The Decapitation of Dr. Rai Tenabe

The mobile stirred as a stifled Brahm’s lullaby played.  As I held the syringe up I saw his foot lift up as if he could protect himself.

Push down, I told myself.  For some reason my forefinger stalled.  I couldn’t push the stop down any further than where it was.  Why?  I had been able to do this hundreds of times while in the hospital.  It’s not like I wouldn’t have done the same thing if a patient of mine had had a similar predicament.

A soft coo escaped his lips as I watched him begin to stir more.  I looked at the clock above his crib.  It was five forty and she would be home by six.  I had to do it.  It would do him good.

I slid the needle under his skin seamlessly and squeezed my hand into a fist, forcing the malicious Omega out of the syringe and into his body.  As he stirred I felt a wave of relief course through my body.  They could never get me in trouble.  Sure, they could arrest me but their hard evidence was gone.  As I sighed relief out once more I reflected back as to what brought me to this point.

Rastin had been caught.  He had molested one of his patients.  His mistake cost him his medical license and the hospital a large sum of money in the new heightened security.

Rastin, Johnson and I had been as close as the three musketeers.  We had all had at least one patient who begged for something more.  We had made mistakes, but we kept them secrets.  Mine was named Nikki.

The day Rastin was arrested I had become a father.  Nikki looked so beautiful and my son was healthy.  When I met Nikki after the delivery though, she looked ten times lovelier than even our most intimate dates.

As I stepped into her room I saw her head slide to another side of the pillow in her bed.

“Hey,” she said.  Her voice sounded airy.

“Good afternoon Nicole.”

“Rai,” she sat up, “he’s so good looking.  He looks a lot like you.”

“Please be professional, Miss Cordini.” I said, eying the security camera in the corner of the room.

“He’s got your eyes,” she smiled.

“Miss Cordini, if you are quite all right I think I will be off—”

“Off where?”

“That is none of your concern.”

“I think it should be.”

I looked at the camera once more then back at her.

“I’ll come back and visit you when it’s time to clear you for discharge.”

As I turned from her and began to walk away she breathed out, “He’s in the bed with the sea green dinosaur blanket.”

Part of me paused and wanted to go visit him, but it would arouse suspicion.  So I ignored the urge.

“I haven’t come up with a name yet,” she added, “I mean, we never decided on whether or not he should be—”

“Miss Cordini, if you please.”

“Don’t talk like that Rai.”

“Doctor Tenabe,”

Nikki’s face darkened, “Doctor Tenabe…”

I could sense her discontentment, so I began to choose my words carefully, “We can discuss a name later child,”

“I’m not a child.” she turned her head away from me.

“Nicole, I—”

“Please, just go away.” she said.

I could tell she was upset, but I couldn’t explain myself because of the camera staring me down.  I tried to open my mouth and explain, but words never came out, just air.  So, I walked out the door and saw a nurse rushing towards me.

“Dr. Tenabe, you’ve got a visitor,” she said, pointing down the hallway.

I walked towards where her forefinger directed and found a woman dressed in blue polyester and sunglasses.

“Good day Dr. Tenabe.  I’m Detective Atlerbury.”

“Good day, detective,” I replied.  We shook hands and matched grips.  She had a very masculine grip, “What can I help you with today?  Are you having trouble getting pregnant?”

I tried to stick with business.

She laughed a little before she spoke, “I just have a couple questions that I need to ask you Doctor.  No big deal.”

“You believe I’m some sort of a criminal?  Is that it?”

“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, no matter what I may think.”

“Well let’s go to my office and see what I can do for you.”

In the left corner of my office sat a video camera.  I cursed Rastin for his idiocy as I allowed Detective Atlerbury in.  We sat down and she smiled at me once we were both settled.

“I know Rastin was a good friend of yours,” she said, “but he has said there are other doctors who engage in malpractice.”

“And where does this involve me?” I asked.

“Well, your name as well as Dr. Johnson came up.”

“What constitutes malpractice?”

“For you, impregnating patients.”

“My patients are already pregnant detective.  I see plenty of expectant women.  It’s part of my job.”

“You see plenty?  How many is ‘plenty’?”

“Well you can ask Leslie the secretary to pull up my clientele list and see for yourself.”

“I’d rather have a rough estimate.”

“What do you—”

“I don’t exactly have all the time in the world to waste counting each individual patient.”

“Well it’s an exceptionally long list.  That’s what happens when you’re under the free Planned Parenthood branch of the hospital.”

“Rough estimate doctor.  How many?”

“In a year?”

“Day.”

“In a day I could see as little as twelve and as many as sixteen.”

“And how long are your appointments?”

“That’s much more variable.”

“Again, rough estimate.”

“Well it can take women a long time to get into the office depending on how far along they are.”

“Rough estimate.”

“Shortest appointment time is about ten minutes.”

“And your longest?”

“One patient once took about two hours.”

“Two hours for a routine check up?”

“She wanted tests done.”

“That seems like a long time for tests.”

“You can check the books if you—”

“No, I believe you,” she spoke very slowly, “this two hour long appointment is rare though right?”

“Yeah, only one patient has taken that long.”

“Only one?”

“That’s what I said.”

“One patient had you in a room for two hours on something that could take as little as ten minutes?”

“Well yeah but like I said, she was already pregnant.”

“And you have not impregnated any patients.  Is that what I’m to understand?”

“Correct.”  I felt pretty good.  I had made it through a really rough interrogation, and I hadn’t tripped up at all.  Then she threw a wrench in my game.

“I already have a statement from Rastin saying you’ve not only engaged in malpractice, but you’re also a father to one of the infants born here.  What do you say to that?”

“I say he’s just trying to save his behind by blaming someone else for his own weaknesses.”

“I see,” she smiled and rubbed her forefinger and thumb together.  She watched as her fingers engaged in this ritual.  After about five or six rubs she leaned forward onto my desk and looked me right in the eyes.

“Then you wouldn’t mind if I were to ask for a DNA sample from you.” she said.

“DNA?”

“Deoxyribonucleic Acid.” she replied.

“Thanks.  I know what it is.”  I could feel my forehead begin to dampen up with sweat.

“Then, where’s the problem?”

“Why do you want it?”

“Just following procedure.”

“Oh, well—”

“I can easily eliminate you as a suspect.”

“Suspect of—”

“Yes, is that a consent?”

I paused for a moment.  What would she do if I said no?  Would she forgo the questioning and just read the Mirandas there and then?  The thought made my palms clammy.  I forced myself to exhale.  I didn’t have anything to worry about.  I hadn’t done a single thing wrong.  It was consensual.  Nikki wanted it.  She had consented; otherwise I wouldn’t have done it.

“Yes, I consent.”

“Very well then,” she slid her chair back and stared at me expectantly.  I stared back at her with the same degree of expectation.

“What do you want from me Detective?” I said.

“Just a single hair is all,” the detective replied and that was all she said before plucking a strand of my black straw-like locks.  She placed it inside an envelope, and nodded politely while holding out her hand for a second shake.  We matched grips again, “I appreciate your cooperation.”

“Nice talking with you,” I said, which was a lie.  She let go of my hand and left.

As Atlerbury exited my door, I felt my heart and chest squeeze together.  I cursed myself for being so stupid and letting the detective take a sample of my DNA.  I had heard of court cases before that had serial killers who had no DNA profile in their sperm but I highly doubted I was one of the few who had that same luck.  I slumped into my chair and tried to keep busy with papers and test results.

I tried for days, but nothing worked.  The detective had claimed my sanity.  Everywhere I looked, I was distracted.  I wished in every appointment that I never had to see her again.  As much as I would have liked for that dream to come true, it didn’t.  I heard from her again while visiting Nikki.

Nikki’s face was framed by the moonbeams.  She looked lifeless, but her voice was more prominent than it had been before. “Rai, the nurse wants to know what you’ve named him.” she said.

“It should be what you named him Nicole, just make it a masculine sounding name.”

“I like the name Haruku,” she said.

“That makes him sound like a pretty boy.”

“It’s soft.”

“Exactly.  Can’t you name him something a little more manly?” As I begged for Nikki to rename him, I could see her face become dark.

“Fine, big strong man what do you want to name him?  Agememnon?”

“Something that sounds a little more masculine.  Haruku—”

“It’s a human sounding name.”

“And it’s my middle name.”

“Yeah, and what?”

“There’s a big problem with that.”

Silence for two seconds, and then Nikki spoke again.

“What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing.”

“Bullshit.”

“Nicole please just—”

“No, you just shut up and listen.”

“Nicole I—”

“You’ve not been around Rai.  I mean, the day I had him you saw me and you said you’d see me again.”

“I’m here aren’t I?”

“Yes, after three whole days of nothing but the nurses bringing the baby in for me to see.  They ask about his father.  They ask about you Rai.  If you’d just be here for more than say two minutes and be more about us and less about business things would be better!”

“Things aren’t going to get better.”

Silence.  Nikki put the baby down in his makeshift bed the hospital provided.  When she spoke again, her voice was low like a hum of an air conditioning.  It was as if she was trying to protect the poor baby’s ears from what she was going to say next.

“Are you cheating on me?”

“What?  No.”

“Then why are you making yourself scarce?  What have you got to hide?!”

Nikki looked at me, and I looked up at the camera in the corner as she continued.

“Tell me Rai, I’m not fucking stupid.  There’s something you’re hiding, and if its another woman just fucking tell me so I can move on.”

I sighed and walked over towards the camera and pulled the plug it was connected to, she didn’t notice.  She was still talking.

“Hell, I’ll even go back to Rider.  You know how much you hated that guy.  I hated him too, but at least he was honest.  At least he was there when I—”

I covered her mouth with my hand.  The move surprised her, and she looked ready to bite my hand off.  She could have too.  I wished she had for a second.  If that had happened, at least then I could say I didn’t touch her because I didn’t even have a hand.  Once she was calm and silent, I sat down beside her.  I couldn’t hide this investigation of Atlerbury from Nikki.

“Nikki,” I said.  I placed my hand on top of hers, “Rastin was arrested for malpractice.  They’re suspicious of Johnson and I too.  I’m trying to protect you and the boy, but she’s got a DNA sample.  It’s going to be hard to dismiss the accusations.  You naming him Haruku, my middle name, isn’t going to make things any easier.”

