Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred : God(s) laugh.


“Well, well,” the soul stealer said as he moved into the junction between the mine tunnels. “Back for round two?”

The soul stealer was ready to fight. Jacob cast his eyes to the ceiling for one last time. Nodding to himself, he stepped out into the center of the mine tunnel.

“Well, hello there, Mr. Marlowe,” the soul stealer said. “What brings you into this area of the mine?”

“I don’t need a reason to be in any area of this mine,” Jacob said, stepping into the creek. “I happen to own the entire thing. The real question is what are you doing on my property?”

The soul stealer chuckled. Jacob took a step toward the creature. Avoiding the stream, the creature stepped to the side.

Unhindered by the false image, Jacob could see the creature clearly for the first time. What he’d taken for a slug or a snail was actually a different kind of creature. The creature’s skin was nearly translucent. A thin layer of mucus made his skin glisten, even in this low light. Its eyes looked like round marbles stuck into either side of its head. They moved independently of each other, constantly scanning the environment. There were two active antennas above the soul stealer’s eyes. Jacob’s fairy elixir enhanced vision showed him that the antennas were scanning the air for souls.

He had two appendages that looked more like pinchers than hands. His thumb and index finger were over long while the other three fingers were almost non-existed.

Jacob leaned to the side to get a look the creatures back region. Grey feathery gills lay on either side of what might be considered the creature’s torso. The soul stealer had two legs which seemed to propel him along. Behind the back region, the soul stealer had a tail like appendage with tiny feet moving it along the ground.

“What does the Marlowe want?” the soul stealer asked.

The soul stealer took a step toward Jacob. The creature was about half way through the adjoining tunnel. With any luck, Jacob would draw the creature away from the junction. Abee and Gilfand could move into the tunnel effectively trapping the soul stealer away from the creature in the Fire of Hell.

“You look … familiar,” Jacob said.

“We have met before,” the soul stealer said.

“You looked like a dog then,” Jacob said. “Not a … Are you a crayfish?”

“How dare you!” the soul stealer said.

“He sure does look like a crawdad,” Yvonne said.

She stepped out into the middle of the tunnel. Jacob pointed to the stream and she came to stand just behind him in the water.

“What ever happened to your shell?” Yvonne asked.

“They are a prehistoric creatures,” Jacob said.

The soul stealer moved across the tunnel toward Jacob.

“Were you born with a shell?” Jacob asked. “Or did it go away in this environment?”

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” the soul stealer said.

The creature took two steps toward Jacob and passed the junction of tunnels. Abi and Gilfand slipped in unnoticed behind the soul stealer.

“You’ve never seen a crayfish?” Yvonne asked with a laugh.

“Sure he has,” Jacob said. “In the mirror.”

Yvonne laughed as if that were the funniest she’d ever heard. The soul stealer stopped moving. His antenna waved into the air as if he was getting high off the smell of Jacob and Yvonne’s souls.

“Hey Abi,” Jacob said. “Is he a crayfish?”

“Possibly,” Abi said. “Crayfish came about nearly 30 million years ago.”

“121 million years in some places,” Gilfand said.

“After the bees?” Jacob asked.

“Why, yes, as a matter of fact,” Gilfand said. “I’m impressed. How do you know such a fact?”

“Well, Delphie, of course,” Jacob said.

“It’s on the wall at the Museum of Nature and Science,” Yvonne said. “I saw it when I was there with Jabari and the kids.”

“That’s right,” Jacob said. “It is on the wall there.”

As they chatted back and forth, Abi and Gilfand moved into fighting positions behind the soul stealer. Yvonne was able to get the diamond knife out of her pocket.

Jacob wasn’t sure if the soul stealer could read minds. If the soul stealer could read minds, would he be able to hear their plan?

Out of the corner of his eye, Jacob saw Yvonne’s hand move into her pocket. To cover her actions, Jacob took out the Bowe knife and started walking toward the creature.

“I will kill you for what you’ve done,” Jacob said.

“Aw!” the soul stealer said. “He has a big knife.”

“To cut off your head,” Jacob said.

“You have to bite the heads off crayfish, Jacob,” Gilfand said.

“That’s right! I’d forgotten.” Jacob looked past the soul stealer to Gilfand. Mimicking Jacob, Gilfand was walking quickly toward the soul stealer. Abi had shifted into a defensive. Only Gilfand and Jacob were moving toward the soul stealer.

“Why do you wish to kill me father?” the soul stealer asked.

“I am not your father,” Gilfand said, his voice rising with anger.

“You are the father of us all,” the soul stealer said.

Gilfand rushed the soul stealer. Moving faster than Jacob would have thought, the soul stealer turned quickly to the side. Having expected to hit the soul stealer, Gilfand stumbled a few steps before he caught himself.

In his wake, Jacob moved to confront the soul stealer. Using one of his weird pincher like hand, the soul stealer knocked Jacob into the side of the mine tunnel. Jacob hit the wall hard and dropped to the tunnel floor.

