Deep Red, Chapter Thirty-Three

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March 4, 1983: They came and took her away. They took my little girl. I was so weak, and when I got up to stop them–I couldn’t stop the bleeding. I passed out. When I woke up, she was gone. Mother and Victoria told me Margaret is one of the children prophesied to be the hybrid. I screamed until they brought in Isaak. When he saw me crying, he began to cry, too, and I had to calm myself so he wouldn’t be frightened. I will never forget this…March 8, 1983: Derek assured me that Margaret is well cared for. Cynthia will nurse both Margaret and her daughter, Zoe. Kenneth has forbade me from moving back there, and I know now is the time to move forward. Whatever I felt for Kenneth before, any small tenderness or love, is gone. They have stolen my child. They are thieves, and I will bring them down piece by piece, starting with the first person in my way…May 12, 1983: Kenneth is dead. I would like to take credit, but I cannot claim responsibility. I awoke this morning and he was cold. My only thought it that I am not the only one who wanted him out of the way. I’m staying in Colorado Springs. If I move back to Haven, both mother and Victoria will become suspicious of my intentions. I’ll let the kidnappers keep my daughter..for the time being. I’ll raise my son to be a warrior, and Cynthia will raise my daughter to be one, too…July 27, 1983: I went to Haven to visit Margaret. She’s so tiny and sweet. They’ve cribbed her with Haley and Jonathan’s daughter, Katrina. Katrina is the only other kindred at Haven, and I’m told she and Margaret hold hands at night. It’d be sweet if I wasn’t so frightened that Margaret will be pulled into their world. Haley and Jonathan are die-hard Counsel loyalists. Derek tells me Cynthia is only allowed near Margaret during feeding time…March 3, 1984: Margaret’s first birthday. She and the other 3/3–as all the Counsel have begun calling them–have taken prominence over the other Haven children (and I’m told there will be no more intake of disturbed Otherworld children until the 3/3 are cleared and the hybrid is discovered and nurtured). I don’t know what’ll happen to the children now. Will they be institutionalized in other, less hospitable Counsel environs? I shudder to think…March 3, 1985: Margaret’s two years old and perfect, and becomes more perfect every time I see her. She’s so strong. She knows her mama when I come, and she clings to me during our entire visit, yet she does not cry when I leave like the other children do after visiting time. She looks at me with knowing eyes, as if she already understands her greater place in this world. She doesn’t belong to me; she belongs to herself….

from The Diary of Bobbi Cayce, 1983-1984. Untranslated.

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Chapter Thirty-Three

The Nature of Control

The temple seemed overly crowded. Her one-on-ones with Q were far more comfortable. Q was funny, in his own way, and he was ironic and irreverent in the same nearly undetectable manner. His observations made her want to work harder for herself. Similarly, when Alexis kicked her ass, daily, it was private, and it made her feel stronger, even in her failure. Marlo had no idea how hard Alexis would work to save her own reputation or to enhance Marlo’s, but no matter how hard Alexis worked, Marlo knew she had to impress.

Any one–or all–of Marlo’s audience could second-guess their own belief in her competence and report to Victoria, the Counsel, which would prolong this process. She also didn’t want to feel like the waste of time and resources she saw when she looked in the bathroom mirror each morning. Moreso, Marlo didn’t know if her peers were rooting for her to succeed or fail. Though this wasn’t NASCAR, a few false steps could end in some amusing mishaps.

Marlo approached the middle of the room. On a table was a box of sand, a block of wood and a mirror. Marlo couldn’t decide which was stranger. Then she saw Alexis sitting near the front, wrapping her wrists. That couldn’t mean anything good was about to happen. Of course, Marlo thought, When was the last time something good happened?

The room bent around her and sucked her into a new memory, one from her childhood. The same group had gathered, and some odd twenty others as well. Adam stood close to her and held her hand. “No matter what happens,” he said. “Remember that we’re here, Katrina and me. You aren’t alone.”

Marlo’s memories of Adam and other aspects of her fuzzy past had been coming back in patches. Sometimes she felt like the memory was holding her head under, suffocating her. Other times, she wished she could be that happy again. That loved. Like when she remembered her mother. Her mother had also once told her that she’d never be alone.

