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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
A Felony of Birds

by
Harris Tobias
Assisted

by
Harris Tobias
CHRONON--Time Travel

by
Harris Tobias
The Dreaming Fire

by
Jeromy Henry

The Dealer

by

Jessica White



In his final moment I was given life. With his last breath I took my first and his dark fear-stricken eyes were my first sight. Though she didnít know I was there, he saw me flicker through her like a shadow. The last beat of his frantic heart echoed in our mind, like screams dancing from pew to pew in some forgotten cathedral. In that moment it did not matter what he had done to endanger the girl. What matter was that he was dead by her hand and it was with that profound truth that the child fell back and I took control.

Screams echoed in our mind and they warned of a deep unforgiving pain. A woman called to us in the cold night to rescue her from her sins, but the child swung at her in the darkness with distrust and agony. I reached out to the woman to find she was lost in sleep, unknowing of her calls. Again the angry little beast swung. "Megan", she whimpered. This had been why I was called out. The little beast had lost her first love and was suffering. Laughing at her loss of the woman, I dipped my hands deep inside the pockets of our jacket. I felt her fading away into the distance, her hate and rage blinding her to fear.

Strolling over the dry pine needles blanketing the ground, I heard thousands of people crying out. Their pain fed a fire that had begun inside of us and I savored the taste of destruction that it left. Shifting a cigarette out of a beaten pack found in our jacket, I longed to unleash that fire on the world with the striking of a match. At the mere thought of those flames licking at the trees that towered over us heat burst through the air. Our tracks shimmered white hot and smoldering ash was all that followed in our path.

The child saw us then, walking onward in the glowing dimness, hair loose in the breeze, jacket blown open and the only blood left from the man that lingered behind staining the skin under our nails. She fought harshly but only momentarily to claw her way back to reality. I jammed her down, locking her deep inside of us. There was a job to be done and only I could do it.

The fire ceased following us once we reached the snaky mountain road. The dead man's car revved to life at my command and we tore down the road as if tearing a hole in the fabric of life. The liquid black Firebird hugged the turns tightly as we raced downwards, to the small town nestled between the mountains. Loud intangible music blasted from the stereo, disturbing the once silent night. As we reached the final turn that would drop us into that backwoods town, a fire truck, flashing bright lights and sounding a siren, rushed past us. Laughter chimed somewhere in our memory as a cigarette butt, flicked into the rushing air, bounced off a paint chipped sign. "West Lakes, Home of Angels," it read. The yellow light coming from the town flooded into view seconds later and the sickening sounds of human life began to close in around us.

Squared to a timeless cross road sat this worthless little town. A single four way stop controlled the traffic that filtered down from the mountain, but this late at night the town was quiet, save for a bright beacon. It was a neon sign flashing BEER that drew me into the bar, where upon a thick cloud of smoke met us at the door. An old man, deep wrinkles framing his drooping mouth and hallow eyes, nodded in our direction as I strolled in. The child knew him only as Paps, but didnít move as we walked past him. She didnít notice the two men who tried to speak with us. She simply tucked herself away.

Their confused looks forced a hidden smirk across our face. They would not remember us being here. We were just figments moving in the night to them. Besides it was someone else I was waiting for. "Someone else will walk in soon enough." Her voice seemed so far away as she curled into a tighter ball. So I settled myself into a game of pool with a short man in a cowboy hat while I waited. The table was set up for a straight run if I wanted to take it. The man who asked for the game leaned against a tall chair, puffing on a cigar. From the corner of my eye I saw the man who greeted me at the door sit down on a stool and grab at his heart. I smiled as I sank the nine ball. His brow was beaded with sweat and his spotted blue eyes watching something in the distance. He wouldn't be any trouble now, even if he did notice the change.

The door swung open just as I lined up my final shot. A gentle thought pushed at our mind like a gust of wind. That was when her head lifted from her folded knees. We saw him down the line of the stick as he drifted in, shaggy brown hair swaying over his face. His gray eyes watched the man on the stool as he past him. Then as the black ball rolled down the table the manís eyes turned to meet ours. Crawling forward, towards the edge of her prison, she reached out to the strength she drew from him. In our mind her lips parted and in a soft breath his name drifted to my voice. "Shawn."

Sinking into the pocket with a swish and then a thud, the eight ball left our sight. The man however came closer. Shawn watched the man who had been playing me stalk away, tail tucked between his legs and fifty dollars poorer. Leaning his lower back against the table beside us Shawn looked down at us. He crossed his arms over his chest as if he were about to scold us and then a grin spread across his flawless face. "Where is Chris? I saw his car."

The child traced her fingers over his image in our mind, his head bowed, silken hair falling over his angelic features. "I borrowed the car," I answered. His grin widened and a sparkle of light caught in his eyes. "He knows," she thought. She recoiled from him and slunk back to her dark corner, a desperate broken feeling drowning her. "Wanna go for a ride?" I asked dropping the pool stick onto the green felt.

"If you think you can keep up," he answered innocently. Lighting a cigarette I followed him to the street beyond the bar. Passing the old man, I caught his gaze and let out a cloud of smoke towards him. His fingers clutched tighter at his chest and terror swept over his weathered face. From the door I heard him hit the floor, making a loud thud very much like the eight ball had.

