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We drive to Auster's house. Auster isn't speaking to me at all. He doesn't even look at me. He seems like he is disappointed. He shouldn't be disappointed in me though. It reminds me of people who love eating, but are surprised when they gain a few pounds. We caused all this. This was our faults and we were stuck in our lie. Now here I was doing anything I could to get through this. I was doing anything.
They had stayed outside and they were arguing. At first I thought they were but actually it seemed like they were discussing me.
Auster and Nick leave me out, probably because they know that I might make it worse. I wonder what Auster is telling him. He must be making Nick feel like he doesn't have a bad bone in his body. He is probably telling him that things got out of control and as long as Nick listens to him then everything is going to be fine. As long as Nick believes in Auster's straight lines that always cross then everything is going to be fine.
We walk into Auster's apartment. It is in a wealthy building on the north side of the city. It is the largest apartment that I've been in a while. His parents must be well off. The apartment is in a classy building that seems to attract a lot of rich folk. There valet is a fancy Italian guy who quotes Latin phrases to sound educated. The elevator has a guy who just stands there and opens it for people. He has an ugly little hat that he leans to the side. The apartment itself overlooks the water. A little Mexican woman walks up to us and welcomes us. Her accent is strong and I don't really hear what she says. She takes Nick's coat and offers to take my sweater, but I refuse. The house is so cold. With all the money that they spent on this house, you would think they had a plan on how to heat it.
"Want something to drink, Nick?" Auster asks and when Nick shakes his head, he turns to me as though offering the sam"I want a water, please."
I expect him to go get it, but he calls the maid back into the room to get it. Auster leads us into the next room and I walk behind him. I am staring at Auster, wondering if he is still pissed at me. He continues to try his best to avoid eye contact with me.
"Your apartment is...large," I tell Auster immediately.
"My dad is an architect," Auster explains and then adds, "He helped to design the building himself. Everything that he creates has to be complicated and overdone. See how the walls are all at the exact same slant. They were his idea. They look nice, but they are useless."
I looked at the walls. They definitely were just straight lines that will end up crossing if they stayed on that slant. It was almost sad to see. It was almost like watching a plane crash. The walls going on thinking that they are so beautiful and so special. They don't know that there is another one just across from it. Then suddenly they crash into each other. They realize that they are not exempt from any pain at all. How horrible would it be to crash? What will you do then? I definitely hated these walls. I didn't understand why Auster's father could just make something that was special because the feel was special. It didn't have to go so far to be special.
"You guys can sit," Auster says to us.
I had already taken the initiative and sat on the sofa. Unexpectedly, Nick takes a seat next to me. I am looking around and I see all these balloons that are tied together in a corner. There are so many that they are countless. They aren't filled up with helium. They were just blown, probably to be thrown and caught or something. I wonder who would spend some time blowing up so many, but then the maid walks in and gives me my water. Her lips are chapped as though she's spent the entire morning blowing those things up. She disappears again and the three of us are left alone again.
"So what's all the balloons for?" I ask.
"My little sister's tenth birthday party is in a couple of days," Auster tells me and then looks around; "my father told Maria to blow up those balloons. I don't see why though. My sister doesn't really invite any little kids to the party. It is mostly just a social event for my father and mother to impress their friends some more."
"Sounds like fun," I explain.
He almost laughs and then says, "Are you serious?"
"Yeah, I find wealthy people interesting," I tell him.
I found their entire mindset hilarious actually. A party like that would definitely be interesting.
"Well, you can come if you want," Auster explains, "Its next week. It'll be nice to have someone my age at those things. I'll pick you up, ok?"
I'm assuming Auster must not be as uncomfortable with what happened anymore. It seems like now are back on good terms.
"We should talk about what we are going to do about Patra," Nick says, uncomfortably giving me a little stare, "I want this to be completely over with."
"Didn't you say to forget about her?" I ask.
"Well now it seems like we need her."
"That's a little contradicting," I say, "Just like how you say I'm scum and yet you treat me actually nice when you THINK no one is noticing."
I can't hold it in any longer. I don't know what I'm thinking about talking about this here at this time but it just happens to come out. I remember how he holds my hands at weird times. That isn't a normal thing to do. It's a small gesture but it means so much.
"What's your issue?"