“But—”

“If you have any care for me Nicole, you will do as I ask.  Name him something untraceable.” I took my hand off her mouth and let her speak.

“I like Haruku though,” she whined.

“That’s more evidence for the detective.  They’ll take him away and run tests on him.  He’ll become a guinea pig.  Do you want that?”

She looked down at the baby’s head and back up at me, “No..”

“Then name him something different.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Don’t think about it.  Do it.”

I felt my pager vibrate my hips, but I ignored it.

“Aren’t you going to go help your patients?” she asked.

“I need an answer.”

“I already told you I’d think about it.”

“That’s not an adequate answer.”

“I don’t care if it’s adequate for you,” she said.

“Nicole—”

“I suppose first it will be ‘name the child something that can’t be traced to me’, and next it will be, ‘oh Nicole, I love you so much but I can’t give up my job over you two’.”

“What?  Nikki, no.  You’re blowing this way out of proportion, and it doesn’t need to be.”

“Go to your little patient Rai.  I’ll still be here when you’re done with her; when you’re done fucking around; when you’ve grown up.”

I gave up.  It was pointless to try to speak to her. She just couldn’t imagine herself as a mother.  That was all.  I surrendered to my pager and stormed out of the room.

The phone number was one I was unfamiliar with, but I answered the phone number all the same.  On the other end was Atlerbury’s voice.

“Doctor Tenabe?”

“Speaking.” I replied.

“I received your test results.  Is it possible you can come down to the station for a few minutes?”

“I would love to, but a patient of mine is suffering from the baby blues and I need to be here to monitor her progress.”

“As far as I recall, baby blues are not any cause for alarm.”

“They can be a precursor for postpartum depression.”

“Why don’t your nurses do that work?”

“I have no nurses.”

“Don’t lie to me doctor.”

I wasn’t properly prepared for this interrogation.  She tripped me up.  Think of something fast.  Think fast Rai.

“What I mean is, I have no nurses who are qualified to fulfill that need.” I said.

That would have been a good save if she hadn’t retorted.

“Okay then, let’s say you do have this patient who requires your constant care.  May I have her name?”

I was silent, and I thought for a second about hanging up.  This questioning wasn’t going any better than the conversation I had with Nikki, but Nikki was at least cute when she was mad.

Atlerbury broke the silence.

“Either you tell me Tenabe, or I will come down there and find out myself.”

She was bluffing.  She had to be.  She was a strong woman, but there were certain patient confidentiality terms I had to adhere to.  If she was as smart as she made herself out to be she wouldn’t have made such a call.

“Your silence says it all doctor.” she replied, “I will be seeing you again.”

Dial tone.

It sounded much more pure than the voice of the detective.  My shoulders lowered and I exhaled once again.  As I walked back over to Nikki’s room, I saw Johnson coming out of the elevator down the hall.

“Tenabe,” he said.  Johnson always had a way of making even the most reserved names sound like they were part of a college fraternity.  Why was he not the one who was caught first?  Perhaps it was his relatively rotund physique that kept him under the radar.   Or maybe it was his lack of care for making himself presentable. His dark hair was always a bird’s nest, even though he’d say he’d combed it, and his face made a Jack-o-Lantern look anorexic.  Or maybe it was his linebacker shoulders that could make Hercules a victim to fearful incontinence.

“Hi,” I replied.  Part of me wanted nothing to do with Johnson, and another part of me wanted nothing to do with Nikki after her outburst.  Johnson was a friend though.  With Nikki’s most recent reaction being less than pleasing, I felt like he was the only one who I could rely on for a positive lift.

“Where are you headed?” he asked.

“I was just answering some call.”

“New patient?”

“No, just a…someone.”

“How’s Nikki doing?”

“She’s good,” I replied, “a little blue-ish so she’s kind of snappy.”

“Blue-ish?  She coming down?”

“Coming down from having a baby.”

“You sure it’s not the drugs?”

“She’s been cold turkey for almost a year Jay,” I felt my teeth clenching together.

“I know Rai, I’m just messing with you.” Johnson slapped my shoulder with his large palms and let out a steady chuckle.  When slapped, I usually relaxed and engaged in friendly bantar, but today was different.  It caused my shoulders to try to climb to my ears.  Not only had he insulted the mother of my child, but he also swatted me with an insult.

“Stop talking like that.” my teeth ground together like nails to an old green chalkboard.

Johnson looked taken aback.  I hadn’t really surprised him though because within a moment he was laughing with the volume of a drunkard.

“Hey everyone, look whose panties are in a twist!”

His arm stretched across my back and pulled me into his body.  All eyes in the hallway magnetized to me.  Any other day, I wouldn’t have cared.  This time was different.  Nothing was normal about today.

I didn’t want attention.  I never did.  I pushed Johnson off of me.  It was like I’d released a caged Hulk.  Or perhaps I summoned an excess strength I never used from the stressful events of my childhood.  Whatever it was, I scared Johnson out of his drunk-like nirvana.

I spun Johnson over to the secretary’s desk and pinned him between my two tense arms and the surface.  Who knew I had muscles under my scrawny arms?

“Shit Tenabe.  No need to—”

“Say what you want about her, but don’t slander my good name.” I said.  I paused and looked around the hallway.  All those eyes that I had tried to keep off of me were still staring me down, and more intently.

“You got a problem?” Johnson’s eyes challenged my stare, “Because if you do, you might want to discuss it in private.”

Privacy.

The word ebbed into my being and relaxed it.  It was as sweet as honey that led me to my surrender.  I freed Johnson and all eyes that honed in on me returned to their business.

“Can we speak privately?” I asked, straightening Johnson’s white coat back up.

“I have to be at an appointment in a few minutes, so I can’t talk now.”

“You just told me to talk to you in private.”

“I can talk to you later.”

“Thanks a lot friend.”

“Hey, chill out.”

“This is just like you.  Whenever Rastin and I were in the crapper, you’d be busy.”

This remark stopped him from walking.  He walked back over to me and asked in practically a whisper.

“Are you going to go see Rastin?”

“I suppose I could,” I replied, “but I don’t see why I should.”

The eyes magnetized to me once again and I could feel the heat of their stare down.

“Can we please talk where the world can’t hear us?” I asked.

“That’s hard to do when our walls have ears.” Johnson replied.  His voice was much, much quieter, “I’ve got someone coming in for a biopsy in about ten minutes.”

“I need some form of support here Jay,” I said, “the detective has closed in on me, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

“I’m sorry Rai.  I really am.  My best advice: get Nikki out of here as fast as possible.  The longer she’s here the more hell it’ll be for you.”

“She hasn’t even named the kid yet.”

“Kid?” Johnson’s eyes grew wider, “He’s born?”

I simply nodded in reply.

Johnson let out a long sigh, as if he was mentally exhausted with my sack of problems. “Okay.  That’s all the more reason to get her out of here.  If they find her it’s one thing, but if they get their paws on that kid they’ll eat you alive.”

“But—”

“Go see Rastin.” Johnson took off towards the break room and I turned back around and headed over to Nikki’s room.

Nikki was snuggling the baby and whispering to him when I came back through the doorway.  When she saw me, her face grew dark again.

“Welcome back.  Did you have a good quickie?”

Her words were like darts.  She didn’t throw just one, she threw handfuls of darts and they all landed in my bullseye.  It hurt to see her so jealous.

“I don’t think Johnson would be a good companion for something like that.” I replied, trying to hold my head up.  The ground pulled at my head though and I couldn’t keep it from hanging low.

She saw this change and shook her head.  Her face lightened up and stopped her angry comments.  She held the child out for me, probably attempting to make up.  “Want to hold him?” she asked.

“I’d like that,” I replied and walked over to her bed.  As I placed one hand behind his head and the other on his bottom and lifted him up to my face he cried.  Even though I had held hundreds of infants before I touched this one, I felt a wave rush through me.  It stimulated me like electricity and made me feel good to be alive, even though things were really on the bad part of the spectrum.  I smiled as I ran my hand up and down his back.

“Sh sh sh sh child.  It’s okay,” I checked the camera in the corner and saw the plug was still gone, “Daddy’s here for you…uh…child…”

“Dale,” Nikki said.

“Hm?” I turned my attention toward Nikki and saw a smile on her face.

“His name’s Dale.” she said.

“Daddy’s here for you Dale,” I repeated over and over until the infant fell asleep.  Once he was asleep I handed him back over to Nikki.

“So doctor, can I go home?” she asked.

“Do you have a safe haven to go to?” I replied.

“I thought I’d stay at your place,” she said, “that’s where his crib is.  You know, and all the things I got while ‘nesting’.”

“I can’t let you stay there.”

“But—”
“Where am I supposed to stay?”

“Uh, with us?” Nikki’s voice grew louder and I saw Dale’s eyes begin to slide open.

“Look Nicole, I know the hospital is bad but—”

“No, Rai.  You don’t know anything.  I’m not supposed to be here.  I need to be at home with Dale.”

“This environment is controlled through.”

“Yeah, controlled to the point where I haven’t gotten a single kiss, hug or anything since I’ve come in.  We need to go home.”

I guided my hand down into my pocket and grabbed my house keys, “I’ll clear you tonight and get you a taxi.” I said.

“I don’t want a taxi,” she argued.

“Nicole, shut your mouth and listen to me for one second.”

Her face grew dark.  “What happened to you?”

“Are you listening?”

She finally shut her mouth and I handed her my keys, “Here are the keys to my house.  I think just for safety’s sake I’m going to lay low for a few days.  The house is yours.”

She received the keys well, but her face looked more concerned, “What, are you not coming home?”

“I will eventually.”

“Eventually?  Rai, you promised—”

“I promised you the world before Johnny Law suddenly sent an Amazon.”

“So that’s it then.  There’s no way you can come home and we can be a family?”

“If I think of a way, I’ll let you know.”

There was a way, and I knew it.  I didn’t want her to have to rely completely on me though.  She and Dale needed to be their own independent unit if I had any chance at outsmarting the detective.

Nikki and Dale both were discharged the next morning.  I wheeled them out the door and as I leaned down to lay a kiss on Nikki’s cheek, I saw a reflection of a police car in the taxi window.

No, it can’t be, I thought.  Out from the driver’s seat stepped Detective Atlerbury.  I abandoned Nikki and Dale to go intercept her before she came anywhere near my secret family.

“Dr. Tenabe, it’s great to see you again.”