“Should I be wrapping my fists, too?” Marlo asked Q.

“No,” he said. “I have a feeling you won’t need much in the way of protection. I want you to start using your spirit today. Move it to the places you feel it will be most effective. Know that it can spread, but be sure–”

“Not to take it too far. I know. What’s the other stuff for?”

“Well, this test is about earth elementals. Go ahead and call on the spirits,” he said.

In front of everyone? Marlo began to sweat.

“You aren’t alone,” little Adam’s voice repeated in her head. No, they were all less alone than they imagined, and she wondered if this would be the 3/3’s first lesson in this fact.

Marlo breathed and neutralized her intention, like Q taught her. “Earth spirits, benevolent mothers to us all, come to me. Attach to my intent and follow me in my fight.” To herself she chanted, “All but good shall follow good intent.” She didn’t want to hurt anyone.

Another voice chimed into her head. “Right and wrong are concepts made up by the Residents. Otherworlders have two primary instincts: survive and thrive. Surviving is instinctual. Thriving is doing only that which will lead you toward personal evolution.” Zoe’s words from months ago tugged at her center. I don’t have to be that way, Marlo said. I don’t have to become what they want me to be.

“No,” Q whispered in her ear, bringing her back to the present. “Just become. You’re already more you than you know.”

Marlo smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks,” she said.

Q stepped back. “Marlo and Alexis will be fighting in front of you for the first time. Please try to be quiet. No heckling, no cheering. Just watch.”

Marlo and Alexis toed off.

Marlo managed to avoid the first few punches from Alexis. She could tell Alexis was holding back.

“You can go full-out,” Marlo told Alexis. “It’s not like they don’t already know I’m a light weight.” Alexis looked at Q and he nodded.

“Remember to use all your skills, Marlo,” Q said.

Marlo tried to focus, but the thought of the people watching her was as distracting as Q anticipated.

Alexis’s next punch connected with Marlo’s jaw, sending Marlo stumbling backward. Marlo narrowed her eyes and muttered under her breath, “Good spirits of Nature, follow the intentions of my opponent. Feed each other with the knowledge of what is to come. Help me to match her blow for blow.”

Marlo’s belief that she might actually have some help allowed her to focus more on moving her spirit from place to place, which she had never done before in a fight with Alexis. Rather than stumbling when Alexi’s power struck her head, middle, arms or legs, she absorbed the blows with no pain, allowing her to strike back immediately.

For the rest of the sparring match, Marlo kept her spirit in her hands and feet, as well as her forearms and shins, but she saw no evidence of the nature spirits at work. The fight began to wane, with Alexis throwing herself into hitting Marlo and Marlo batting her away. Alexis stopped to breathe and Marlo stepped toward the table. Not a single item had moved.

“That was fairly underwhelming,” Zoe said.

“Shh,” Katrina said, elbowing Zoe. “Q said not to heckle.”

“Not during the fight.” Zoe turned to Q. “What happened to her being able to use elementals? I thought I might at least be here in an ambulatory faculty. I just wasted an hour for nothing.”

Zoe might as well have punched Marlo herself. Marlo imagined the block on the table hitting Zoe in the head, which it did about two seconds after Marlo thought it.

“Hey!” Zoe yelled.

Marlo then imagined the sand flying toward Zoe, clouding her eyes. Again, fantasy became reality, after which Marlo could see she caused real pain. Zoe’s eyes watered and she fell to a crouch on the floor, covering her face from the stinging sand.

Marlo went back to the time when Victoria had driven her to her knees. That feeling of helplessness. Marlo came to herself and released her visions of hurting Zoe. The sand flew back to its box, and the block of wood was back on the table as if it had never moved. Marlo looked down at the mirror and saw her eyes. Her pupils were fully dilated and she had a wicked smile she neither felt nor intended. What the hell is wrong with me? Marlo asked. Why can’t I stop hurting people?

“I-I’m sorry,” Marlo said.

“Do we need to take you to medical?” Katrina asked Zoe.

“I am medical,” Zoe said. She blinked her eyes several times and wiped the remaining sand from her face. “And I’m fine.”