"There is this THING between us," Nick says, "We just need to talk about it and get it on the table. There is this huge tension between us and there's not too many things it can be. You think I hate you. I think you hate me."
"I don't hate you..."
"Ok, then what is it?'
I thought about saying it. I just thought about saying how I thought he was attractive and honestly my heart was acting funny every time he was around. That was what I felt like saying. I hated how he turned it back on me.
"Does it matter? Am I the only one taking it serious that people are trying to kill us? " Auster asks me and looks down with eyes full of the burden that he is speaking about.
He looks stressed. The weight of things is definitely falling down on him and I don't think that he is mentally prepared to take care of it. He thinks about it too much. I know that Auster has been raking his mind for an escape route for so long. I doubt he is going to find it though, because he is too concentrated on the end of the road but hasn't taken the time to see the road itself. I can see this in the way that he is rushing us now.
"Who died and put you in charge of everything?" Nick asked finally getting up, "Damn I'm really getting sick of this..."
"No Nick, Auster's right," I stated, "We have to figure this out. We are being attacked but Auster we must not be going about this the right way if we haven't found a solution yet. We sit here and have these group chats. They aren't doing anything."
"So we just wait for death?" Auster asks.
He is being a smart ass. He is definitely panicking and I can tell. I don't know how to take it. He is trying to take the charge of this situation but he's leading us nowhere.
"I see what my wind is capable of. It doesn't move rocks across table. It's not an element of subtleties. It is a force of destruction. I say we just survive."
They come for us and we take them down.
Sooner or later they'll learn.
The meaning of insanity is to do the same
thing over and over and expect a different result."
"You are expecting they are logical," Nick says, "What if they aren't?"
I hadn't thought about that.
"There are some things worth living for."
"Yes," Nick states, "I...I haven't told you all, but I actually plan on marrying my girlfriend."
"The one that cheated on you?" I ask.
"She made a mistake," Nick says, "Being here has really put a perspective on things. Being so closed to death I realize what I want in life. When we get rid of this I'm going to ask her to marry me?"
"Why do you sound so surprised? Isn't that normal? Boy meets girl? Boy falls in love with girl? Boy asks girl to marry him. Isn't that normal?"
Why should I feel jealous?
Why should my chest close up and this anger rise in me. I felt so tight in my chest. I didn't even look at him but I noticed him looking at me. He was waiting for me to respond. I wondered what he was waiting for me to say. I was gritting in my emotion. He was going to ask her to marry him? I was disgusted by the thought.
"Are you two done? " Auster asks, but this time directs the question to both Nick and I. He acts as though we are disturbing this great understanding that he has come to.
Nick shrugs but I know that he doesn't want to be finished with it. The argument is still burning in his head as well as in mine. He kept saying, "Isn't that normal." Why is he so defined by his normality. It bothers me really because I know that the normal reaction to what I am saying would be to ignore me just like Auster is. Normal people could care less about my opinion to their decisions. The fact that Nick is wondering proves that he is not normal, but the fact that he argues the point of normality so well makes me wonder exactly what he is like. Is he really set on his points or is he interested in the things that I am saying because a part of him shares in it.
"So has your one-tracked mind paid off?" I ask Auster, who remains tapping with his foot.
"We need to figure things out."
"Really? Is that what you've come up with so far?"
"Victor, you can't just criticize me," he explains and then almost seems to beg, "We need you, Victor. Even if you don't believe in what we are doing, we need you.
Auster is clearly brainstorming a way of stop the attacks against us from these unknown spirits from some other world. Auster probably thinks the rest of us are also trying to think of a way, but I doubt it. Nick seems removed from the room as well, but also he seems more aware of his surroundings. Specifically, he keeps staring at me as though he is still thinking about what I am saying. There must be something in him that causes him to be so interested in the way I think. I am just observing the two of them. Auster seems so focused on things and Nick seems so confused. Both of them feel as though they must figure something out, but I am not sure that either of them will figure anything out today. They must not have noticed that it is getting darker outside while they spent their time thinking and thinking.
We decided to all part ways for the day. It is actually late at night by the time that we make this decision. Nick says that his father is going to be worried about him. Auster doesn't really seem to notice that we are leaving. He is busy drawing up these pointless plots on a piece of paper as though the solution to deferring our deaths is some kind of mathematical problem.