“Good to see you too,” I replied, forcing a smile across my face.

“Who was that you were just wheeling out?”

“A patient of mine,” I replied.

“Huh,” Atlerbury nodded and watched as Nikki got into the taxi, “do you usually say goodbye with a kiss?”

“What—”

“You just laid a kiss on her before you rushed over here to meet me.”

“I did nothing of the sort.”

“I saw you,” she said.

“Well you were mistaken.” I replied, staring her down.

“We’ll see about that,” she said.  She walked past me towards the hospital doors and I decided it was time for me to get away from the hospital.  I pulled out my cell phone from my pocket and called my secretary.  I reassigned my morning appointments to a different doctor and called a taxi to take me to the jail.  I had to see Rastin.

I had heard that jail was a crime university.  Instead of rehabilitating problematic behavior, it seemed to just sharpen the skills of the everyday criminal.  I wasn’t a criminal, although I knew if I stood any chance at finding out new things, I’d have to speak to someone on the inside.  Rastin was my connection, however unfortunate his predicament was.

When we spoke he seemed different.  His sing-songy voice that would melt a woman’s scorn was gone.  It had changed to a Phrygian sound with a staccato-like execution.  Everything else about Rastin was the same.  His hair was immaculately fixed, parted in the middle and combed back.  A steamroller could not mess up his hair with the amount of gel he put in it.  For all I knew, he could have been in a fight earlier and I would have never known.

“Hello old friend,” Rastin said from other line.

“Why did you snitch on me?” I asked.

“Because I can’t spend my days in this place forever,” he replied, “I may not be able to practice medicine again, but I at least stand a chance of doing something else if I don’t waste my life here.”

“Who gives a damn about your life?” I could feel my head getting hot.

“Rose does,” he replied.

“Rose?  She’s the one who got you in trouble in the first place.  She doesn’t give a damn about you.”

“Rose has a higher quality than Nikki,” Rastin’s eyes stared me down, “she was straightedge.”

“Just because Nikki was a heroin addict doesn’t mean Rose is a saint,” I argued.

Rose wasn’t a saint.  She was just another one of those girls trying to get money and publicity in anyway possible.  She strung Rastin along for months before she finally let him kiss her.  Once she had finally let him kiss her, she went to the tabloids and reported sexual harassment.  How was that higher caliber than Nikki?

Nikki genuinely cared about me.  There was no selfish desire there, although I’m sure my financial stability was a draw for her.

“Calm down,” he answered, “I know you didn’t come here to scream at me.  You’ve never been a screamer.  What’s eating you?”

I paused for a moment to catch my breath.  I debated on whether or not to open my mouth and tell Rastin more.  He had snitched and whatever I told him would probably lead to more snitching, but I needed some criminal education.  Or at least an idea of what I should do.

“Atlerbury has closed in on me,” I finally answered, “Nikki had the baby.  It was a boy.  Atlerbury’s suspicious of me and she has a DNA sample from me.  If she gets her hands on my son, it won’t be easy to dismiss the charge.  Especially if she can, you know, show I’m the father.”

Rastin sighed and his face darkened.

“Tenabe, I don’t know what to tell you.  I mean, I’m sorry for ratting you out, but as far as I can tell your goose is cooked.  There’s really no way you can get out of it without doing unthinkables.”

“Just how unthinkable are these—”

“You wouldn’t just jump into them.”

“I will do anything to protect my family.”

Rastin paused and rubbed his forehead with his free hand.  It took a few minutes before he finally spoke again.

“Tell you what,” he said, “I can’t give you a lot of details, but if you want to get rid of this Atlerbury you need to look up the Omega.  It’s relatively new, but if you can get your hands on it, it’ll put your problems away for good.”

“Thanks Rastin,” I said, “I hope your dream of Rose loving you works out.”

The Omega was a toxic virus.  It lived up to its name.  After nights of researching and investigating I became more and more convinced that it was my only way to keep myself scott free of malpractice charges.  Not to mention that other evidence against me had mounted.  Atlerbury had somehow located Dale’s birth certificate, which listed me as his father.  Not only that, but although I had unplugged the video camera in Nikki’s room I discovered they were equipped with a back up battery and while they didn’t film, they recorded sound.  Atlerbury had both my name on a birth certificate and a recording of me saying “Daddy’s here” to add to her arsenal.  The Omega was necessary.  I received a sample of it from the pharmacy, and told Nikki that I would come home and watch over Dale while she went out to try to find a job.

The majority of the babysitting day went through like a routine.  Feed, burp, change diaper.  Feed, burp, change diaper.  As the day progressed I felt the vial of Omega burning against my pants pocket.  I couldn’t bring myself to inject Dale while he was awake, and so I resolved to do it once he was put to bed for the night.

Once five o’clock rolled around I put the infant in his crib and started his mobile.  It spun around in a hypnotizing way and as Dale watched the different shapes spin around, I felt around in my coat pocket for a syringe.  Once the syringe was prepped I pulled out the vial of the Omega virus.  It shone like gold.  It was my reward.  The syringe inhaled the Omega like a breath from a near dead body.

The mobile stirred as a stifled Brahm’s lullaby played.  As I held the syringe up I saw his foot lift up as if he could protect himself.

Push down, I told myself.  For some reason my forefinger stalled.  I couldn’t push the stop down any further than where it was.  Why?  I had been able to do this hundreds of times while in the hospital.  It’s not like I wouldn’t have done the same thing if a patient of mine had had a similar predicament.

A soft coo escaped his lips as I watched him begin to stir more.  I looked at the clock above his crib.  It was five forty and she would be home by six.  I had to do it.  It would do him good.

I slid the needle under his skin seamlessly and squeezed my hand into a fist, forcing the malicious Omega out of the syringe and into his body.  As he stirred I felt a wave of relief course through my body.  They could never get me in trouble.  Sure, they could arrest me but their hard evidence was gone.

Once the child stopped moving, I covered him with his sea green dinosaur blanket. I threw the syringe away in his diaper bin.  Once I was sure I had done adequate damage control, I walked out of the nursery towards the family room and relaxed on a couch.

I flipped on the television and saw Rastin’s face in the corner of the screen.  The news anchor said he was sentenced to five years in prison.  Five years, only five years in prison? I practically threw the controller because he got off so easy.  All I could do was stare at the news cast while I waited for Nikki to return home.

Once Nikki returned, I thought she would make a beeline for me and give me a kiss.  Not so.  She passed right by me and honed in on the area where Dale had been laid to rest.  She screamed, and I didn’t react.  I had expected her to scream.

She rushed out of the nursery with Dale wrapped in his dinosaur blanket.  She was holding him tightly, close to her chest.

“Rai, what happened to Dale?” she asked.

I walked over to Nikki and saw that under the blanket the child was blue.  His body was cold I saw Nikki’s face change to absolute terror.  I inhaled and put on my best doctor face, “Dale’s gone,” I replied.

“No.” she argued, “he was just fine before I left.  What the hell did you do to him?”

“I didn’t do anything,”

“You had to have done something,” she sniffled large mucus waterfalls from her nose as she handed Dale back over to me.  She searched the nursery like an addict looking for her fix.  As she filed through the diaper bin she found the syringe and the empty vial.

“What the hell is this?” she asked.

“It’s your old stash,” I said.

“No it’s not.  I’ve been clean for a year.”

“It’s okay to admit you have a problem Nicole.”

“I don’t have a problem Rai, but I swear to God,” she took steps closer to me and stood up in my face.  Her face was quiet, but not the romantic quiet.  It was serious, “if I find out that you fucked up my baby I’ll make sure you regret it.”

Nikki’s street smarts kicked in at this point.  She pulled her hand back as though she was going to slap me.  As her hand came in for a landing across my face I felt a jerk in my hands.  A cry erupted from my arms and Nikki’s stiff hand paused just above his head.  She took the child away like Golum and his Precious.

I felt my insides twist in ways I never knew possible.  The child was alive?  How?  I had followed the instructions on everything that I was told not to do.  Where had I gone right?

It wasn’t until weeks later that I discovered Dale was biologically not my son.  Atlerbury took a DNA sample from Dale at the consent of Nikki and found that Dale didn’t match me.  Nikki claimed that it was God who brought him back, and I don’t know if I buy into that.  I think he’s just one of the more advanced species.  Dale was still my son.  It said so in the fine print of the Omega reports.

“The Omega virus is quite potent.  It functions as a fast acting poison that can remain undetected.  Time frame between ingestion and death is within minutes.  However, in case studies with rats it was found that less than one percent of the rats lived after ingestion of the poison.  This brings  the conclusion that there is a slight chance the biological organism affected will mutate its DNA to fit the biological fingerprint of the Omega.  The effects of this are still unclear.  If there is any intention of death, the more reliable companion is that of cyanide.”

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Villains

One of the things which I loath in writing is constructing my villains, their weaknesses, strengths background and yadda yadda yadda.  At the request of a reader I went to a piece of paper and drew out what I picture my characters looking like, including the villains.  So here are two of my sketches which I am really proud of.  The first is a picture of Kodma (the mithra who entrances Andrew and Jon to go to the castle) and the second is Casanova (the main villain within my story).  Enjoy!Kodma the Mithra Casanova 

Climax Through Ivan’s Eyes

I walked into my father’s house and expected to see Rae, but instead Cadfarch and I saw a bloody woman laying still on the bed. Her braided hair had been frayed and it floated about in the blood pools like a canoe to a river.

I stepped forward towards the mother’s body and felt her skin. It was cold. As I drew my hand away, I saw a shadow out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head towards it and saw underneath Mugdha’s loom was a fuzzy, black, pine cone shaped shadow that was cast across the floor. I knew the tail right away. It belonged to a wolf. There was no mistaking that.

I decided it was best to find Rae and tell her of the news. Cadfarch hastily threw the deer we had slain onto the ground. Upon the deer’s massive body touching the ground I heard a growl.

“Go get Rae, my son. She must see what happened to her mother.” Cadfarch ordered.

I nodded and we both rushed outside of the hut. Cadfarch remained at the door with his bow and arrow poised at the ground.

I scurried over to Rae and I’s own hut and pulled back the blanket hanging from the doorway.

Rae was sitting at the bed, rubbing her large abdomen gently while the moonlight cast a nice silhouette across her face. She looked so calm and serene that I felt the desire to hug her, but I shook my head as I remembered the task at hand.

