The Edge of Propinquity Postcards
1. An Act of Kindness - A Kendrick Story - By Jennifer Brozek
2. Knowing Things - A Luminations Story - By Rick Silva
3. Initiations - A Santa Maria Story - By James M. Sullivan
4. Dawn - A Vorare Story - By Ivan Ewert
An Act of Kindness
A Kendrick Story
The homeless man shuffled down the street. It was cold, gray and rainy. This was not his usual neighborhood. In fact, he was not sure how he had arrived here but now that he was here, he kept walking, looking for shelter. It was an almost suburban neighborhood; too close to the city center to truly be suburban and not close enough to the Gateway district to really worry about the police patrols those hoity-toity rich people insisted on having.
The sharp squawk of unhappiness caught his attention and he lifted his head, peering around. He kept walking and the high pitch squeaks got louder. He stopped at the yard of an unlighted house. The desperate call of the baby animal allowed him to hone in on it. "Oh, look at you." He said as he carefully reached under a bush and pulled out a bedraggled black and white kitten. "You poor thing. All alone, just like me." He held the shivering kitten close. "We need to get dry."
He took a couple of steps to the porch of the house. The door was locked. "Oh, come on, please? It's cold and we need to get dry. Please?" He tried the door again. This time it opened. "There. That's better." He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. The house was dark and empty but unexpectedly warm. Perhaps, someone had forgotten to turn off the utilities when they left. It was a good turn of fortune for him and his new friend. He stripped off the wet outer layers of his ragged clothing and spread them out to dry. His long johns were still dry. He tucked the kitten inside his shirt to warm it. He was rewarded with a purr from the tired baby.
He explored the house, looking to see if there was anything worth salvaging. The house was like a treasure chest. Everything he could want was here. There was a mattress and a blanket in one of the back bedrooms. The place still had running water. He bet it had electricity. A squeak from within his shirt informed him that his kitten was awake. The continued squeaks and urgent suckling on his fingertip when he petted it told him that the kitten was very hungry. "Let's see if there's anything to eat. I don't know if we're gonna be that lucky, Theron."
Pausing, he wondered at the name. He searched his patchy memory and came up with odd images of himself in front of a classroom. "Theron is Greek for hunter." He said to himself as he lost the hazy memory. "Good enough name for a cat." He rummaged around in the kitchen and let out a whoop of delight. He showed his prize to the kitten: a single can of chicken noodle soup. "We gonna eat tonight!"
Fixing dinner consisted of opening the can with his old army field can opener and getting his trusty spoon from his bag. He mixed the soup up then dipped a finger in and fed the kitten. Theron was clearly ravenous. So was he. However, he fed the kitten almost as much as he did himself. "You should be eating milk and wet cat food. Why'd your momma abandon you? Did you wander way and get lost? I get lost a lot. I don't remember too well."
After eating, he took the blanket and made it into a mound on the bed, nestling the kitten within. He decided to take advantage of the running water while he could and shower; his first in weeks. It warmed him inside and out. He never realized that the towel that was waiting for him after his shower had not been there before he went in. Same with the comb on the sink. In his mind, both had always been with him.
From the shower, he returned to the living room and put back on all of the layers of clothing he wore to ward off the cold. He automatically packed up what he brought with him and headed out the door into the night. It was sad to leave the warm, dry place but he had places to be, things to do, people to talk to. He paused at the sidewalk with the nagging feeling that he was forgetting something but could not place what. After a moment of trying to remember, he looked around uncertainly. He was not sure how he got here on Yarrow Street but he belonged in the city center. He set off in that direction.
Inside the house, the kitten slept in the blissful warmth of a full belly and a soft bed. Tentative, the hands that were part of the awakened house grew out of the floor and walls to examine the tiny creature that the man had taken such care of. Mimicking his motions, one of the hands stroked the kitten. It purred in response. More hands hovered about, watching and waiting.
When the kitten woke again and gave off its demanding squeak to be fed, the hands went into a flurry of motion. Two held the kitten, a third pet it and a fourth brought out milk in a shallow bowl. Theron messily ate his fill. Afterwards, the hands cleaned up the kitten, petting it until it went back to sleep. They placed the kitten back on the blanket were it went to sleep, purring. The hands began their patient wait again.
If you liked this story and would like to read more of the Kendrick series, you may start at the beginning of the Kendrick series in the first year's Archives and continue on to the current year's Archives. This particular story occurred in the Kendrick series back story and was referenced in the first year story called "Transitory Tunnel."
A Luminations Story
"I know about the money, Mattie."
I'm standing by the hi-fi speakers, my sandals sinking into the sea of deep-pile blue carpet that covers the floor of Richard Harrington's living room, and I'm smiling because Harrington doesn't know shit.
He doesn't know about the safety deposit box numbers that I copied down when I opened the safe. Nothing is missing from that safe, so he's got no idea I was ever in there. Nice of his bitch wife to have the combination tucked under her little stationery box. Come to think of it, he probably doesn't know she's got it either.
He doesn't know that I was there watching his ritual in the woods, and even if he did know he'd never guess that I could understand any of it. He thinks my stories about growing up Oglala Sioux are just some bull I made up to sell my beads and paintings.