He barely looks up when Nick says that he is leaving. I follow suit and decide that it is time that I leave as well. There would be no point in just staying to watch Auster plot things out when he won't come to any resolution.
Nick and I are taking the bus down the side of town that we live. He isn't really speaking to me. He seems like he wants to. He keeps saying things to himself as though readying himself to spark some kind of conversation.
you pissed at me?" he asks me finally.
"Why would I be mad at you?" I wonder, thinking that it would be best to just pretend like that tension didn't exist between us.
He turns silent all of a sudden as though not expecting me to have asked him that question. The bus is rolling downtown and there aren't a lot of people on it. I see a man who looks like a bum that is sleeping on the first bench. The woman across from him looks so disgusted by it and she keeps on looking at him as though sleeping on a bus was the worst thing someone could possibly do. It made me wonder why people thought like that. People judged other people for mediocre things when humans are capable of much worse. There are a few other people. There is one little girl who keeps staring at Nick, but it doesn't really alarm me. Many young girls around her age have this little schoolgirl crush on him because he has the commercially designed features that indicate him as good looking. The mature women don't really tend to fall for vain looks so easily, but the younger ones don't know much better. They all learn sooner or later when they find that a near perfect face can come with a lot of emotional daggers. I wonder if Nick even notices the girl's juvenile infatuation with him because he still seems to be stuck in his thoughts. They are still weighing down his expression and making him look like he is carrying around this big weight right above his eyebrows.
"I get mad," he tells me, like a sinner giving confession in a Roman Catholic Church, "I get really mad sometimes. I don't remember having a decent night sleep since Patra told us who we were. I keep feeling as though all my life trying to be what everyone else wanted because I felt like I lived for them. Now I may die. I may die tomorrow. What do I do now? I know that you must be feeling the same way."
"No...not really," I explain him, with a rather obvious nonchalant attitude, "It doesn't bother me because I never doubted that I lived for myself. I do what makes me happy. Unlike you."
"So you think I shouldn't marry my girl. Tell me now."
"Why are you so interested in what I think?"
I have wanted to ask that to Nick for a while now. He must be interested in what I say and perhaps I am interested in what he says. The interest, regardless of what it is, causes these moody attachments to be connected to our conversations. I believe that Auster must realize something like this. He must be wondering why we talk about ethics and ideals while our entire future is at risk.
"I guess its cause I never met anyone who thinks like you do," he explains and then continues with this faraway look, "You scare me sometimes."
"Do you think I'm going to hurt you?"
"Anything is possible. I've seen what you are capable of."
"I don't mean physically. Are you afraid something else will be hurt?"
"Like I said...I've seen what you are capable of."
His stop is coming up and it is before mine. He is getting up, hoping that he can leave in this clear sweep where I will spend my entire night trying to think about what he said. I don't want to. As he walks away, I reach out to pull him back with an aggressive interest.
"What do you mean when you say I'll hurt you?" I ask him, clutching onto his hand and refusing to let go even though the bus driver is nearly coming to a stop.
"I'm not sure. That is why I'm so scared."
He pushes his hand away and says something that may probably have been a goodbye. I am not really sure because he whispers it just before jumping off of the bus. He whispers when he's nervous and I can smell the sweat even when he's not on the bus any longer.
I wonder why he is so afraid of me. Is there something in me to be afraid of? It could also be that he doesn't know what he's talking about. If he were so afraid of me then he would try to stay clear of me and not speak to me unless it was necessary. He seems like he wants to make that choice but for some reason he is holding back. Nick is confused and lost.
Saccharine looks emancipated when I get home. Emancipated is a word that carries with it a clear defined meaning. To be emancipated, one must first be with bounds or limits.
I can see now that she had bounds and limits in her marriage because of how simply emancipated she is now. I don't know what to say to someone in her condition, but there's nothing really left to say. She smiles at me and for the first time, I don't think that there is something behind that smile. The smile is natural. It is clear and carries with it good intentions. She watches me walk into the house and does not offer to take my coat. She doesn't feel like she has anything left to prove. I wonder how the neighbors must feel about how we've been breaking so many windows lately.
There is no food on the table like usual. The scene isn't Ditch's favorite cinnamon bun scent.
"There you are," I state when I find her.
"I didn't expect you back so soon," Saccharine replies as I walk into her vanity.