“Rae, how can you just sit here?! Your mother has just been attacked by a wolf!” I snapped at her.

Rae’s eyes bulged in the same way they had whenever she came across a bear, living or dead. “What?!” she called.

“Come with me!” I ordered and slipped out of the doorway. Instead of taking off quickly as per usual, I paused for a second to wait for Rae. Once Rae came out of the doorway, her and I ran back to the hut of her parents.

I had expected to see Cadfarch near a wolf carcass with an arrow ground into it, but he hadn’t moved.Once he saw Rae and I, he lowered his bow and I pulled out my hunting dagger from the leather case at my side.It shone brightly in the light and I held it up as though the air were my prey in another day’s hunt.

“Do you need any help father?” I asked. He appeared to hesitate in killing the menacing wolf.

Cadfarch shook his head, “No Ivan, the wolf has hidden.”

I turned to Rae, whose eyes were shaking. I felt my stomach twist as I informed, “I’m sorry Rae.”

Rae pushed me and her father aside and dashed into the hut. Seconds later, I heard loud cries blowing through the air. It had the same great volume as the yowling of a feline in season. It was Rae crying inside the hut. Though I could not hear what she was saying, it did not matter. She was sobbing. Her mother had been taken back to Mother Earth.

The sobs resonated so loud that I saw several beings popping their heads out from the huts nearby. They began asking what the matter was. Cadfarch and I both ignored them, but we could not ignore Rae. Her yowling got so loud to the point where Cadfarch took a step towards the hut.

“Where are you going father?”

“I should go console Rae, she is taking this hard.” he explained.

“No father. Let me console her.” I stepped in front of the doorway and held my hands in front of Cadfarch to block him from entering, “You are in mourning as well. I fear if you console her, you will cause her more grief than good. Let me console her and you go talk to the others,” I pointed to the several curious onlookers.

Cadfarch thought for a moment and then nodded, “Very well.” He turned the other way and walked towards the other huts to tell all the curious brothers and sisters that his wife had been taken from him earlier than anticipated.

I stood outside the hut and waited for Rae to come back out, but instead I heard her scream about the wolf. Her shriek caused my hand to fly back to my leather case where my dagger sat. I pulled it out and rushed into the hut. No animal was going to take my family away without having to fight me first.

Once I entered the hut, I saw Rae turn to face me from her kneeling position next to her mother. I saw her face was flushed as tears bubbled in her eyes. I looked across from her to see the wolf.

He had a fur that had no shadow to it because of its blackness. His nose was black as well, but had an illuminated red liquid on top of it. It smelled of death. My eyes locked with his and I felt an eerie familiarity come over me. I had seen him somewhere before. As the wolf’s dark brown eyes changed direction, and I smirked at the fact that I had won our primal dominance contest. The wolf turned his body to the side to try to hide once more and I saw it. There was a patch of fur on his side that was much more thinner than the rest. It also had a brown tint to it. The brown tint could only mean one thing. That was the discoloration that appeared on the skin of any being that had been covered in sage leaves. Beneath the discoloration I could also see a large scar.

Then it hit me. It was the same wolf Rae had insisted we care for, even though everyone in the tribe knew it was a bad omen to care for a living wolf within one’s house. As I realized this I felt my stomach twist and my heart sink. I looked down and shook my head. Rae had done this herself through her own obsession. It wasn’t my fault. It could not have been. I had told her to get rid of the wolf and I had never welcomed the beast in the first place. It was no fault of mine.

I turned around and tromped out of the doorway. I needed to go back home, where now she was no longer welcome. As I left his hut, Cadfarch saw me and stopped me in my tracks.”Ivan, where are you going without my daughter?”

“Your daughter is not welcome to me anymore.” I grumbled and shoved my way past towards the hut where I had previously lived with Rae.

I stumbled around as I felt my triceps tense. I tore my dagger sheath off of my pants and threw it into the corner where Rae’s pottery had stored the sage leaves. The sheath broke the pottery and I reached for the first weapon within my grasp. I needed to kill that wolf.

I picked up the heavy tomahawk that I had been rewarded after killing my first pigeon and felt a tingle of strength crawl along my back.

“Ivan!” I heard Rae’s voice call from outside.

I stepped over into the door way and held up the tomahawk. I could see Rae’s eyes sparkle as she saw my face, but the color drained out from her face once her eyes locked with the tomahawk in my hand.

“Come now Ivan,” she sighed.I repelled her statement and looked straight into her eyes just like I had the wolf.

“Rae, I had thought you were done with that wolf. I had thought you knew better. I had warned you about the consequences of working with the wolf. You deliberately disobeyed me.”

After that sentence, I could not stand still any longer. I stomped over to her and grabbed ahold of her arm tightly, just like I would for any bear cub which I had slain.

“Where are you taking me?” Rae protested.

“To my father Rae. You must be punished for what you have done.”

Once we entered my father’s hut, I felt Rae begin to fight my grip like a fish to a lure. Furiously, I threw her into the same room where I had seen her years ago and selfishly demanded that she would be mine. Had I known back then that my childish hastiness would end like this I would have lusted for someone else. I stomped over towards my father’s bedroom.

“Father! I have brought you someone who needs to be punished!” I called out loudly.

My father sat up quickly from his bed as though I had caused an earthquake.

“What troubles you my son?”

“I have brought Rae here to be punished by you father. She has done something terrible.” I looked down and shook my head as I recalled the incident in my mind.

“Why do you feel the need to punish Rae?” my father asked.

“She has disobeyed the laws set down by our tribe.”

“What would that be?”

“She killed her own mother. She befriended a wolf and murdered her mother through the wolf.”

My father’s eyes lit up as I spoke, but they dimmed as he looked down and said, “She cannot be punished Ivan, she is with child.”

I pulled at my jaw with both my hands, “But she has orchestrated a murder father! She can’t be kept alive!”

“Ivan think about what you’re saying. Your anger and wrath are demanding that I kill both your wife and child. While your wife has done wrong, your child has not. I cannot punish what does not deserve such.” My father walked towards me and ran his hand along my hair soothingly.

In response, I threw my hands up and thrust his hands off of me. I could not even speak because I was so infuriated.”I am sorry Ivan, but I cannot punish her until after her child has been born.”

My head pulsed as I heard him restate his conclusion.

Fuming, I rushed over towards Rae’s still body. I pulled her hair tightly and pulled at her braid. I put the tomahawk behind it. Rae did not fight me anymore. She was already a despicable creature to me, so chopping away her beauty was not worth fighting. I sliced away from her neck and watched as her braided hair flew off of her head. With her now short hair, I grabbed it tightly and threw her whole body backwards so she landed on her back.

This motion surprised Rae and she asked in a shaky voice, “What are you doing Ivan?”

I looked around the room and remembered the way in which my own mother had induced the birth of a child when it was long beyond his time to be born. I looked at the pottery in the right corner and rushed towards it. As I walked I replied, “My father says you can’t be punished until after the child is born. So you’re going to have that child.”I pulled up the lid. There they were! Raspberry leaves! I grabbed a large fistful and walked over to my protesting wife.

“Ivan, I can’t have a chi–”I had heard enough. I shoved the fist full of leaves into her mouth and forced her mouth shut. I whispered in her ear, “Chew them up and swallow them.”She did as instructed and minutes later I saw her forehead wrinkle up and her face look up at the roof as her eyes teared up.

“Ivan, please, don’t act like an animal.” she managed to say through several breaths.I ignored her and pulled at the tomahawk. I knelt down around her knees as they spread apart and waited.

The pain and screaming lasted several hours. During that time, I was begged to stop acting the way I was, but I was doing the right thing. Once I saw the child’s head I grabbed it and pulled. As my strength brought the child out, I saw Rae’s eyes glaze.

“Father!” I called out for my father as I took my tomahawk and chopped at the child’s umbilical cord. The child now had no connection to Rae, and Rae was ready to be punished.

As I stood up to walk away to my father’s chamber I heard Rae quietly whisper, “Let me see the child Ivan…”

I ignored her and continued walking. She was not mine or my son’s problem anymore. I watched as my father walked over towards Rae.

”Come now my child.” he held his hand out and reached for hers. It was amazing how he was able to remain calm after all I had told him.

Suggestion

Spaz gazed at the man from across the table, evaluating him.

“Sleepy as well?” the man asked.

Spaz shook his head, “No sir. I’m just…thinking.”

“Missing someone perhaps.” The man smiled.

Spaz nodded. He was thinking about me and how much he was shocked at my reaction to him saying goodbye. He had known I could usually tell his facial expression when he was lying, but in my rage I hadn’t caught it. He had now been led to a crazy gothic castle with a funny looking man and a mouse chef. He pulled out of his pocket a picture of me and him that had been taken several months ago. He had saved it and whenever unsure of things, pulled it out to look at it and took note of my genuine smile and happiness sparked eyes.

“Who is she?” the man asked.

“Nobody sir.” Spaz answered.

“You swing that way eh?” the man questioned, implying a different preference than ‘she’.

“No. I love the ladies.” Spaz replied, giggling a bit but upon seeing the man’s serious expression, coughed and straightened up.

“You have a lady do you?” the man asked.

“She’s a prospect.” Spaz replied and grinned at the man.

“You know, I can tell you right away if any girl likes you,” the man grinned, “it’s part of my job.”

“Do you know Dannee from Cape Cokku then?” Spaz asked anxiously. Did he even serve a chance? He had to know.

The man’s eyes narrowed. “Yes. I know every girl in every city.”

“How about Dannee?” Spaz persisted.

“No chance.” The man replied passively, but blunt. At which point he pulled out a small diamond and instructed Spaz, “look into the crystal and see why.”

Spaz looked into the crystal and saw me, as beautiful as ever. And then a boy whom he did not recognize and he watched helplessly as the boy kissed me passionately. Spaz felt sick and looked at the man.

“May I go rest now?” he asked.

“Yes.” The man replied and motioned to the stairs. “Go up and over to the first door on your right.”

Spaz got up from his chair and rushed upstairs, and to the first door on his right. He opened the door and jumped over to the bed where he began crying. He had to tell Andrew.

Once Spaz had left, the man turned to his right and called out, “Shana!”

A relatively thin mithra scurried over from the dark hallway behind him and cowered as she answered, “Yes sire?”