There was a flood of emotions raining down on us. Their screams caressed our skin in silent pleas for mercy and forgiveness. It was amidst their screams that I found her again. The thorn in our side had awoken from her slumber and was now crying out to us. She was a forgotten memory to the child, but a matter of interest to me. "Who was she?" I asked quietly.

The child whined in our mind. "No one," she whimpered. Wind raced in over us from the window and we roared down the road. Shawnís 80s Camaro leading up through the winding turns seemed impossibly far away to her. "What are you?" she asked through the silence.

Still smiling, I answer, "You."

The taillights from Shawnís car were lost for an instant in a turn and we saw the cool rush of night fleeing before us. "I love her," the child confessed. I knew this. "Donít." Shawnís car pulled into a gravel drive. We followed, sending dust and rock flying through the air as the car ripped around the turn. The child suddenly silently screamed at him with pure rage and beat against the walls of her prison. Her sudden anger forced a burst of laughter from our mouth.

Shawn slowed down and stopped smoothly in front of a dimly lit house. As we were stepping out of the car a surreal scream flooded the air. My laughter stopped. This was not a scream that echoed through our mind, but a hoarse vocal scream that had bubbled up from a womanís fragile throat. The child quieted and deep inside I felt a bitter tug of hate as I opened the door. The little beast quickly clamed this bite of anger as her own and demanded that we go closer.

Shawn mirrored our footsteps up the porch, watching us more than the house, and when he came too near the child swung out in pure hate. Though it was not our fist that hit him, Shawn halted and gave our back an apologetic look. For a moment she fought to attack him again, but she turned her attention back to the door as another scream broke loose from the house. Until our touch opened the door we had gone unnoticed, and as we entered our vision was filled by the blond angel pressed tight to the wall.

The child blazed at once with passion and sorrow as the woman gazed upon us with wide frightened green eyes. So enticed by her golden curls and small form that I almost missed the brute standing tensely on the other side of the room by a glassed-top coffee table. Breathing rather unevenly, he demanded, "What the hell are you doing here?" We didnít react to him as he started towards us, but Shawn stepped into the room and gave the man a look that sent him storming away.

It took only a few steps to be standing in front of her and as our gentle fingers hovered over her battered skin she cringed away from us. She may have been scared of us, but we were outraged by the yellow-green bruise that covered her cheek. Anger exploded and our head snapped around, tracking the man with our pale blue eyes. He entered the kitchen and we were soon following.

As we entered the room our hand slipped around the handle of a cutting knife that we passed and I heard it zip past the wooden block that had held it in place. The man had tugged a drawer open and slammed it just as fast and as he turned our hand wrapped around his face, pulling him closer into our reach. His greasy face felt sticky under our fingers and his unkempt hair briefly tickled our arm.

Cutting deep into his flesh, the knife sliced across his throat and hot blood gushed as we lowered him to his knees. As I saw the gun he had held drop to the ground Meganís voice shattered the moment. "No!"

It was her that came at us from behind, petite fists raining down on us like hail as she tried to shove us from the body. The knife hit the floor and the gun was in my hand when I grabbed her tiny wrist and slung her away from us. She stumbled for a moment and then watched us in horror while I cocked the small revolver. Her golden ringlets fell over her face, still settling from the forced movement. As the gun fired, I saw Shawn standing in the doorway.

Disbelief covered Meganís face as the bullet flew towards her, and as her chest arched from impact her eyes blinked suddenly to innocence. We watched her fall to the off-white floor and her hair gave a final flip as it fanned out around her head. The child was holding the gun too, I realized, and tears streamed down her checks, tears that never reached our eyes.

"Sweet, come here," Shawn said reaching his hand out to us. The child turned, but I paid it no attention as we started out of the kitchen, still holding the gun. Taking hold of our arm, he froze as I looked up at him. Stepping closer to him, the edge of our body fit the outline of his somewhat taller one. Placing our hand on his chest, I could feel his heart speeding just under his skin.

Shawn let his guard down ever so slightly and for the first time I felt the endless stream of doubt racing through him. The child leaned in close to him, traced her hands over his form and for an instant held him close, but the scene he saw was somewhat different from the one we had laid out in our mind. The blood on the floor was thicker to him and the girlís body smaller, more child like. Even the little beast inside was disgusted by what Shawn saw. She shoved away from his mind and threw up a shield around herself. "Shawn," I whispered.

His eyes blinked and he had forgotten that he was wrong. He wrapped an arm around our waist and held us for a moment. Even as I lifted the gun from my side and pulled back the hammer, he held onto us. "We have to get out of here," he repeated loosening his hold. The barrel touched his temple then and Shawnís jaw tightened.

"Iím not so sweet," I said softly and squeezed the trigger.

In the end it was his final breath that gave life back to the child as we stood there in the bloodied room. His heart that echoed through us and his eyes that saw me fade back into that which I had come from. Things were arranged as were called for and she walked away from the house, leaving his car parked where it was. She went back to her dark, quiet home and slept. Slept for days. No one had really seen her at the bar and the young man she killed was found only as bone in the fire. Though, now when she looks in the mirror she doesnít see herself anymore. She sees a distorted image of who she once was and may never be again, but I wait. I wait for a time when she calls me again to come out. For a time when she canít do what needs to be done on her own. For she is the giver of life and I am the dealer of death.

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