She has her legs stretched out across the chair. She continues to reach, even though she has reached her limit and she can't stretch any further with her arms still connected to the rest of her body. Her long fingernails are being embedded into the sheets as though she is feeling them for the first time. Saccharine's skin is natural like the day that she was born.
There is nothing to cover the scars on her face. There is no more eye shadow. There is no shadow at all for her to creep under and hide so she can't be seen.
Her hair has become an entangled maze of inventiveness. Her free thought has caused wrinkles to fold up her forehead. Now she reveals lips that are chapped from negligence and eyes that have bags underneath. Yet those lips hold truth and those eyes with bags also have stars in them.
"I'm so ugly aren't I?" she asks me.
"Yeah, you are," I tell her looking at how her body has transformed from the ideality of what is beauty. I cannot lie to her because Saccharine of all people has understood what our generation has defined as beautiful.
She laughs steadily, "I know. I know. It's ok though. It's about time you see how truly disgusting I am. All these years and this is the first time that you see who I am. You can finally understand what I have been attempting to hide. Oh well. I'd rather this. If it takes so much to be beautiful then I'd rather not be. You don't understand how comfortable it feels to throw off the beauty and say I'm ugly! Those cosmetics can burn in hell, with the man who loved them so much."
"Did you regret what you did?"I ask her.
I have been wondering it. I have been feeling a guilt and it's not because Ditch is gone but it's because of her involvement in that process.
She steadily looks at her hands. She rubs them against one another slowly but then starts to continuously do it. I wonder if there is a stain there that I cannot see but she sees it. She rubs her hands so hard that I can almost hear the grinding noise. She finally claps them against one another and stops.
"There it is. That is the last of it," she announced proudly and then turns her attention to me, "What did you ask? Do I regret it? No, he killed himself. When he reached the point of madness, so did I. I was nothing more than an extension of him. Do you know I had a daughter?"
"Yes, by another man, out of wedlock," she explains and then says, "Her name was Isis. She was beautiful really but when he met me he made me fall in love. I felt like I needed his love because I was so ugly. From birth, I've been cursed with these scars on my face. My mother said that when Lucifer fell in the lake of flames, a bit of hell splashed into my face. No man would want a woman like me. Then Timothy came along and he saw past my scars. He said he loved me for my character. At that time, I had no idea what he means so I thought it would be a good thing. He was a perfect man, but there was one thing that kept him from marrying me. He told me that Isis was an act against God since she was out of wedlock. He said this because he knew that I was religious. Looking back, I think that it must have been because Isis was not his child. Isis would only have served as a reminder of the man that won my heart at one time. Yeah, Timothy was really a jealous person. Well, he wasn't the only one who thought that. My mother, she's dead now, thought that Isis should never have been born at all. She said Isis would get in the way of my marriage. One day, Timothy and my mother said they would go purify Isis. For some reason I couldn't come and my foolish love wouldn't let me grow suspicious. My foolish love only helped dig my daughter's grave. Supposedly Isis died drowning, but that wasn't the case. Years later, when I gave birth to you and my adoration caused me to be beautiful for Timothy, my mother confessed. She was on her dying bed from pneumonia and I guess she didn't want to take any doubts with her to judgment. She said that they baptized Isis, but Timothy thought that she was not being thoroughly purified and he kept her head down too long. By the time I found out about this, it was too late. My beloved Isis was already a memory and Timothy was my God. Can you see how ugly I am, even more now?"
I look at her. It is the first time in my life that I think about calling her mother. Her pure sorrow leaks from every syllable as she speaks. The humanity in her shines as she takes on this true responsibility for what she has done and what she didn't do. I see what has been hiding behind Saccharine's eyes for so long and the truth is like a bandage to all the scars on her face. It heals them until I cannot see them any longer.
"No, now that I have a good look at you, I can see you are beautiful," I tell her and smile, "Isis would be proud to have you as a mother."
"What about you?" she asks me and then turns, "I know it may be too much to ask. Somehow I know you aren't my son. Am I correct?"
"No...he died...that day at the carnival."
It surprises me that she nods and accepts it almost immediately. I think it is odd. I had expected her to question it and to be someone saddened by it. It seems like this was something she knew a long time ago however. She nods. She has accepted that a while ago.