“Go accompany the boy upstairs. He’s rather upset.” The man smiled, almost sadistically as he spoke those words..

Shana looked from her master to the crystal ball which sat on the table still and sighed, “why do you hurt people like that master?”

The man rolled his eyes as he sat up angrily, “Go and do as I say Shana! I brought you here to obey me!”

Shana’s ears skewed back and her eyes dilated, “Forgive me master, don’t get angry. This is the fourth time you’ve broken a man like that master. It’s not exactly the ideal situation for love making.”

The man rolled his eyes, “Well if it’s not ideal for you, you could always go back to your home.”

Shana’s eyes watered a little as the man stood up and walked over towards her.

“I remember when I found you you were exiled, worthless and basically dead to your people! Now here I am giving you a home and this complaining is the way you thank me?” The man grabbed Shana’s hair and held it in a tight fist. He pulled her head back so she was facing him, though not on her own free will, “Do you want to go back to your people? Back to the very tribe which exiled and cursed you?”

Shana’s watery eyes changed to tears, “No master, it won’t be necessary.”

The man huffed and he threw Shana’s face forward and let go of her hair, “Good. Now Shana, if you are going to sit here and criticize my work I will have to send you home. Yes, the crystal ball scene is overdone, but think about it for a moment. There is an already constructed scene in there of any woman kissing a mysterious stranger embedded in it, there is nothing more powerful than that which can break the spirit of a man.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s truly a wonderous tool my dear, all that needs to be said is the name of the woman in question and where she is from and bam! The scene plays out, the observer gets upset, rushes up to his room where—” the man held his palms out expectantly.

“I bestow my gift upon him.” Shana sighed as the man walked over to her and ran his fingers across her shoulders.

“Precisely my sweet. Now go and spread your gift.”

With that, Shana nodded, “Yes master.” She scurried out of his sight and up the stairs towards Spaz’s room where Spaz fretted and wished he could explain to Andrew what he had seen.

It’s Not Thanksgiving Yet!

Well folks, I hope you all had a marvelous thanksgiving because I did, mostly. My brother and my cousins get funnier as the years go by I think. Apparently my story is going to become very popular, maybe if any of my family members knows a publisher or two they could submit it to someone. *wink*

On Thanksgiving I typically post a list of what I’m thankful for, but I’ve discovered this year that my list hasn’t changed much from last year so I’m just going to have to do something a little different. I meant to do this on Halloween, but I couldn’t come up with more than two items on this list I wanted to construct, so I decided to post it tonight because I’ve gotten it to a nice round list.

Melinda’s List of Seven Legitimate Villains
1. Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII- Call me crazy as far as villains go, but this guy is definately insane. I mean, any old villain can go out and kill people, but Sephiroth talks about him killing people is a way of purifying the planet. That sticks with me and everytime I play the game I still get a little bit frightened at the absolute lunacy he utters. Even just writing this, I am feeling the rippling of goosebumps as they fly down my body.

2. Joker from Batman- The main reason this guy made it onto my list is NOT because he is the main villain in Batman. It is not even the fact that he has a connection with Batman. It’s simply the fact that he is so smart when it comes to negotiating. He got out of Akram through telling his doctor that he was not evil, but rather just misunderstood. Then upon his escape, he is still able to maintain his control over this woman. That is unbelievable! Not only that, but the fact that every person he kills or tortures is merely just a joke to him. People are not people to him, they are just his little toys. You cannot get more insensitive than that, and yet he has such joy and passion in their torture its so, scary. It’s almost as though wears a face for whatever situation he’s in. He can pull off a misunderstood guy and then quickly slip on the mask of a madman…which brings me to the next villain.

3. Two Face from Batman-The fact that Harvey Dent and Big Bad Harv are on my list is not simply due to his look, although my fear of Two Face is greatly deep rooted in his frightening appearance. It’s more for the problem of Harvey not being able to control his actions to the point where he forced himself to create Big Bad Harv as an alternate personality. Not only that, but him being eventually unable to make decisions on his own and rely on the flip of a coin is a little bit scary. He’s probably the only villain that though he scares me to pieces, I feel a little bit of sympathy for.

4. Scar from the Lion King-One of the more classical movies of Disney’s cartoon golden age. Scar is probably the greatest Disney villains I have ever seen. The fact that he is so great is the fact that he is able to crack open the doors of traps for family members…dare I repeat…FAMILY MEMBERS to fall into. He also bears a frightening resemblance in some parts to that of Adolf Hitler which is fairly troubling.

5. Rikku from Kingdom Hearts-I have never nearly cried over a battle as sad as the one between Sora and Rikku. I lost that battle numerous times and then having to watch the movie scene over and over and over and over again just made me teary. It’s almost sad how much Rikku changes in the course of 30 some hours of gameplay. He changes from just a “suitable candidate” to someone who desires to be very very powerful as a means to rescue the girl of his dreams. You don’t really get any more passionate of a villain than that, and yet with all that trying he ends up evil..which is just tragic.

6. Delilah from the Bible-I’m almost sure everyone has heard the story about Samson and Delilah. This is the most legitimate villain to me in the Bible next to the Devil himself. Perhaps I find this villainry legitimate because she has this guy wrapped around her finger and then takes his honor away. This character (and I say character because it is a story, I do believe she actually lived) is whom I normally base my woman villains on in ANY of my stories. The very ability to cripple someone through the tool of love is just so dispicable that it almost makes me want to vomit.

7. Iago from Othello-Of course, you cannot be a literature major and have a list of the most evil personas and leave Iago off. He is simply way too troubling. The whole plot going exactly as he plans and negotiating of killing Desdamona and everything is just…I can’t even put into words how upsetting it is. Even when the plan goes haywire he still follows through with his plan as a means to get what he wishes for. And then when he is stabbed and he DOESN’T DIE?!?! You don’t get much more evil or blacker in the soul than that of Iago.

I should also mention, these articles are in no particular order. Meaning, Sephiroth is not better than Iago and Iago is not better than Sephiroth. They are ALL equal in my mind. I actually have at least ten, but I figured ten would be too repetitive of characteristics, so I cut the last three out.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Teacher’s Review

I got my second short story back from my professor complete with a review of it. Here’s what my teacher said about “A Tale of Woe and Wolf”.

Melinda, this is a really interesting and good story. The problem that a lot of students have with writing this kind of story is that they’re not willing to go far enough with it, but you have allowed this to be exactly what it is, a mythic story that uses magic as a normal part of life. I love that she talks to a wolf and that there are shapeshifters here. I love the story an the problems of it. And the world is full of challeneges that I can relate to because at its heart, this is a story about real people with real problems. That’s great. I really enjoyed reading it.

There are really only minor things that I’d work on. The first and more important problem is one of motivations. I’m not sure why at the end that Casanova kills the mother. Is he really just evil? Why? He’s not a real wolf. Maybe I missed something, but the murder seems to come out of nowhere. Then she cures him of his curse, and I’m not sure why she would do this. He’s ruined her life. Why is she doing favors for him? There might be a really good reason, but neither of these moments were really fully explained. The second is more minor. The language of this piece is at times uneven. You need to be very careful of word choice in a piece like this. For example, she keeps using “mom”. Somehow it seemed modern and out of place. There were a number of these.

Aside from these really minor things though, I really liked this story. It was well written and compelling. Even thought it was the last story I looked at in an eight hour grading session, I was focused and excited to see how it ended.

A Tale of Woe and Wolf

So I just finished the second story for my Creative Writing:Fiction class. It’s a story about a character who only gets about 3 seconds worth of an appearance in my actual book, but I figured I better add some sort of background to her. Enjoy!

I

Around the mountains surronding the Amor volcano there laid several mountain indigenous people. Many of them had been getting along without the interference of the civilized folk who dwelled at the foot of the Amor volcano. Up until one child was born, they had not even intersected with each other or known one another existed. With the presence of one child, however, it all changed.

The flames from Chinmaya’s fire pit danced about as two new parents strolled into his humble abode. He inhaled the soft incense that was burning from behind him and took in its every essence. It was the time for the children of his tribe to be notified of their destiny. He slid open his eyes to see a beautiful young girl in front of him. The two parents stood behind the child and pushed her towards him.

“Go now Rae,” her mother, Mugdha, coaxed her daughter to meet the master. Although her name was not Rae, but Shana-Rae it was customary that they only address her under her last name.

“Master Chinmaya will do you no wrong,” her father, Cadfarch, agreed.

The young child stumbled over towards Master Chinmaya and sat cross-legged. Her eyes trembled as she looked upon her tribe’s master. He was a large man, built by what looked to be the very Earth that they sat on.

Master Chinmaya’s beady eyes blinked, “You are indeed a beautiful child, Rae.” He looked her up and down again and turned to the parents.

“Is she not as beautiful as any princess you see in other worlds Master?” Cadfarch smirked.

Master Chinmaya nodded, “This child is definitely a beauty in the making.”

He looked back at the child and gazed deep into her eyes. Her chin length hair caved around her face with a slight curl underneath. Her skin was a soft tan and her frame was already showing that it would probably grow into a largely attractive body at a later time. Her eyes were as big as cat eyes when faced with the dark and her lips were rosy with a slight pouty look to them.

“You have any idea what’s ahead of you my dear?” Chinmaya asked.

The child shook her head so violently that the feathers in her headdress swung about like pendulums.

“No Master Chinmaya, I was hoping you might know.” She looked down at the ground and watched the flames dance.

“You will have intense beauty Rae; beauty that only comes from Mother Earth in her fertile age. With this gift, people will most definitely be jealous of you. Princes even, will not be able to dismiss your gorgeous body,” Chinmaya’s lip drew into his face from being so prominently protruding from it earlier. His eyes slid back into their eyelid homes as he shook his head sorrowfully.

“Sad things my dear Rae. Even though you are blessed with such beauty everlasting, you will be driven by your own desires and thus disgrace your family and our tribe through your association with one Casanova.”

Rae bowed her head shamefully as though the Earth herself had just cursed her. She had been told she would be beautiful, but what good was the beauty if she would bring disgrace to her mother, father, brothers and sisters?

Cadfarch heard this and became immediately disturbed. He trembled as he asked, “Is there anything we can do shaman?”

“Do not argue with me, Cadfarch.” Chinmaya hissed in return.