“Jacob!” Yvonne yelled.

“Worried about a Marlowe,” the soul stealer said. “So sweet.”

The soul stealer took a step toward Yvonne. Using his psychokinesis, Jacob made an attempt to trip the soul stealer. With surprising grace, the crayfish-like creature was able to avoid the stream and also keep from falling over. The soul stealer weaved forward and Jacob caught a whiff of the creature’s odor.

“Gilfand?” Jacob painfully worked his way to standing.

“Son?” Gilfand asked.

“You said that he was dead,” Jacob said.

“Yes, I believe he is,” Gilfand said.

“That’s what crawdad’s smell like when they aren’t in clean water,” Jacob said.

Jacob stomped down on the creek causing the water to splash in the direction of the soul stealer. The creature deftly moved out of the way of the water.

“You know, I think he’s right,” Yvonne said.

“I stand corrected,” Gilfand said and swung a broad sword in the direction of the soul stealer. Rather than slicing through the creature, the blade bounced off with a “clang”. “Seems like he has some kind of shell.”

The soul stealer launched into a melodramatic evil laugh.

“Energetic,” Jacob said.

“Snidly Whiplash,” Yvonne said. “Is that your name?”

Jacob glanced at her. She was holding the blue diamond knife in her left hand. She nodded.

Yvonne was ready for action

“You know, from the melodrama,” Yvonne said.

Jacob laughed. Turning toward her, he nodded. Yvonne held up the blue diamond knife and pointed the index finger on her right hand. She took a breath and started to light up.

The soul stealer hit her with a powerful burst of some kind of energy or radiation. Yvonne flew backward down the tunnel and the knife flew out of her hand. She hit a tunnel support hard and landed in a heap. The tunnel support started to fall and the ceiling began to cave in.

Jacob raised his hand to send a wave of psychokinetic energy keep the tunnel support upright. He created a protective umbrella around Yvonne. A shower of dirt and rocks fell around the energetic umbrella. They could hear a high pitched “ting” every time the knife hit the rock floor as it bounced away in the dark behind them.

The soul stealer made a menacing move toward Jacob at the same moment Abi attacked the creature from behind him. Jacob ran to where Yvonne had collapsed. One leg was out in front of her while the other leg was at an odd angle at her knee. She lay crumpled against the wall of the tunnel. He touched her arm, and she looked up at him.

“I’m okay,” Yvonne said with a choked cough. “I just need to collect myself.”

He helped her to sitting, but her bent knee wouldn’t allow her to move. He gingerly touched her knee and she gasped in pain.

“Lie back down,” Jacob said.

Nodding, she did as he’d asked. He quickly moved her hips. She did not make a sound when he straightened her leg. Her knee was swelling fast. When she sat up, he saw that her elbow was broken and her arm was swelling. Unbidden, tears streaked down her dirt streaked face. She attempted to move on her own and groaned at the effort. She collapsed back to the wall.

“Go,” Yvonne said. “You’ve got to get that bastard.”

Nodding to Yvonne, Jacob hopped to his feet and stepped toward the action.

“Stay with Yvonne,” Gilfand said. “We’ll keep him distracted while she recovers.”

Jacob nodded. He took off his backpack and set it next to Yvonne to help support her. He gave her a bottle of water, which she drank greedily. He made a sling out of a strip of cloth from the T-shirt he was wearing.

“I have drugs,” Jacob said.

Yvonne shook her head.

“Not worth it,” Yvonne said.

She gave him a beautiful smile.

“This is really nothing,” Yvonne said.

Jacob gave her a worried look. Glancing down the tunnel, he saw that Gilfand and Abi could only hold the soul stealer in place.

“We have to kill that bastard,” Yvonne said.

“Can you?” Jacob asked.

“I lost the knife!” Yvonne said in a louder voice.

Jacob put his finger to his lips to encourage her not to speak. He pointed to the fight going on just a few feet from them. Yvonne nodded.

Jacob held up one finger in a “one minute” gesture. She nodded again that she understood.

He looked around at the rocks and dirt that had fallen from the ceiling. He was close to giving up when he found a ten inch around rock with a notch broken off to create a sharp, jagged edge. Yvonne opened her mouth to protest. Jacob shook his head and held up a finger again. She nodded but looked worried.

Jacob sat down on the cave floor and negotiated his legs until he was sitting cross legged. He set the rock on his right ankle. Putting a hand on either side of the rock, Jacob focused the entirety of his psychokinetic energy into the rock. He felt the rock respond to his touch. After a few minutes, he stopped to catch his breath. Nodding to Yvonne, he repeated the gesture. He felt the rock begin to rearrange itself. He stopped again to catch his breath. He focused on the rock again.

Yvonne gave a tiny gasp. Jacob shot her a quick look. She pointed to the rock. He removed his hands to show an enormous, uncut blue diamond. She grinned at him in appreciation.

“Can you?” Jacob whispered.

“I’m sure as hell going to try,” Yvonne said.