"I know that you may not be because of something that is far beyond my comprehension, but would you like me as a mother?"
"Yes. You can pretend you were my mother, if you liked," I tell her, "I'll pretend I am your son...for as long as it takes. Like you said before...if you pretend long enough, you begin to believe it."
She looks happy. This may be what she's wanted for a while. I wonder what she sees in me that make her want the title so much. Perhaps she is still hoping for her son to come back somewhere in there. I don't know. Maybe she does know that her son is dead and maybe she's forgotten about him. She may be afraid to lose another child. She is so simply easy to please. It is almost like she is a child being born for the first time. She doesn't even seem to understand the full meaning of pretend. If she did understand it, then she doesn't care. She is grinning so wide that the sides of her mouths curl up and look like a dark creamy cinnamon bun. I watch her as she stretches out on her chair and goes into this state of happiness.
The relaxation settles over her like the first showers of morning mist and I think she goes to sleep but I don't stay in the room to find out.
The next day was something like a strange coincidence. I somehow missed the bus and managed to come to school late. Nick doesn't speak to me as I walk into the school building. He smiles, but doesn't say anything. I see past the transparent stare and see this vulnerability that he tries so thoroughly to hide. He is so conscious and self-aware. The wind is breezing and it causes the leaves to blow from the trees. The entire front of the school is littered with these red oak leaves. This morning the sun is so close and it feels as though it will leap down and burn the red oak leaves. What a sight it would be if the sun attacked the leaves. There are few people who are playing among the leaves and some of the freshmen kick them around on their way into the building.
School lets out and I wait afterward staring at these red leaves that are on the ground. They are so nice and I wonder how they will look like on fire.
"Victor," Badger says as he walks up to me with these heavy footsteps, "What are you doing?"
"Figuring things out," I explain to him.
"Things like what?"
"I am figuring out how I am going to die," I tell him and stare at these red leaves.
"Oh really?" he says and smiles. He thinks I'm joking again. He's thinking its just another drama that I'm having in my heard and he adds, "You seemed out of it all day. You didn't even budge when everyone was running out into the hallway to see the fight."
"It doesn't concern me."
"I thought it would since you and Nick have gotten so close behind my back," my cousin states.
"The guy who was cheated with his girlfriend. That isn't the crazy part. The boy lost the fight and he must have had a chemical reaction to something because his body was covered in burns."
Burns. Nick had used his element on someone. I shook my head. The whole conversation made me uncomfortable.
"He must really love that girl huh?"
told you not to get involved," Badger shook his head, "He's bad news."
"I'll see you Badger."
"Wait wait...have you seen your dad?"
Badger and Ditch had this relationship that I was always interested in. I didn't understand why they got along so well. I knew Badger would be one of the first to ask where Ditch is. Ditch had been planning to quit his job for a long time now.
"He'll show up..."
They wouldn't find it strange if he just stopped showing up. It was just like Ditch to stop showing up. All my life he hadn't shown up at all.
I go home but as soon as I go to my building, I see that Auster and Nick are there. My face almost squirms as I see them. It feels like I am damned to see their face everywhere that I go now. They wait patiently as though feeling that I am obligated to stop to them. I am obligated to ask them why they came for me and I am responsible for anything that they say. I stop before approaching them because I am wondering how I can get away from whatever comes out of their mouths. I don't know how long I can do this. I don't know how long I can fulfill expectations and be their predictable instrument. My freedom was too hard won.
Auster approaches me and he exposes this eye that he has been covering, "This is what we are involved in."
Auster has a black eye and a swollen lip. Nick has no bruises on him at all.
"I thought you got into a fight?" I ask Nick.
"I did and obviously so did Auster."
"Did a spirit attack you?"
"No...it was the girl," Auster says in obvious pain from the amount of pressure he asserts on his eye, "What is her damn name again, Nick? Help me out. I honestly forgot what it was."
"Patra," Nick answers.
I look at Auster's eye and wonder how a girl could have done that to his eye. It is swollen a little and there is a cut right below it that he continues to put pressure on. Nick looks as though he is a little bit amused about it. I don't blame him. It's embarrassing for Auster to have had this thing done to him by Patra.
"I don't believe that little church girl could be so...violent," I say.
"Neither did I," Nick agrees to me.
