Read The Strange Path Online

Authors: D Jordan Redhawk

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian

The Strange Path (10 page)

BOOK: The Strange Path
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She came up with the thin volume, and handed it to him. “I wondered why she gave it to me. I can’t read any of it.” He peered down his nose as he thumbed through the pages. Whiskey imagined a pair of spectacles perched at the end of his beak, and smothered a chuckle. He looked like a black-plumed bird with vision problems.

“Ah, here it is.” He held the Book out to her. “Your first language lesson.”

She took the Book, and looked at the incomprehensible scribbling. “You realize this means nothing to me?”

“And more’s the pity, dear Whiskey.” An expression of deep mourning sat upon his wan face. “Had you been raised among your own, you’d be completely conversant in our tongue.”

It took a moment for her to pick up on his humor, a wicked combination of droll sarcasm. It fit him perfectly.
It must be difficult for people to catch him in a joke.
“So, what is this thing?” She waggled the Book in her hand. “How does this get me through the...whatever it is?”

“The
Ñíri Kurám
,” he repeated patiently. “Far back in our history our young people walked down the Strange Path gradually. It takes many years to pass through from childhood to full Sanguire adulthood in this manner. Mystics and oracles eventually discovered a series of chants that opened the doors of the mind and body, accelerating the process. Now, what would take twenty years to accomplish can be done in a week or so. It can be a shock to the system, hence the need for a guide, such as myself, to assist the youngling through the traumatic experience.” He pointed a long finger at the writing on the page before her. “This is the first chant, written thousands of years ago in ancient Sumerian.”

Whiskey blinked. “We’re Sumerian?”

Dorst peered over nonexistent glasses at her. “We’re Sanguire. My ancestors came from that region of the world. Just as with Humans, there are other...races of Sanguire.”

She stared at him. This went beyond anything she’d ever conceived, blowing her perception of the standard vampire myth out of the water. “Other races of Sanguire?”

“Certainly.African, Asian, Indian.” He leaned back, one hairless eyebrow raised. “I was told Daniel informed you we procreate through natural sexual channels rather than horror story blood-sharing, did he not?”

“He did.” She frowned in thought, remembering something along those lines. “So what are we?”

Dorst smiled. “I and Fiona come from the European contingent. We are here on sufferance, as guests in this country.” He tilted his head. “Until we know your ancestry, we do not know where you belong. It is assumed by your appearance that you are also European, but time will tell.”

Her mind full of questions, she didn’t know which to ask first.
Here on sufferance? Guests of whom?
She remembered their discussion on politics the night before, coming to the conclusion that if there were different groupings of these people, then there’d be government of some kind to rule them. “Jesus.”

“A bit much to take in?” He smiled in sympathy. “Don’t tax yourself overmuch with the details, dear Whiskey. First we get you through the
Ñíri Kurám
. Your education will follow in due time.”

Whiskey swallowed, and nodded. She forced herself to focus on the Book in her hands.

Dorst carefully instructed her on the pronunciations of the required chant, pointing out with one long finger the syllables and words on the page. It took nearly an hour before she could recite it without error. When they finished, she recognized the strange letters that made up the words.

“How long have you paid for this room?”

“Just tonight. I check out by noon tomorrow.”

He sniffed, eying his surroundings. “While it leaves much to be desired, you’ll need a place to sleep after you’ve finished. I’ll pay the landlord for another night.”

Whiskey shook her head. “No, don’t worry about it. I’ll find somewhere.”

Dorst swept into a low bow, his voice reverent. “I beg your forgiveness, sweet Whiskey, but I am your
Baruñal
. Until you’ve completed the chants, and come into your full power, I will keep you safe.” He peered at her from his bow, his eyes sparkling with humor despite his stance. “When you’ve attained adulthood, you may take me to task for my presumption.”

She stared at him a moment before giving him a slow nod. “Okay. You’ve got a deal.”

“Thank you. I know how much of a sacrifice it is for you to give over control.”

Whiskey’s brow furrowed. “How do you know that?”

“Call it a hunch, one that I hope will pay off handsomely.” He grinned, and swept toward the door. Pausing there, hand on the knob, he looked back at her. “Remember. Someplace you feel comfortable and safe. Not here. But return here as soon as you’ve finished. You’ll need the seclusion and rest.”