Jacob tried to hold up the rock but it was strangely heavy now.

“Heavy,” Jacob said, softly.

Yvonne nodded. Jacob put his back into it and held the rock up for Yvonne to channel her energy into.

“Do hit the center of him.” A male voice came from the dark portion of the tunnel beyond the tunnel support.

Yvonne’s father, the archangel Urial, was walking toward them. He was casually eating a pear. His wings were unfurled and his chest bare. He wore cotton pants and leather sandals. His blond hair and general calm demeanor were absurdly out of place in this mine. Overcome by his light and the sheer joy of his presence, Jacob fell forward in prostration.

“Now, Jacob,” Urial said. “We don’t have time for any of that bullshit.”

“I can’t believe you are here,” Jacob said.

“Where else would I be?” Urial asked. He lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “My only child is in pain. I am always with her when she suffers.”

Yvonne looked up at him and held up a hand. He took her hand in his and squeezed it. Jacob got the diamond rock and held it to him.

“I cannot interfere,” Urial said. “In fact, the mother and father cannot see me, nor can that thing. They cannot know I was here, either.”

“What do I do, father?” Yvonne asked.

“You channel all of the rage and horror you have for the creature who held you captive,” Urial said. “Remember what he did to our Tanesha.”

Yvonne gave him a solemn nod. Urial took one last bite of the pear and tossed the core back into the dark of the tunnel.

“Poor all of that malice through the stone,” Urial said. “Aim for its torso and cause the creature to explode. His is not living tissue. He is merely held together by the ectoplasm of other’s souls. Your light and the stone will free the ectoplasm and destroy the creature, but you must hit him in his center of mass.”

“What about the being in the Fire of Hell?” Jacob asked.

“The mother and father will take care of that,” Urial said. “The mother will know what it is upon sight. You will take care of my Yvonne, yes? See that her body heals completely?”

“I will,” Jacob said.

“I will tell you when,” Urial said.

Jacob held up the stone and Yvonne got ready. They waited.


Monday evening — 5:25 p.m.

Paris, France

“What did he do?” Frederec Martins asked Sissy.

He held firmly to Sissy’s elbow and was negotiating her to a spot in full view of the street. They were sitting at a café popular with artists, dancers, and other creative people. Every woman, and more than a few men, had noticed the moment Frederec had entered the café. He’d ordered their drinks — tea for Sissy and American whiskey for Frederec — in fast Parisian French and moved to sit down. Sissy felt their eyes upon them as they moved to the table near the windows.

“I’m sorry, I simply do not understand,” Frederec said in French. Switching to English, he said, “Your teacher asked you to what?”

“He told me that he needed me to undress,” Sissy said in unaccented English. “Did I say that in French?”

“That is what you said,” Frederec said in English. He gave her a soft smile. “It still doesn’t make sense.”

“He said that he needed to see ‘my form,’ you know, from being shot?” Sissy nodded.

“Yes, being shot,” Frederec said. “We were so concerned about you.”

Sissy smiled. This handsome man used the word “we,” meaning he and Sissy’s friend, Amelia Hutchins, as easily as most men use the word “I.” It was ridiculously charming.

“Amelia insisted on going to you in New York, but Sandy told us that you were unable to see people because of possibility of infection,” Frederec said.

“We talked over the Internet as soon as I was back in the flat,” Sissy said. “Amelia and I have had lunch whenever she’s on the East Coast to play with the US Women’s Soccer team. I hope we’ll be able to do it when she’s here.”

“Well, our thoughts were with you,” Frederec said. “Now what did this horrid man make you do?”

“He told me that he needed to see the injury site, see the scars and ‘what those American butchers did to you,’ so that he could assess what I had to work on. I had to …” Sissy leaned forward to tell Frederec privately. “ …strip! In front of everyone! So he could see my scars!”

“Did you say ‘No’?” Frederec asked.

A waiter brought their drinks and a basket of French Fries. Frederec introduced Sissy as his dear personal friend, who was now studying at the Paris Opera Ballet. They spoke back and forth as if Sissy wasn’t there. Sissy knew that Amelia hated when this happened. Sissy also knew that it was the way the French behaved. So Sissy waited patiently and followed the conversation. With a nod to Sissy, the waiter left them to their drinks and the warm fall evening.

“Sorry,” Frederec said.

Sissy waved away his concern and he smiled. She took a single French fry from the basket and looked at it. She reminded herself that since Ivan wasn’t there to do it, she needed to watch her eating before eating it.

“I should like to ask you what you did, but I’m afraid I am missing the horror of your situation,” Frederec said. “New to class, an American, no less, forced to become naked in front of your peers.”

“Boys and girls!” Sissy said.

“For us, for Parisians, it wouldn’t be anything,” Frederec said. “Your teacher must have known that, as an American, you would feel humiliated.”

“That’s what I thought too,” Sissy took a drink of her tea and nodded at its flavor. “It was a test.”

Frederec nodded in agreement.

“What did you do?” Frederec said.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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