the slight tang of perfume as the last member of his family, an old crone the hadn’t seen in years, came to stand next to him.

“Her wishes were to be cremated and cast into the sea,” his great-aunt said, her rasping voice giving him the impression that she might soon join his grandmother, one of his last surviving relatives, in the fabled afterlife they so desired.

“I can’t afford that, and neither could she,” he replied, “And a funeral pyre is illegal in these parts.”

“Those were her wishes,” his great-aunt repeated, her voice gaining a bit of strength as she continued to speak, “She wishes to meet her gods and this is the manner that tradition demands.”

He closed his eyes, feeling the old resentment, the old irritation, creeping back in as he kept his voice low and as neutral as possible. Damn all old folks anyway, their traditions and their beliefs alike. He’d been force-fed this shit from the cradle, about Odin and Valhalla and Freya and the Aesir and on and on and on. He wanted nothing to do with, the old ways were gone for a reason.

“Then you do it,” he replied quietly, “You take the risk and get it done, I don’t care any longer. I turned away from your traditions a long time ago, and I won’t have anything to do with it.”

The old woman said nothing as he turned about, making his way for the door. She offered one parting shot, as he would see it until later, as he reached the opening.

“Honor thy kin, and honor the gods, lest thy flame be spent.”

Despite the sudden chill he felt at the words, spoken so many times during his life, he shook it off, making his way out the door and onto the next part of his day. He had other matters to worry over at the moment.

(to be continued)

Heavenly Reckoning (part I)

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A little town, somewhere in America….

“They are your gods child, they are our gods, they belong to those that believe.”

“No,” the younger man said quietly, defiance plain in his voice, “They are not mine, they have never been mine.”

A wheeze preceded the pained words of the woman whose bedside he knelt by, a thin, wasted sound that belied how little time she had left. Despite that pain however, despite the effort it took, the claw that reached out to grasp his shirt collar was not weak, nor was it forgiving as he felt her ragged fingernails score his flesh ever so slightly. He did not pull back, but neither did he allow her to draw him forward.

“They have been your gods,” she breathed, angry now, “since you were a child on my knee. And they,” she rasped, “remain so to this day. They will find you, one day. And you,” wheeze, “will have, to answer, to them.”

He remained silent, not wishing to refute her any longer, but also not wishing to give into the delirium she had been living in for so long. Aulic was not a boy any longer, he didn’t feel any need to cling to the old religions or ways of his mother. The old gods, as far as he was concerned, were dead and had always been dead, and good riddance.

“Promise me,” she rasped, still holding onto him, “I will not, be interred, in the ground. Promise me…”

He knew what she wanted, what she’d always wanted, but he was still loath to agree to it. At that moment it took every ounce of will he had not to roll his eyes, but he didn’t speak. He didn’t trust the words that were itching to come off of his tongue. Instead, he merely nodded, feeling the movement as a wooden gesture that required only the acceptance of gravity followed by the sheer willpower of raising his eyes to hers again. As he did however the hand clutching his collar slackened, and by the time their eyes met, she was gone.

(to be continued)

It’s Another Day, Another Year

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There’s no magic button that will activate on the 1st and make you better or in any way smarter, better-looking, or healthier. You want it? Go get it, go do it, go live it. Be happy with who you are, but if you want more don’t be afraid to go and get it. Get on with it and have as good a year as you can.