Cadfarch knelt down and bowed his head, “Forgive me Master Chinmaya. I only want my daughter to bring greatness to the Earth which bears us.”

“You will need to keep her from Casanova at all costs,” Chinmaya agreed, “do whatever means possible to keep her from meeting anyone who can cause the poisonous curse to take way.”

“So, what would that entail?” Cadfarch asked.

“Use your imagination Cadfarch. You’re smart enough to figure something out,” Chinmaya said. With a swift swipe of his hand and a slight turn of his head he waved Cadfarch, Rae and Mugdha away.

As the young family left, Chinmaya shut his eyes. Rae had been the last child in a long line of children he had to foretell the destiny of. He nodded his head up and down sleepily as he began to feel sleep coming over him swiftly.

“Father? Is that her?” a small voice asked.

Chinmaya turned to the right to see his own child, Ivan, was standing beside him. Ivan’s vivid chestnut brown eyes sparkled as he watched Rae’s shadow waft away from his home.

“Is that her father? Is it?” Ivan’s eyes burned intensely with curiosity. Chinmaya had foretold Ivan would become the most beautiful woman’s companion only three years before. Since that time, Ivan had asked Chinmaya every time he saw a little girl if she would be his bride.

Unlike the entire years prior though, Chinmaya’s mouth curved up to a smile.

“Rae will be yours Ivan. If Cadfarch keeps her under control, she will be yours.”

“I want her now father.” Ivan complained, stomping his bare feet into the dust so hard that the fire in Chinmaya’s fire pit began to lose its brilliance.

Chinmaya took his right hand up from his lap and patted Ivan’s shoulder length hair, “Patience my son. You’ve got to grow up first, and she too must grow. No one gets married at seven years old. Calm down.”

Chinmaya stroked Ivan’s hair and his son’s childish temper subsided slowly, “Give her years Ivan, she will be fit for you once you meet her again.”

As Cadfarch and his family reached the hut, he pulled back the blanket that they used for doors. Rae entered first and she nervously careened along the straight path towards where she slept every night.

Mugdha entered next and walked straight towards the dinner table. She sat down on one of the mats she had woven for Cadfarch to sit on years ago. As she looked up, she saw Cadfarch walk towards her as well. He looked as though he had been weathered from a long days worth of hunting, but all they had done all day was wait to have Rae’s future foretold.

“What troubles you?” Mugdha smiled.

Cadfarch’s triceps muscles tensed as he muttered out a flustered noise that sounded vaguely like a wild mustang.

“Cadfarch, please do not become angry. Mother Earth must have greater plans for Rae. You cannot possibly comprehend what the Great Spirit has in store for her,” Mugdha consoled her husband as he gruffly threw his bow into the ground angrily.

“What are we to do with her Mugdha? Obviously we cannot kill her, or get rid of her. Chinmaya said that if we keep her away from Casanova then she should be fine…as well as our family.” Cadfarch exhaled after his angry vent and sat calmly down near his wife.

“Well Cadfarch, if we keep her from the tribe…well, keep her inside this hut there should not be any problem in any way. Let’s just keep her here till she is old enough to be married. Once she is married she will be unable to disgrace us.”

“How is she to learn our ways then Mugdha? After all, everyone knows that we have a child. We cannot keep her here all alone every day.”

“She can learn by example Cadfarch,” the woman sighed as she pulled out her braids, “at the very least we could say she is sick.”

“Chinmaya will agree to that,”

“Just leave it to me. Chinmaya will understand.”

Cadfarch sighed exasperatedly, “So what of Rae then?”

“Keep her in the hut. I will teach her what she needs to know and when the time comes for her to marry we will be able to hand her off with ease.” Mugdha instructed and walked towards her and Cadfarch’s straw bed.

Cadfarch followed his wife to sleep, but before going to sleep he watched as his daughter’s silhouette formed in the moonlight. She looked similar to a cat with the two small feathers on either side of her head. He wondered if this plan his wife had come up with would indeed help them in the long run. It wasn’t as though he could really resist. He was stuck in a pickle and had to choose the best option possible, which was his wife’s instructions.

II

This is how Rae lived for ten years. In that time she had learned everything needed to know before she could be handed off to her husband. Most of the lessons she had learned had been taught through her mother, Mugdha, who had agreed to teach her while she was restricted to go anywhere apart from their hut.

In all the time they had restricted Rae, they saw no sign of the infamous Casanova anywhere. This made Rae’s parents, as well as Chinmaya and his son Ivan, very happy. Yet, despite all their efforts, they had not entirely beaten the curse.

“Chinmaya says that he wishes for Ivan to marry Rae,” Cadfarch informed his wife as she watched over Rae weaving in a loom.

“She is young Cadfarch. We cannot let her go just yet,” Mugdha argued.

“Ivan is old enough Mugdha. I believe Rae will be better off with a strong husband than waiting until he is older.” Cadfarch snapped back.

“But her naive nature is still present Cadfarch. I fear that she—”

“Mother,” Rae paused from weaving and turned to her feuding parents, “If father wishes that I marry I can get married. I know all I must know in order to survive on my own.”

Cadfarch grinned and extended his arm out to his daughter. Rae walked calmly over to her father’s arms and once she wrapped her arms around his chest he closed his arms tightly around her as well. The two embraced in a long hug.

“Who am I to marry father?” Rae asked, looking up at her father.

“You’re not marrying anyone.” Mugdha argued.

“She is too Mugdha,” Cadfarch hissed at his wife. Mugdha grabbed Rae’s robe and tried to coax her daughter back to the loom where she had been weaving before. Cadfarch smiled down at his daughter and replied, “You’re going to marry a strong man Rae. Ivan has the makings of a true warrior and he is very respectful. He is the perfect match for you I think.”

“There are other people out there Rae. Ivan is not the only possibility,” Mugdha argued.

Cadfarch’s eyes flared angrily as Rae looked puzzled, “Mugdha! Stop it! She’s marrying Ivan. The boy will be no different than me.”

“Aren’t you feeling this is a little hasty Cadfarch? I mean, Ivan is still young, as is Rae.”

“Chinmaya said to hand her off and marry her young. The sooner she is married the likelihood that the curse won’t come about is greater. It is for Rae’s own good.”

Mugdha sighed and looked down. Cadfarch had been right. They had originally intended on keeping her in the hut until she could get married. So Cadfarch was following through with what they had agreed to. With a long inhale of breath she nodded her head in agreement with her husband.

“Rae, let me get you ready so you may marry Ivan,” Mugdha ordered.

Rae complied and let go of her father and walked over to Mugdha compliantly.

Cadfarch’s eyes beamed and he immediately rushed over towards the blanket door and pulled it open, “I will let Master Chinmaya and Ivan know at once. They will be ever so thrilled.”

A week later, Cadfarch and Mugdha opened the doors to the hut to reveal their daughter to the tribe as well as her new husband. The moment Rae exited the hut; she was immediately blown away by the landscape.

The grass was so green and decorated with dewdrops that sparkled and reflected her flawless face. There was a prominent buzz of the cicadas, which offered a nice hum and peaceful feeling to the atmosphere. Her feet caressed the grass and while most the blades felt sharp like the ends of feathers in a headdress, there were some blades, which offered a nice soft cushion on her fragile feet. Her nose inhaled the air as she continued walking towards this mysterious man named Ivan. It smelled of fresh grass as well as wet pine. Rae’s eyes dilated as she walked and took in the scenery. Her stomach twisted as she realized how much she had missed all the years she had been in the hut.

“Father, I have missed so much.” She exclaimed as she followed her parents past several huts of onlookers. Her large cat eyes became littered with tears of both amazement and sadness.

“Rae, do not weep for what you have missed. Be thankful for what you have learned. Remember, if you see no reason for giving thanks every day the fault lies within you.” Cadfarch hissed back quietly as he walked.

Of course, what would he know? He hadn’t been stuck in a hut for all his life! He had been allowed to meander around the village, explore the forest, swim in the fresh water rivers and participate in ceremonies. Everything she admired in beauty was nothing but the monotony of another day to her father.

Rae shrugged the irritable feeling on her shoulders off as she continued walking. She was getting married! This was meant to be a happy occasion.

As she followed her parents, she made sure every step counted. With every step she took, she dreamed of it being one step closer to being an adult. She was leaving her deprived childhood behind.

They rounded a corner of the village only to find a large adobe hut that had smoke ascending from it. In front of the hut stood a very stout man that looked similar to a tomato. His beady eyes sparkled with awe as he saw her and she immediately blushed and hid her face behind the shoulder of her father. Was that Ivan?

Almost as soon as she wondered if the stout man was her husband she saw a second man step forward from behind him. He was twice as tall as the stout man and had a large build. His arms and chest were broad and covered in toned muscles. His long ebony black hair was clothed with a small headdress with four feathers on either side of his head. His jaw was rugged and his chestnut brown eyes sparkled with a similar awestruck light that had cursed the stout man before.

“Father, is that him?” Rae’s voice shook as she felt her legs shake.

“Yes my dear, the tall one is Ivan,” Cadfarch reassured Rae and partially had to coax her along the last bit of the path towards Ivan.

The stout man practically rolled over towards Cadfarch and squeezed his body in a merry embrace. “I’m so glad you followed the orders Cadfarch! My son will not disappoint you!”

Cadfarch’s eyes beamed with pride as Rae walked solemnly over to her husband.

Ivan was quiet and stood still. A small smile wound up on his face as Rae took steps closer and closer to him. Once Rae was right in front of him, she looked up at him and he saw her green eyes sparkle with what he imagined was wonder.

It was wonder. Rae had never seen something so perfect. There was never a more perfect day, perfect man, or perfect interaction between Master Chinmaya and her father.

Ivan placed one arm around Rae’s waist and she felt her face burn like a furnace. He leaned in and whispered something into her ear, but she didn’t even hear what he was saying. She was ignoring his sweet nothings and enjoying the environment.

She was now a grown woman and was now able to set her own rules for herself.

III

Two prosperous years followed Rae and Ivan’s marriage. They had established their place in their community rather well. Rae had become an expert at weaving while Ivan had become one of the quickest and fastest of the hunters.

In the autumn of this particular year though, something incredible was about to happen.