Marlo and Zoe stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. Zoe’s eyes were so clear and devoid of malice. It was as if she understood something about Marlo that Marlo couldn’t fathom. She seemed angry, or irritated, but not at Marlo.

“The test is over,” Q said. “You all need to leave.”

Drew flanked Marlo as she walked toward the temple door. “Temper gets the best of all of us,” he said. “It doesn’t mean–”

Marlo turned and put her hand over his mouth. “I know you mean well,” she said. “But please…shut up.”

“Marlo,” Q said. “You stay.”

Marlo sighed and moved her hand from Drew’s mouth to his cheek. “Don’t stop being you,” she said. “I’ll either learn, die, or become something you have to kill. Promise me something.” Drew nodded. “If I ever become too powerful and dangerous…” Marlo hesitated on the next words, “If you see me misuse my gives, then you have to promise to kill me.”

“It’s been the plan all along,” Drew said. “But I’ll do it for you, if it comes to that. Not for Them.”

“I guess that’s something,” Marlo said. “I’ll see you once I’m done with my talking-to.”

Drew nodded and squeezed her shoulder. “Just remember: you aren’t alone.”

Marlo’s heart expanded and she smiled at him. She looked past him, however, and, seeing Q’s stoney expression, lost all sense of companionship. “Thanks for being you, Drew. It’s appreciated. Now, you’d better go.”

Once the two of them were alone in the temple, Q relaxed his face. “The spirits shouldn’t have allowed that,” he said.

“You told me they were hard to control. I suppose it’s impossible to control them when I’m angry.”

“They’ve developed an affinity for you, which is positive. And negative. I did not sense any malevolent spirits in the room, so the benevolent spirits are willing to injure others on your behalf. If you are able to make a connection with the other spirits in such a way, but do not have control over your anger, then you will certainly end up going against your nature, and everything I plan to teach you.”

“What if it is my nature to be mean? To be petty? Do you even know what I used to do to Drew when we were young? What I’ve done to others, not because they were hurting me, but because I could?” Marlo asked.

“Yes,” Q said. “I know. And it doesn’t change my opinion about you, or who you can be. You see what you’ve done and you feel remorse?” Marlo nodded. “And your guilt makes you push your emotions, good or bad, down somewhere where no one can see them, where no one can be inconvenienced by them.”

“How do you know all that?” Marlo asked.

“Because the little one inside you wouldn’t exist otherwise.”

“Then we should stop. I can’t become this unemotional person. My emotions are so ingrained in me. I can just be the hybrid, use my spirit to help make me stronger. I don’t need anything more to be who I’m supposed to be.”

“Fuck what you’re supposed to be,” Q said. Marlo didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or run away. Had he lost it? “You are meant to BE. You are meant to become. Become more than they ask. Become more than you think you have been or ought to be. You don’t have faith in yourself, because you don’t know yourself well enough to understand what you’ve lost. You don’t know how your emotions can benefit you, because you’ve been trained to believe that emotions are a liability. It was so easy for them to separate you from yourself, from the part of you that makes you the hybrid. You allow the good parts of yourself to be hidden or distorted, and you have forced the negative or inconvenient parts to become throwaways–easily manipulated, botched abortions. I’m not asking you to become an automaton. That’s what They want you to be.”

“You seem to be taking this really personally,” Marlo said.

“It is personal. You have all the pieces to be a force of good in this world, a world that I am tied to body and soul, and part of what you had going for you is gone.”

“My spirit says there is no good…or evil,” Marlo said.

“Your spirit understands those terms in Otherworld ideals. In this world, there are both, and while they are indefinable, you can choose to become one or the other, and if you choose to let someone use you, then you are feeding into their intentions, not your own.”

“Well, we have what we have,” Marlo said. “This is me. Take me or leave me. I can’t go back, at least not without some kind of direction. Give me a compass. Give me something! You’re so fucking incandescent and powerful. Do something to help me!”

“In due time,” Q said, recomposing himself. Always in due time, Marlo thought. Later. “First, you must learn control.”

“Why wasn’t that the first goddamn lesson?” Marlo asked.

“Because,” Q replied. “Before you can learn control, you must see the necessity for it.”

Chapter Thirty-Four→