We've been lovers all summer. He knows nothing. He doesn't know the tips of my fingers are playing with the hard metal of the Smith & Wesson in my coat pocket right now.
"You could have asked, Mattie. I would have helped you."
I smile. "I decided it was time to help myself. Just stay cool, old man. It's been fun, and I'm leaving you with plenty. Besides, no one knows anything. Your wife doesn't know."
"Samantha doesn't need to know. Listen, Mattie. You're a bright young woman. There's no need for it to end like this."
But there is. I know things about Richard Harrington. I know he's older than he looks and I know he plays with some bad medicine, and I know that those are the kinds of secrets you keep quiet. Just let him keep thinking it's all about money.
I make my way along the edge of the room, back to the wall, watching him. He moves aside as I back out into the hall toward the front door.
"I know about your friend." He says.
He gives the littlest hint of a smile. "I was listening when you made that call. The telephone is on a table upstairs by one of the heating ducts. The sound carries in this house if you know where to stand. He's the one you said was an ex-boyfriend, right? Bobby? From the farm up in Vermont, near Lake Memphremagog. Interesting name. I hear it's pretty up there."
He steps out into the hall and says, "I sent a couple of my men to deal with your friend, Mattie."
"You bastard." I spit out the words as he steps closer, and my hand clutches the pistol as I picture the guys I've seen working at Richard's construction sites. Big men, men who don't mind rough work for the right price.
I've resolved to pull the gun if he takes one more step, but it doesn't happen. The dim hallway goes white with lights streaming in from outside and Richard covers his eyes. I can hear the truck's engine outside and the crack of the door slamming, then the footsteps running up the flagstones toward the front door. I imagine it's Bobby's footsteps I'm hearing, and I lose myself imagining for a few seconds because suddenly the door behind me is opening.
He comes to my side with the rough smile of his, and I take my hand off the gun and turn my attention back to Harrington.
"Looks like your boys didn't get the job done." It's his turn to back up now, and I follow him to the entrance to the living room. "You should have just let me walk out of here, Richard. You had to make things hard. Sending those guys to rough up Bobby was a big mistake."
He shakes his head. "I didn't."
I start to laugh, because he's denying what he just admitted to and it's not going to help him...
I never see it coming. Bobby's fist smashes into the back of my head and I stumble, white spots in my vision. I manage to turn around, off balance, and the next punch breaks two of my teeth. My blood is deep purple on the carpet. I've already forgotten the gun. He never gives me a chance to fight back, but it takes three more punches before I stay down.
He's talking money with Harrington while he ties my wrists with his belt, and they're haggling over the price as he stuffs a dirty handkerchief in my mouth. He knows Harrington can offer more than just money, but cash is what he'll settle for cash as a start. The pain in my body is going mostly numb, leaving me feeling only the betrayal.
Harrington kneels down beside me.
"I told you I sent a couple of my men to deal with your friend. He seems happy with the deal he made, doesn't he?"
He gets up, and as he walks away, he says over his shoulder, "You know things, Mattie. I can't have that."
That's when I know I'm dead.
A couple of the guys I've seen at Harrington's building site come in and they help Bobby take me out the front door. We pass the cement truck idling in the driveway and I remember the foundation that Harrington is having dug for the new guest house out back.
If you liked this story and would like to read more of the Luminations series, you may start at the beginning of the Luminations series in the first year's Archives and continue on to the current year's Archives. This particular story occurred in the Luminations series back story and was referenced throughout the Luminations storyline.
A Santa Maria Story
James M. Sullivan
"It was a time of neon, new wave, Nagel, and big hair. John Hughes made rebelling against society look cool. Well, Mr. Hughes could piss off as far as I was concerned. After several disagreements over blue hair, eyeliner, and staying out all night my parents threw me out. There was no rock ballad and there was no happy reunion. All that happened was me coming to understand just how cold and dangerous living on the streets of Santa Maria could be.
"I did okay for a kid of fifteen. I was able to avoid drugs and other entrapments a young person faces on the street. For two years I kept myself relatively safe and most of the time I even had a full belly. I would not say I was happy, but for being a homeless teenager I fared well enough. I learned many lessons quickly and most I learned the hard way; the most essential of which was that few people in the world are genuine in their offers of aid. You will always discover a catch and often an appalling one. That was my mindset when I met Jack Dandelion.
"He was the most charming boy I had ever met. That is still true today; beautiful green eyes, a tangled mop of golden hair and a crooked smile that would put a rabid mongrel at ease. Against my better judgment I approached when he smiled at me at the Wash 'n' Go. He claimed to have been watching me for months and stated he had a proposition for me. I cut him off and let him know I did not do drugs and was not a hustler. He laughed then informed me he never paid for sex and that drugs were for the weak eyes that could not see the true world. Again that smile; it held me there despite every instinct screaming to get away, to flee. It was late at night and we were alone. Jack was taller then me and obviously stronger, but I stayed. I was captivated. He explained that there are two types of people in the world. Some just glide through life never truly seeing what exists around them; never experiencing true emotions and unable to enjoy life. He then said there were those like me. People who saw glimpses of the truth, who understood there is something more that lies beneath.
