This story begins with Masked – The Fortress (1). To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.
John blinked, dazzled momentarily, but soon came back to himself. “What makes you think I want your power?”
“You want Amica Ferri. In her bed, with love in her eyes, you could escape. My power will give her to you, for a time.”
John flared his nostrils. “You can’t give me another person! Amica…” He trailed off for a moment, and when he continued, his voice shook. “People have free will. She has chosen to be with Sean. Who am I to change her mind for her? Who are you to coerce her?”
Bloodwater sighed. “The protests of a moral man. Laudable, but misguided. Amica wants to be with you as much as you want to be with her. I offer you a way to be together, for a little while, without losing face. She will feel no shame, and you will have a memory of perfect bliss to comfort you in your solitude.”
John sensed guile. “Comfort… or torment? Memories can spur longing and grief.”
Bloodwater leaned back on his cushions, but continued to hold out the beetle, perching preternaturally still, only its antennae moving. “That’s your recent loss taking over your tongue.”
“You leave Carlye out of this!” John snapped.
“I seem to have struck close to the mark,” Bloodwater observed, smiling again. His discolored teeth repulsed John. “Perhaps an image can persuade you where words fail.” He gestured to the cavern wall behind John.
John turned –
Amica stood at the foot of an unfamiliar bed. Bars of moonlight striped her nude chest as she discarded a bra onto the floor of the darkened bedroom. She planted her fists on her hips and as she tilted her head to one side, he saw her lips part for a toothy grin. Her ease, as he stared at the image of her on Bloodwater’s wall, struck his core. The fondness in her eyes allowed him to feel like he had seen her body a hundred times before.
Without looking away from the wall, John reached behind himself toward Bloodwater. “Give me the fucking beetle. How does the thing work?”
“Like everything else in your life, it will require sacrifice and pain,” Bloodwater replied. He stood up, crossed the cavern, and touched his fingers to John’s. The beetle crawled from one hand to the other. “You’ll figure it out.”
John didn’t take his gaze away from the image of half-naked Amica, but Aum fell away from his vision. He realized he was sitting in his darkened kitchen again, and the beetle waved its antennae at him from the table for two.
Thank you for reading! In the next installment, John attempts to unravel Bloodwater’s cryptic instruction.
Previous Aum stories include Globe Without Goodbye .
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