Leaves from trees littered the floor of the forest. Even though the leaves had left their bearers though, the whole area still retained a chestnut and maple air to it. The cold air blowing about the forest allowed for the scents to float about with ease into any being’s nose as they walked through. The leaves crunched and became crushed under Ivan’s bare, heavy feet whereas under Rae’s light caressing feet, they would not make any noise in the slightest. If anything, they would fly up as if in an attempt to catch onto the branches they had been attached to before.

“Ivan, one bear should be enough for the whole winter,” Rae explained, pulling her cloak tighter around her shoulders.

Ivan nodded, but said nothing. His eyes were focusing on the brush and leaves in order to see any means by which he could track a bear. He had hunted bear cubs before, but never a full-grown bear.

Rae looked about at the many bushes surrounding her and crouched down before one that was especially ripe with berries. She plucked them off cautiously and placed them in her basket among herbs and spices that she had found along the mountain.

“I see a scat Rae,” Ivan said.

Rae stood up instantaneously. Ivan had told her that if she were to come with him hunting, she would have to follow him wherever he went at a moments notice.

“No Rae, you need to stay here,” Ivan hissed and Rae sat down, “a mother bear is the most vicious beast of the forest. She’s more cunning than the wolf and more vengeful than a wolverine. Stay here and if I do not return by the time the sun’s rays light up your face then—”

“Don’t talk like that Ivan, just go catch her and come back,” Rae pushed.

“I will. Don’t move from this spot.” Ivan nodded and laid a quick peck kiss on his wife’s head and dashed away through the brush.

Once Ivan left, Rae began plucking berries from the bushes once again. As she plucked, she hummed a tiny song to herself. As soon as she had practically emptied the bush of its berries she heard a high-pitched cry.

Rae turned to the right and her eyes dilated. Perhaps it was a wolverine killing an animal. Or maybe it was a mother bird feeding her needy babies. Once the cry began to get quieter she dismissed it.

She looked down at her basket, which though she had plucked several berries from the bush only a second ago, did not have enough to sustain her and Ivan. She sighed sadly and got up and walked towards the right. In the distance, a bush that was only a few feet down the slope caught her eyes. It was so covered with berries that it looked as though it would burst from the overpopulation.

Perfect, she thought and rushed towards it.

She swept through the brush for a few steps without any problem. Upon taking her fourth step, she felt something sharp slice at her heel. In agony, she paused and tried to grab her foot to tend for it. Holding her foot caused her to lose balance and tumble down the slope until she ran into the bush that had attracted her before.

Once she discovered the bush had broken her fall, she felt her arms and legs burn in pain. She slinked out of the bush tenderly and over towards the leafy floor and her basket which had been spilled on the way down. She sighed sorrowfully as she felt her heel burn like a fire. She lifted her foot and rubbed it tenderly, as though she was trying to dull out the pain.

“Rubbing it won’t do any good,” a deep raspy voice breathed up from the ground.

Rae’s eyes dilated in fear as she saw on the ground below her was a black wolf, lying on its side, bleeding. He had lost so much blood already that Rae could see the yellow leaves on the forest floor were changing to a deep orange when dipped in his blood pools.

His eyes were as brown as a hawk’s feather and although the darkness of his eyes scared Rae, she was captivated by the tiny white sparkle that glimmered in the corner of his pupils.

Rae pulled her foot towards her chest and covered it defensively.

“Relax child. Can you not see I’m bleeding? What harm could I possibly bring you in my last moments of life?” the wolf sighed out fragile breaths.

“I don’t know, but I do know that the wolf is the most cunning animal among Mother Earth.”

“A cunning that can keep you alive. Let me see your wound.”

Rae exposed her foot to the wolf and the wolf’s nose drew close to it. Upon her fearing the worst, the wolf exposed its tongue and licked the wound cautiously. As he licked her foot she began to feel the pain that had plagued gradually dull away.

After a few minutes, the wolf stopped licking her and his head sank down to the ground. Rae’s eyes dilated as she watched the wolf fall. He wasn’t a bad wolf after all. She had to help him! In a rush, she leaned her head down onto the wolf’s chest and heard the thumping of his heart still going, but faintly. She slipped her cloak off of her shoulders and wrapped it around the wound in his side. She abandoned her basket and lifted her wolf friend.

“Rae! I caught her! Where did you go?” Rae could hear Ivan’s voice bellowing through the forest and she tenderly stumbled up the slope.

“Ivan, I’m coming. I just fell, that’s all.” Rae called up the slope and saw Ivan’s face appear above the bush she had originally picked berries from.

“What do you have?”

“A good wolf helped me, but he’s dying. He needs help.”

Ivan rolled his eyes, “Rae, the wolf is the most cunning animal. If he’s dying it’s probably for the best.”

“No Ivan! He helped sooth a wound I had. He means no harm!”

Ivan rolled his eyes angrily, “Fine, if he really is that important we can take him. Just let me take him.” Ivan jumped down the slope and took the cloaked wolf from her and climbed back up to the top. Rae followed him although she still treaded gingerly along the ground.

The two of them walked back to the village and were applauded for their victorious catch of both a wolf and a bear. Once they returned to their hut, however, Ivan placed the wolf on a straw mat that was next to the fire.

“I can’t believe you want to keep a wolf in here Rae,” Ivan sighed irritably as he unmasked the cloak to see the wound on the wolf.

“If it weren’t for him Ivan, I would have been hurt quite a bit.”

“Yes, you said that Rae.” Ivan sneered.

“What’s bothering you?”

“Nothing, just tend for the wolf so he can get out of this hut.” Ivan rolled his eyes and stood up. He walked off towards the bed they had both shared and laid down, “Goodnight Rae.”

“It’s not night yet.” Rae cried.

“Goodnight!” Ivan snapped, his voice louder this time.

Ivan’s eyes shut. Rae looked back towards the wolf, and all her anger towards Ivan’s inconsiderate statements began to subside. She had a mission now.

She spat into the cloth that had cloaked her wolf and rubbed gently around the area of pain. It wasn’t helping. She dashed for the pots of herbs that she had preserved for emergencies and pulled out a handful of sage leaves.

She rubbed them along his gash and felt tears spring up in her eyes, as she didn’t see him move. “Come now wolf, please don’t die.” She begged.

The wolf’s wheezing breaths became louder, almost as if by magic, as she bandaged in the sage leaves with her cloak and tied it tightly around his side.

“Woman, I thought you were scared of me.” The wolf wheezed.

“You helped me wolf, I felt bad leaving you there to die.”

The wolf stretched out his legs and gazed up at Rae, “What is the name of my rescuer then?”

“Rae. Now wolf—”

“Please, call me Aosanvaca.”

“Aosanvaca, you’re welcome to stay here until you recover your strength.”

“Thank you Rae. I will make it up to you.”

IV

Rae nurtured Aosanvaca until the beginning of the spring. As she cared for Aosanvaca, she noticed Ivan had become more silent and angry. Aosanvaca sensed Ivan’s growing distaste for he and Rae and decided it was best for her to let him go.

Rae walked with her friend towards the slope where she had fallen to find him and knelt down as Aosanvaca sat down by her side. She wrapped her arms around the wolf tightly and felt tears spring up into her eyes.

“Why do you cry Rae?” the canine whispered softly as if he were more a lover than a friend.

“I don’t want you to go,” Rae’s voice trembled as she tried to explain, “not even Ivan would care for me the way you have.”

“I have done nothing for you Rae, I have only helped you out by licking clean your foot. That hardly compares to you saving my life two seasons ago.”

“Why do you have to go?”

“A wolf’s place is with his pack, not humans. Now if you would please let me go.” the wolf stirred in Rae’s gripping embrace.

Rae loosened her arms and bit her lip as tears began to trickle down her face.

“When will we meet again?”

The wolf smirked, “How about this, if you are ever in a bind, call me. You know my name. Just whistle and call my name and I will come.”

“What if you aren’t around?”

The wolf paused and sniffed around on the ground. He walked towards a bush, which had thorns all over it and began to dig at the ground. Rae watched intently as the wolf dug a hole. After a few minutes, Aosanvaca pulled his nose out of the hole.

On the ground he dropped a tiny rock that shone a deep green. It was no bigger than an oblong pebble. Unlike a pebble though, it had two blade-like pointed edges. Rae picked it up tenderly in her hand and was shocked to find that the pointed ends did not prick her.

“What’s this?”

“That’s a shard. I received it when I was young and was told to give to someone whom I love. If ever you need me, just rub it gently between your forefinger and thumb and whisper my name in a soft murmur. I will come to you without any question and will grant you two favors in exchange for the two you performed for me. One favor in exchange for healing my wound and the other in exchange for taking care of me during the autumn and winter.” Aosanvaca’s lips curled back and he jumped up on Rae’s knees.

“So we will possibly meet again?”

“Unless you forget me, though I pray you never will.” Aosanvaca fell off of Rae’s knees and back onto his four legs.

“See you soon Aosanvaca.” Rae smiled and patted the wolf’s ears softly.

Aosanvaca licked Rae’s leg and then took off into the brush as quick as the flame of a sparkler ignites.

Rae squeezed firmly onto the shard and smiled pensively as she watched the shadow of Aosanvaca coast along the bushes until he was out of sight. Once he was out of sight, she slipped her hand into her tiny purse and dropped the shard in there for safekeeping.

It took three seasons before Rae felt the need to summon Aosanvaca. During this time, she had become pregnant. This event itself was enough of a joy for Ivan to hear, who had not been on speaking terms with Rae since she had insisted on bringing the wolf home. The happiness was not to last long though, for as the cold winter air penetrated the windows and swept along Rae’s bare shoulders she could hear her mother moaning from the room behind her.

Her mother had developed a plague from the Earth. She had not been able to open her mouth very wide and was finding it difficult to eat. Cadfarch was unable to take care of her due to his need to hunt, so Rae was nominated to be the caretaker.

Her mother moaned louder, “Rae, please come here!”

Rae turned back to her mother and walked over towards her gently.

“Yes mother?” she knelt down in front of her mother’s legs, humbly.

“Rae, please, don’t worry over me. Go home and care for yourself. The last thing I would want is for you and your child to die because of my plague.” Her mother rubbed Rae’s belly gently.

“Mom, it is not fair for you to die though. I’m the one who was supposed to disgrace the whole family and tribe. It should be me who cannot eat.” Rae cried.