"She was assisted by her water," Auster
explains and then continues to speak, "She had it concentrated into this mighty
blow. I don't believe her hand even hit
me. She's a dumb little girl
really. She says that she did it because
I was threatening her. I didn't do anything!
I just asked her when she planned to help
us. She told me to back away and I
grabbed her hand. Then this happened."
"Did you hit her back?"
Auster looks at me as though I'm a little crazy. The idea must have never even crossed his mind. How blasphemous to hit a girl back after she hits you? He feels that femininity must be such a fragile thing that he could break if he doesn't handle it carefully. It is the normal mindset of chivalry that doesn't exist any longer and for good reason. Now these women have learned to protect themselves and they've recognized something that has been hidden for so long. Now what are we going to do? Hit them back.
"No," he answers, with this slight embarrassment because Nick is spending a lot of his energy to hold back this laughter.
"So you are here because you want to complain about what she did to you?" I ask him, embarrassed for him but still not interested.
"We have to make her help us," Auster tells me, "We have to go find her."
"We need her. There are four of us for a reason. She knows things she isn't telling us. That is the one thing all three of us agree on. We need all the help that we can get."
He needed help but we had no plan. We had nothing to do but worry and gather together so that we can worry together. I am beginning to see how slow this process is and how quick the horizon is disappearing
I wish they could see in me. I wish they could see how much I could care less about this girl. "She won't help. She's religious. She probably wants us to die."
Nick turns to me and I look at him. Auster has only one thing on his mind and that is to get through this. Why am I so worried about other things? Why am I not so motivated as he is to solve everything right now.
Nick shakes his head, "Look ok, let's put everything into perspective. People start attacking us randomly out of no where. We have control of elements as a means to protect ourselves. The only person who has given us any explanation of this now wants nothing to do with us. Am I right?"
"Yes, so now what are you going to do Nick?" Auster asks, "What are both of you going to do? Are you with me or not?"
Nick shook his head, "I don't believe in fate. I don't believe in magic. The only explanation for this is the entire world has gone crazy. I need to find out what's going on. I'm in. Under one condition. Auster you are not the boss of me."
Auster nods and quickly turns to me, "What about you?"
Nick looks at me, "C'mon you aren't going to leave me here with this guy are you?"
Auster is perhaps the most focused person that I know. I think maybe it is some kind of respect that I have for him because of it that makes me get into the car.
Maybe it is curiosity about what he is capable of doing. He is so driven. Maybe there is a chance he can really help us. I am not however interested in the girl. I can't stress it in words. She has stayed clear of us this entire time. I figured that I would have been the oddball of these four specially chosen people, but her isolation alone nominates her. I keep thinking about her as I get into her car and we are driving around the city in search for her. If I were in her shoes, I would want to be left alone. I would hate for these people to come searching for me.
Through mutual friends of Nick (he knew everyone) and the girl, we found out where the girl was. She was supposedly spending most of her after school hours at a church doing community service. She helped clean the church and had these psalm readings that she always participated in. The church was an Episcopal church in a section of the town that I wasn't really familiar with. From the outside, the church has stone blocks. It looks as though it was built in another time. The stained windows are seen clearly even though the sky has taken on this reddish-blue color as dawn approaches. I see some stained glasses of saints kneeling, dancing, praying, drinking and flying. I don't recognize any of these people except one with a golden ring on his head. It's easy to know who he is. The halo has rays around it that reminds me of how the sun may look like. I am beginning to think about this. I am thinking about how the sun looked earlier and then suddenly as we approach the building I have come to a conclusion.
"So I figured out how we are going to die," I tell Auster as we walk into the room.
"We aren't going to die," Auster replies.
I try to formulate my speech to make it sound classy, but it ends up slipping out regardless, "The heavens will part in flames. The angels will come down with arrows in their hand. They will take turn shooting at us. They'll steal our souls right out the flesh."
It was such a simple idea that I threw out. I wasn't sure if I meant it to be taken seriously really. I wasn't sure if I myself believed it, but I said it. They seem very weary of what I said. Nickmakes a joke about global warming that doesn't even make any sense and Auster just stares at the floor as though trying to make the idea of death just evaporate away.