“I remember.”

Dorst opened the door. “Do you still think we’ve met before?”

She examined her feelings. “Yeah, I do.”

He lifted his chin in concession, and left the room, closing the door softly behind him.

Whiskey looked down at the leather-bound Book in her hand. It felt alive, the light tan covering warm against her fingers. After a few moments, she stood and packed it away, collecting her things. Even if she were staying here another night, she wasn’t about to leave her gear to be pilfered by the management.

 

Chapter Twelve

Whiskey stared over Puget Sound. She sat on a bench in Olympic Sculpture Park. Dawn prepared its approach in an hour or so. The park technically closed, the cops in passing cars wouldn’t hassle her unless she lay down to sleep. Smoke from her cigarette coiled over her head. From here, the lights of Bainbridge Island sparkled in the darkness, reflecting in the water like sunken treasure. Traffic passing around her on Elliott Avenue and Broad Street picked up with early morning commuters, garbage trucks and delivery vans. There’d be more activity soon, though not as much as on a weekday. Overhead, stars sparkled faintly in a clear sky.
Looks like another sunny day.
The thought made her grimace.

She looked at the Book in her lap, idly brushing stray ashes from its cover. Taking a final drag off the cigarette, she sent it flying as well. The red glow disappeared into a patch of grass, a slow tendril of smoke rising above.

Wondering if she should get into one of those silly yoga positions, she frowned. She should have asked Dorst, but had been too baffled by the information overload he’d imparted. Too late. She supposed she could call him on the cell phone. With a sigh, she shrugged to herself and took stock. Seated, her legs crossed at the ankles before her, she assessed her body. Comfortable enough, she opened the Book.

She flipped gently to the page Dorst had shown her, mindful of the Book’s age, and peered at the writing in the dim nearby streetlight. Relieved to see her memory held, she closed her eyes, and let her breathing slow and deepen. Around her she heard the intermittent traffic bypassing her by a few hundred feet. A hedge of flowers grew close to her, their delicate scent filling her nose as she inhaled.

Relaxed, Whiskey began the chant. The words rolled off her tongue with a strange sensation. Here, alone and in the waxing light, she felt a jolt of surprise. They came alive with her voice, something that hadn’t happened when she’d spoken the phonetic pronunciations with Dorst. The louder she spoke, the more substantial the words became. Her eyes closed, she imagined them floating in the air before her in greens and golds, visible for anyone to see.

She finished her first recitation, and began the second. Dorst had told her to run through each chant four times. Her blood tingled. She detected each corpuscle burning a path through her body. The sensation solidified in her chest, growing stronger with each syllable and every beat of her heart.

On the third repetition, her senses heightened to extraordinary levels. The smell of flowers overpowered her, a seductive lure distracting her from the meditation. With an iron will, she ignored it, banished it. The scent all but disappeared at her command. Amazed, she continued to speak, the words so real that she tasted them as they spilled from her lips—sharp and sweet, hot and heavy.

A combination of giddiness and fear jabbed at her spine as she began the final run-through.
What’s happening?
She felt a physical shift in her head. Fireworks exploded behind her eyelids, blinding her with their nonexistent glare. She heard her surprised grunt from far away, ears no longer hearing street sounds. As she uttered the final word, she heard distant music, a familiar tune. She couldn’t quite place the slow, seductive beat that pulsed in time with her heart. It drew her, irresistibly tugging at her as the brilliant colors in her mind’s eye solidified.

Flash.

She found herself in a darkened hallway, thick carpet cozying her bare toes. Clutched in her arms, a floppy teddy bear kept her company, and she squeezed him in wonder and recognition.
Upsy Downsy.
That was the bear’s name. Her grandfather, a man with dark hair and benevolent eyes, had given the bear to her. She hadn’t seen Upsy Downsy since the age of six when an older foster brother had torn him apart in front of her. Somewhere the music played, interlaced with snatches of conversation.

Lost in the dream, she followed the sounds, shuffling down a set of stairs, holding the banister that stood tall by her head. Strange and familiar faces turned to her, conferring indulgent smiles, touching her light blonde hair as she passed, speaking fondly of and to her. With a sleepy grin, she accepted their attentions as her due, hugging one or offering her bear to another for kisses. The air smelled of jasmine drifting in from the deck outside.