“Hush child. Don’t wish for dreadful things. You have abandoned your chance of disgracing us by marrying Ivan, bearing a child and establishing your place in society,” The mom ran her fingers along Rae’s hair, which glistened in the moonbeams, “I am proud to have been your mother.”

Rae sighed, “I can’t leave you here.”

“Please Rae, go home and rest. You will be doing me a great favor by going home and continuing to live out your life the way you have,” her mom ordered.

“But ma—”

“Out!” her mom wheezed and pointed towards the cloak that covered the hut’s entrance.

Rae nodded and walked out of the hut slowly and stepped nimbly across the snowy ground of the village. She treaded lightly along through the open area towards her and Ivan’s hut.

Once she reached the door of her and Ivan’s hut she pulled away the blanket, but did not proceed inside. She paused and looked down at her little purse.

Aosanvaca’s promise to her replayed in her head and she rummaged through the tiny purse and found the shard that he had dug up for her. She rubbed it with her fingers and whispered through teary eyes, “Please Aosanvaca, come and take care of my mother.”

As the winter wind blew furiously, Rae saw a black figure rush out from the snow. It was Aosanvaca. He had appeared without a moment to lose.

“Where is your mother Rae?” Aosanvaca whispered.

“In that hut!” Rae pointed towards the hut where she had been raised all her life. “Please go and take care of her. She won’t let me anywhere near her.”

The wolf nodded and repeated, “I will take care of her Rae, as you wish.” Aosanvaca dashed towards the blanket door of the old hut, and slipped in with ease.

Rae’s shoulders relaxed and she pulled back the blanket of her door and walked in to her own hut. Only minutes later, she heard Ivan come back through the doorway. He didn’t even fully come through the doorway.

“Rae, why are you sitting here while your mother is dying in her cabin?”

“My mom’s not dying.” Rae shook her head.

Ivan’s rugged face grew dark, “Your mom was just attacked by a wolf Rae! We have to help your father, come!” He whipped his arm in a massive circle to try to coax her over to him.

Rae walked over towards Ivan as quickly as the child in her stomach allowed her to. She watched as Ivan rushed over towards her family’s hut and from behind the blanket, Cadfarch emerged. He had scratches all along his muscular chest and Rae could not tell what blood was from him and what blood was from his attacker.

“Do you need help father?” Ivan asked.

“No Ivan, the wolf has hidden.”

Ivan turned to Rae, “I’m sorry Rae.”

Rae’s heart stopped and her breathing became sporadic. “Mom?” She stumbled off towards the hut and saw on her mom’s bed was her mother. Her braids were torn up and she was covered in blood.

As Rae’s eyes filled with tears, she saw Aosanvaca crawl over towards her cautiously; his black nose was illuminated by the scarlet liquid that dripped off of it. It reeked of the sour stench of a rotten citrus.

“Rae, please…” his raspy voice breathed.

“Don’t talk to me right now wolf!” Rae snapped as tears jumped away from her eyelids.

Ivan heard the commotion from outside and tromped into the hut to see the wolf. He looked down and shook his head as he walked out. Cadfarch stomped in only a second later.

“Father please don’t hurt him!” Rae could not even see what was going on. The tears among her eyes blocked the scene out.

Cadfarch’s eyes fumed as he gazed at the wolf, which was cornered by his large body. Cadfarch shuffled his arms around his bow and pulled back an arrow so it was poised and pointing at Aosanvaca’s face.

“Give me one good reason why I should let you live wolf.” Cadfarch said.

Aosanvaca shook his fur of the blood and replied, “I am only doing what Rae asked me to do.”

Cadfarch’s jaw dropped as he turned his arrow towards Rae.

“Father, I didn’t tell him to kill mother!!” Rae’s tears had subsided to a point where she could see her father’s arrow pointed straight at her face.

“But you had a part in her death Rae.” Cadfarch’s face looked rigid.

“You can’t possibly believe that I had evil intent in me father!”

Cadfarch let the arrow down, but did not fire it. Instead he threw down his bow and turned away from Rae’s face, “You have no part with me anymore Rae.”

Rae stood up slowly and waddled out of the hut.

“Ivan!” she called.

Ivan came out of the hut she and him had called home. Instead of his usual open arms though, she saw a tomahawk perched in his hand.

“Come now Ivan,”

“Rae, I had thought you were done with that wolf. I had thought you knew better. I had warned you about the consequences of working with the wolf. You deliberately disobeyed me.” Ivan walked over towards Rae and grabbed her arm tightly.

“Where are you taking me?”

“To my father Rae. You must be punished for what you’ve done.” Ivan said.

V

Rae’s body tensed as Ivan shoved her into the room where she had had her future foretold years ago. She sat down cross-legged and gazed at the flames as they danced. She felt her tense body begin to relax. She heard Chinmaya and Ivan arguing in the background.

“She cannot be punished Ivan, she is with child.”

“She has orchestrated a murder father! She can’t be kept alive!”

“I cannot punish her until after her child has been born.”

Ivan’s head fumed as he heard his father turn his request down. He stomped over towards Rae’s still body. He clutched his hand around her braided hair and put the tomahawk behind it. In a quick slice away from her neck his tomahawk cut away at her long braided hair. He grabbed the top of her head and thrust her whole body down onto the sandy ground so she was on her back.

“What are you doing Ivan?” Rae’s voice shook as she saw Ivan’s face red like a raspberry.

“My father says you can’t be punished until after the child is born. So you’re going to have that child.” Ivan stormed over towards the pots where Chinmaya kept his herbs and pulled out the raspberry leaves.

“Ivan, I can’t have a chi—”

Rae’s speaking was interrupted with Ivan shoving the leaves down her throat. Her stomach tensed up and a sharp pain shot through her belly from her back over towards her belly button.

“Ivan, please, don’t act like an animal.” Rae’s eyes teared up again as she saw her husband perched down below her legs, tomahawk at hand.

It lasted several hours before Rae felt her pain dull away as Ivan displayed a baby.

“Father!!”

“Let me see the child Ivan…” Rae’s eyes looked glazed as Ivan chopped at the baby’s umbilical cord with his tomahawk.

Ivan turned his head and retreated back to where his father slept. Rae wanted to chase after Ivan and the child, but her body was too exhausted from the traumatic experience of birth. She lay on the ground and waited as she saw Chinmaya approach her. He looked larger than he had been when she had met him at her and Ivan’s wedding.

Unlike Ivan though, Chinmaya reached his hand out to lift Rae up.

“Come child, take my hand.” He coaxed.

“What’s going to happen to my baby?” Rae placed her hand gently into Chinmaya’s hand and stood up in a half slouch.

“You should be more concerned as to what will happen to you.” Chinmaya said, leading her out of his hut and down the steps into the main area where all the onlookers stood at sunrise.

“I did nothing wrong Master.” Rae sobbed as the sun’s beams lighted up the horizon.

“Yes you did. You orchestrated a murder with a wolf, the most cunning of all forest life around us. You should have known better.” Chinmaya snapped as he threw her down into the ground.

“But the wolf told me he would do favors for me and—”

“Enough child! Hush!” Chinmaya held his palm up and the other members of the tribe cautiously walked out of their huts to see what the bellowing loud voice of Chinmaya was shouting about.

Rae’s ears took in their murmurs like a tornado pulls in any object in its path.

“Is that Ivan’s wife?”

“What has Cadfarch done wrong to where she deserves this?”

“I hear she killed her own mother.”

“I hear she allied with a wolf.”

“Rae, for your despicable behavior with a wolf, you cannot be one of us anymore.”

“But the wolf cared for me as though he loved me!” she cried.

“For your asphyxiation on the wolf and inability to do without him, you are cursed to give grown men the bug which changes their human bodies into the rabid canines.”

Fearing she would change into a witch, Rae covered her face as Chinmaya murmured an enchantment.

Rae’s whole body became covered in a soft tan fur in a ripple from her face down to her feet. Her short hair fell forward as she felt the sides of her face get yanked up as though her ears were hanging from a trapeze. Her nose pushed down into her face and her eyes grew only a tiny bit larger. She felt an intense burning pain from the tips of her fingers as she saw her fingernails stretch out in an effort to cover her face. From every digit a curly claw had unsheathed. Her body shook as she saw the thirty eyes staring her down as though she were some sort of beast.

Chinmaya’s voice was quiet for one second before he brought his hand down and Rae dashed off. She had no idea what had happened to her, but was now dead to the people of her village. Where could she have gone?

She slid down the slope in utter agony until she came to rest on a rock. She sat down on the rock and gazed into the stream which flowed through the forest. In the dim light of the morning she could see her reflection indeed looked the same as it had before. But her ears! Her ears were not on the sides of her head. They were planted on top like a cat had.

Rae’s tears began to run dry as she felt about in her tiny purse for the pebble. It had got her in trouble once before, but what was the use in fearing trouble now? She rubbed it between her forefinger and thumb and whispered, “Please Aosanvaca…make me a human again or restore me to my tribe so that I can live with my family…”

Again, as if by magic, a black wolf appeared by her side and gazed at the reflection of her face in the pond.

“I don’t envy you dear. The mithra curse is permanent.” The wolf sighed.

“What’s a mithra?”

“Half woman, half cat. They function as sirens for men and curse the men to become animals…literally.”

“How do you know?”

“I was entranced by a mithra once myself.”

“You mean you were once…human?” Rae’s eyes dilated in disbelief.

The wolf nodded, “Look Rae, I’m sorry, I cannot help you with your curse. But, if you wish I change back to a human, I can help you out and try to give you back the humanity that was rapidly taken from you.”

Rae shut her eyes and stated, “Aosanvaca, please…become human.”

As she wished those words, the wolf rose from his quadroped position and floated into the air. His fur blew around as if blown off by a vibrant wind. His tail sunk into his rear end as his legs morphed into hands and feet. The long nose Aosanvaca had disapated into his face. The top of his head got blown off in a sudden burst of wind and his dark black fur grew into a brilliant fire red hair.

As Rae’s eyes opened she saw her friend was a human indeed.

Once the human opened his eyes she saw one green eye and one brown eye.

He was clothed in a dull silver armor which was attached to a dark red cape.

“Aosanvaca!!” Rae reached her arms around the human whom had grown from her friend. “Were you a king?! You look so fancy!”

“My name is not Aosanvaca, Shana-Rae.”

“What is it then?” Rae asked as she pulled away from her new savior.

“Casanova.”

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