As we enter the church, the first thing I notice is the warmth. This must not be the main entrance to the church. It must be a back way or something. We enter this long empty hall. There are signs leading to the refreshment room. The hall seems to be like a connection to two different parts of the building. The parish hall is one side of the building and the rest of the church is on the other side. I am following Auster as he leads us down this hall. There are photos hanging up on the walls of all the Episcopal priests that served there. Some of them are so old that they are paintings. Each window that is in the hallway is stained glass and it's arched up as though pointing to heaven. What is that smell? It smells like burning wax. Auster is walking as though he's been in this building before, but I don't entirely trust his certainty. The halls are dim but as I peer past the darkness I can see how the walls hold this Victorian elegance to them that makes me appreciate them. We make our way to the front room and immediately I am reintroduced to the original look of a church building. The altar room is built up like a mighty arch reaching to peaked roof so that I can barely see with the dim light at the top. There are stone angelic gargoyles on the outlining walls of the romantic edifice. The house of worship has an altar at the very front. A few choir people seem to be up there but they are socializing. It seems like some service is just now ending. The room is so large that they don't even notice us, even though all it would take was a turn of one of their heads. There is this smell of heavy incense that is in the church. I wonder if Auster recognizes it. It is so strong that it burns my nostrils and I put up my hand to block the odor.
Patra is sitting alone in one of the pews. She sits towards the back row and her eyes are closed because she is in prayer. She is not the only one who is in an isolated prayer. About five or six other people are sitting in this quiet, dark church praying in complete silence even in the absence of a priest. As I walk up to Patra, I see that she is wearing choral gowns. They are a tan shade of white with a red undergarment that shows at the collar and the sleeves. It reminds me of the Old English nightgown used by Wendy to fly with Peter Pan. That is how I imagined Wendy would really look in one at least.
Patra is unaware of our presence even as we go next to her. Auster and Nick take seats in the pews in front of her, but I sit right beside her. The smell of the incense is intensified around her. Perhaps she was the one letting off that odor the entire time. Only when I press down on the cushion does she recognize her company. Her mouth drops as though to scream, but she doesn't.
She stops for a moment and then inhales deeply. The inhaling turns to panting and she starts to cry. She weeps steadily into her hand and her kneeling position fits comfortably into it. She is kneeling on this big red pillow that looks like a padded footstool.
"God, are you really crying again?" I ask the emotional girl with an annoyed appall, "If you are going to, you might as well cry a little for me. I need some."
If only she could. If only she could cry away all my worries as well. That type of crying never helped, but people never learned.
"What do you people want from me?" she asks, tears pouring down her eyes, "I have nothing to give. Just get away from me. Why can't you all understand it? It's almost like I am being haunted by this. All day, you guys follow me up and down the streets. Why are you stalking me like this?"
Her tears are red. I doubt that either of the three of us has felt the least bit of sorrow for her. I wonder if she thinks that we have brought some kind of curse on her or something.
Auster is the one who is so passionate about tracking her down, "We aren't stalking you. We have been selective on approaching you. Have we threatened you?"
She cries a little bit more as though some horrible memories that have not yet had the time to be buried so are beginning to rise up in her head. She is silently swaying back and forth. She has nothing to wipe her eyes, so she uses her sleeve. She is sniveling and I see that Nick can't help but feel sorry for her.
"Take your time," he tells her and he pulls out these tissues from his pocket to hand to her.
She takes the tissue without reimbursing him with appreciation. Nick is far too nice to some people.
Auster shoots him a look, "What happened to Mr. Cool. I liked it better when you were a dick."
"I can't help it when a pretty girl is crying."
He must not understand this because he is reaching over his pew to tap her on the leg and make her feel better about whatever horror has plagued her. I wonder happened to her that was worse than when they possessed Ditch or made an attempt to attack us in broad daylight at the library. Had the spirits tempted her to hurt all those people like it did to me?
"It's getting dark," I say, looking at the time, "If she is going to speak, make her do it now. Those things probably like the darkness."
I'd rather be anywhere else. They can see it in my eyes. She doesn't want anything to do with us. I don't know why but I can feel it. Why are we wasting our time? Nick is noticing how I look. Our eyes connect. It's been so awkward between us lately.
Auster shakes his head, "The crying won't work. The prayers won't work. Our enemies have been attacking us, Patra. We don't know how to stop them. They are your enemies too."
"You don't get it," Patra responds.
"WE are the enemy."