She wandered through the party, following the music, knowing instinctively what she’d find. They were in the living area, wrapped in each other’s arms, dancing. Watching for a moment, she saw the love her parents shared, floating in a misty haze of gold and green around them. She laughed, and tumbled forward, caught by Daddy, and lifted high into the air.

“What have we here?” His sky-blue eyes sparkled. “A night owl come to watch over us?”

“It’s
me
, Daddy!”

He peered closely at her. “Why, so it is! Look, darling! Our lovely daughter has joined us for a dance!”

She giggled as Mommy put her arms around both of them.

“Then we shall dance.” The dark haired woman smiled, and kissed her forehead. “Afterward, it’s back to bed for a story.”

Delighted, she hugged an arm around Mommy’s neck as Daddy cuddled her. “I love you very, very much! Can it be the story about the elves and the shoemaker?”

“Whatever you wish, beautiful lady.”

The three of them danced together to the music as family and friends watched, and Whiskey wished that every night would be like this.

Flash.

Whiskey recoiled from the dream, if dream it was. With a cry she bolted to her feet, the Book sliding from her lap and along the concrete, coming to rest at the edge of the flower bed. Eyes wild, she took in her surroundings. The sound lay quietly before her, traffic still coursing upon the nearby streets, and the sky had begun to lighten.

At least an hour had passed, though it seemed ten minutes in her dream.

Feeling soaked to the bone, she wiped at her face. The thought brought a shiver as a gentle spring breeze caressed her sweating skin. Knees shaky, she sat on the ground beside the bench, wrapping her arms about herself, staring at the leather Book a couple of feet away.

What was that?
A memory, yes; Whiskey now recalled it well. She couldn’t have been more than four or five at the time.
It was so vivid!
She trembled again as she recalled the warmth of her parents’ embrace, her mother’s gentle perfume, the sound of her father’s laugh. She could see them so clearly. She’d been devastated when she’d forgotten what her parents had looked like. Now she eagerly committed their faces to memory, hoping she could hold the images forever. She swallowed hard, eyes stinging. A hollow opened in her chest, a swooping, falling sensation that occurred whenever she pondered her parents on more than an intellectual level. She forced herself away from the feelings, lifting her chin and inhaling deeply of the dawn air.

When her emotions settled, she knuckled away unshed tears and rose. She stood over the Book, glaring at it with a curled lip. Tempted to leave it there, she remembered its venerable age. Dorst wouldn’t be pleased if she dumped an expensive antique somewhere. Besides, there were more meditations to get through before she finished. With a dissatisfied growl, she picked up the volume. The cover pulsed thickly in time to her heartbeat. She almost dropped it again, Fascinated and repulsed, she shoved the thing into her pack, and quickly closed the flap.

 

***

 

The walk back toward the hotel became surreal. Colors leapt out at her, brighter than they should be, more vibrant. They rang with with a low-level tone, one Whiskey couldn’t quite hear no matter how she concentrated. As the sky grew lighter, traffic increased. She walked along the Alaskan Highway Viaduct in wonder, eyes darting everywhere, trying to catch everything. A furniture delivery truck blatted past, and her mouth dropped open in surprise. She
smelled
the sound, a combination of turkey and onions!

What the hell did that chant do to me?
She waffled between fear and delighted pleasure. Many a time in her life she’d taken hallucinogenic substances for just such a high. She’d never quite attained this level of clarity before. Somehow the chant must have physically changed something within her brain.
Just like Reynhard said it would.
She frowned at her familiar use of his first name in her thoughts again. Attention now focused on him, his face popped into her mind, picture perfect. But a full head of dark brown hair flowed past his shoulders. He looked maybe ten years younger than he did now. His black eyes held a deep devotion, and he bowed his way backwards and away from her.

“What the fuck?”

Turning off the main road, she puzzled over the vision. It replayed over and over in her mind, nothing more and nothing less than what she’d already seen. She couldn’t see much else—not his clothes, or the place where they stood. Ten years ago, she’d been deep in the Oregon foster care system, already beginning to act out and get into trouble, a sullen eight-year-old girl with a huge chip on her shoulder. Had Dorst met her as a child? Had he been one of the masses of counselors, care providers and social workers she’d dealt with before leaving the system?

BOOK: The Strange Path
5.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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