Welcome back! I took a few weeks off for my son's 9th birthday. As some of you may know, today is a high holiday for us Wiccans. It's Beltane, or May Day. But I figured it was fitting to offer everyone something to read as I celebrated Spring and the fertility of the ground this weekend. Beltane is associated with farming and sowing seeds. This episode of the new story plants the idea of the central conflict, so its pretty pivotal. Enjoy!
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BIRTH DAY #4; by Tucker McCallahan:
I swam up into consciousness like I’d been anesthetized.
Blinking, I tried to gaze around and a wave of intense vertigo rolled up over me. My knees went weak and I would’ve hit the dirt had a strong arm not slipped around my waist.
I was standing?
“Easy. You are disoriented, Dr. Wickliffe.”
The question shot out of my mouth more sharply than I intended, but my vision was bleary. I had some wicked dry mouth.
“Why am I disoriented?” Oh this was awful. My head spun and my guts heaved. “Who the fuck drugged me?”
“You have not been given any type of intoxicating substance, I assure you.”
I forced my eyes to focus. I was staring at myself, twenty-five years ago. That wasn’t possible.
“This isn’t possible,” I reaffirmed. Saying it out loud might’ve made me feel better if I hadn’t given me a sardonic look and rolled my eyes.
“Your views of what may be possible in this universe are decidedly narrow for a physician.” The younger me gazed at me with something like disappointment on his – my – face. I frowned.
“I have always practiced evidence-based medicine-”
My eyebrows, darker and fuller on that younger face, shot up. “I’m standing here talking to you as you and your blindness persists.” He used the same deep, holier-than-thou baritone my medical school instructors had always used. Today’s procedure will be graded with the usual scale: live or die.
He released me and I immediately took several steps. My balance and reflexes seemed normal. I really studied my surroundings for the first time. We stood in a wooded area. I frowned. The last thing I remembered was being in bed with Palon inside the hospital. The scent of fresh lime consumed me and I got an instant erection. Palon…
“Think with the big head.” The younger version of me reached out and tapped my forehead. “The last thing I need to deal with right now is your ego wanting to be touched in its special place.”
When he grinned at me, I saw somebody else’s smile on my face.
A bolt of pure adrenaline shot into my bloodstream making my heart pound. My mind raced as fast as my blood through my veins. Either I was dreaming and none of this was real, or I was awake and in danger. The urge to run hit as hard and pure as the adrenaline.
“If you run now, you might never stop.”
I mastered the urge to save my ass and held my ground. “So… who are you? Because I know you aren’t me.”
“Very good.” He nodded. “This is one of the things I like about you. When you commit to something, you’re in one-hundred percent.”
“That’s not an answer.”
Backing several more steps away from me he closed his eyes. One minute I was looking at a twenty-five year old version of myself, and the next a thirtysomething Chinean male with pale skin and longer than average black hair stretched languorously and blinked up at me. He could’ve been any average guy working a government wage farm save for his brilliant scarlet eyes. For the briefest instant right after the shift, his eyes glowed. Then his face showed no emotion whatsoever.
“Is this your first face, your real face? Or is it just a face?”
He shrugged and slipped his hands into his pockets. “Does it matter?”
“I don’t know.”
“Dr. Wickliffe, I went to some trouble to bring you here. I came out into the open which is forbidden among my kind.” He cocked his head and gazed at me. The inscrutable look in his odd red eyes transformed into something I was sure I recognized. “Our kind.”
“You aren’t making any sense.”
“You’ve examined many humans since the Rising, yes? You have your theories about their extraordinary abilities.”
Just when I thought I’d gotten over the adrenaline, a fresh dose dumped into my bloodstream. My heart hammered like the pistons in a 1990 Ford Mustang GT. Whoever this guy was, he was going to kill me. I kept my mouth shut and folded my arms across my chest.
“My actions tonight were purposeful. As you said, you’re a man who wants evidence.” His red eyes locked with my blues. “I slipped into your unconscious mind and drew you from your bed in a trance. I made suggestions to you that you found rational, so you followed them. Get dressed. Don shoes. Walk to this location. Even if you could believe that we’d met before at some previous time and during that meeting I somehow hypnotized you without your consent and implanted those commands, how do you explain my ability to change form?”
“That could be another implanted command. To see what you command me to see.” But that sounded lame even to me. Hypnosis didn’t really work that way; it couldn’t create hallucinations.
“Have you never wondered about your name?”
The abrupt subject didn’t throw me. I was hungry for this kind of debate. I hadn’t had a really good argument since before the Rising. Besides, I’d figured out where I was, and I was only about ten minutes from the hospital. I felt much better knowing I was close to home and the boy I’d left behind.
“It’s a family name. My father and grandfather had the same name.”
“And you never asked about it?”
“No. Did my surgical residency with a guy whose name was Winston Harvey Waverly the Fourth. He was actually the fourth man in a line of men named Winston Harvey Waverly. Family names aren’t that uncommon.”
“But have you ever met another person named Vancient?”
“It’s a name unique to our kind.”
“And just what do you think our kind is?”
“I showed you earlier. You saw me before you went to sleep.”
My mind flew back through the events of last twenty-four hours. Only two events stuck out. Shock must’ve registered on my face because he laughed.
“Is it so difficult to believe that some of your DNA is from an entity more advanced and powerful than a mere human being? You have spent your entire life rebuilding them and yet suffer none of their aging effects.”
I laughed and it released some of my pent up nerves. “Maybe you have the wrong guy. I have high blood pressure, arthritis, and my cholesterol is probably crap. I haven’t checked it since this mess started.”
“No.” He shook his head. “You’ve assumed the symptoms of those infirmities to blend in. Once you accept your true lineage they will vanish and your dormant abilities will awaken.”
His face grew serious and he stepped closer to me. His voice took on a low, vibrating rumble that thrummed through my whole body.
“I showed you my true form earlier. I allowed other humans to see me so you would believe. You, Vancient Wickliffe, are dragonkin, the result of a mating between one of mine and a human Pure. If you can accept who and what you are, you’ll have access to many abilities.” His red eyes burned as if lit from behind. “You will be powerful beyond measure.”
His voice was mesmerizing. I blinked slowly and shook my head. “I don’t want to be powerful beyond measure. If there’s one thing the Rising has taught me, it’s that I like being pretty insignificant.” I held my hands up and backed away from him. “Thanks but no thanks, bud. You’ll have to offer somebody else phenomenal cosmic power. I’m not buying.”
He made no move to stop me as I turned to head back to the hospital.
“The boy is a partially-claimed human Pure.”
“When his master or mistress comes to reclaim him, and make no mistake, his owner will come for him, the least of outcomes will be his removal from your custody.”
Whirling around, my hands clenched into fists, I growled. “Nobody’s taking Palon anywhere he doesn’t want to go!”
“If you wish to take him from one who has already begun a Claiming, you must have all your abilities, Vancient.” He shrugged. “Or the worst outcome will be not just your destruction, but the destruction of every human who takes shelter with you as well as your place of dispensing aid.”
I stood there in the woods, the silence of the night no comfort to me as I stared at the man-shaped thing claiming to be the dragon. I wasn’t sure I believed him, but one thing I knew down to my bones.
Nobody owned the boy in my bed.
And nobody was taking him.
“All right. What do I need to do?”
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Thanks so much for reading! Comments are, as always, craved and appreciated.
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Be Well ~ Tux