"At this point I was beginning to panic. I wanted to leave, to object but my voice caught in my throat and my feet felt like concrete. The thing that scared me the most was that he could be right. That it was not my imagination that created the dark shapes in the depths of the shadows. That it was not sleep deprivation that cause me to see people along the streets of Santa Maria that others did not. I wanted him to stop, to shut up, but I no matter how hard I wished he did not.
"He leaned in close, his breath hot on my cheek and ear. He told me he could change my world. Jack took my hand in his and held it tight; not painfully, but oddly comforting. He whispered now, asking me if I wanted to be set free. He asked if I wanted to bask in the brilliance of truth. I still could not speak and in my mind I shrieked no and tried to force my voice to object as my head rebelliously nodded in acquiescence. I barely felt the needle puncture my forearm. I had been drugged. The sensation of free fall overcame me and my vision went dark.
"I awoke to the high pitched hum of a tattoo gun. A girl with dreadlocks was tattooing my right bicep. Jack Dandelion was standing above me in all his glory. If it was possible his smile was even more charming. He welcomed me and began to explain that I had been accepted into the ranks of the Gamin. I tried to speak but I was still groggy. He went on enlightening me. The Gamin was a group of young adults and teenagers who worked as guides for the true city. As a group they were entrusted to many of Santa Maria's secrets and in return pledged to act as guides to those who navigated the real streets. I was to be one of them if I agreed. He the Gamin would give me a new name, Ant, and that my old name would be forgotten and they would become my new family. Apparently I could see the truth of reality on some level. That combined with the fact that I was homeless with no family to speak of made me an ideal candidate.
"I can see the look of recognition in your eye and the catch in your throat. It is alright to be frightened Savarna, I was." Ant reached out and took the young girls hand in his. "Do you want to be set free? Do you want to bask in the brilliance of the truth?" She did not speak, but slowly nodded her head. Ant quickly and expertly administered the drug intravenously and caught Savarna as she collapsed.
If you liked this story and would like to read more of the Santa Maria series, you may start at the beginning of the Santa Maria series in the current year's Archives. This particular story occurred in the Santa Maria series back story.
A Vorare Story
The sound of rushing wind did not disturb Gordon, nor did the cold which he knew surrounded him, even if it failed to penetrate his bones. Lying in the scrubbed brown grass of a northern winter, with irregular ridges of solid mud frozen into blades beneath his back, he knew that all was not well – that he should not feel so at peace, so content with the world and its ways. He blinked slowly, staring toward the sun which seemed so distant in the last days of December. Though its face looked wan and chill, the day was clear; and that lent the day a bright crispness unknown to the blazing hours of summer afternoons.
It took only a moment longer for Gordon to remember that his eyelids were no longer attached to his face. He had sliced them away while staring at the selfsame sun, and with that memory – and the clear fact that his eyelids were intact – the slow wakefulness he had enjoyed gave way to a frozen panic.
He had mutilated himself, horribly. He had devoured his own flesh, himself a sacrifice to himself when the pain and the hunger had become too great and had overwhelmed his senses. It had been no dream, no vision, but cruel and terrible reality. He remembered the muddled logic he had used, the sound of the carving knife dropping to the ground, the feel of warmth and darkness as his body followed suit, torn and rent but, for the first time in his months of imprisonment and deprivation, full and sated from that terrible desire for flesh ...
"And do you hunger now?"
He looked down at his arm, where the smooth edges of the circle he had sliced into his forearm now writhed obscenely together, twisting themselves into a mouth which spoke the words aloud.
"Do you hunger, host of man?"
The sound of rushing wind did not wake Gordon from his second faint. It was the motion of the speaking wound, that utterly alien and crawling sensation which opened his eyes once more.
"Do you ..."
"No," he said, surprising himself with the strength and steadiness of his voice. "No, I do not hunger." Gordon kept his eyes on the passing clouds, refusing to give his full attention to the wound.
"It is good. Your ordeal is over, host of man; no longer need you fear the coming of those who woke my voice."
"Oh," said Gordon, and then: "They've stopped hunting me?"
"You need no longer fear. That is enough. Rise now."
"I'd rather not."
He felt his arm grow warmer, tighter, his hand swelling as if someone had tied a tourniquet around his upper arms. "As you wish," crooned the voice, and in those sweet and delicate tones Gordon recognized more danger than the boots and threats of his captors at the Farm. He lifted his head slowly from the ground, kept his eyes upon the bark of a nearby walnut tree, and pushed himself carefully to a kneeling position. The warmth ebbed, returning to his body as a whole, and the unpleasant twisting of the skin around his wound felt horribly familiar – like the contracting muscles at the edge of a smile.
"It is good," said the wound. "Now walk," and Gordon did so unquestioningly, moving in a daze back into the forest where he had ended his life.
If you liked this story and would like to read more of the Vorare series, you may start at the beginning of the Vorare series in the first year's Archives and continue on to the current year's Archives. This particular story occurred between the first and second years in the Vorare series.