1 - First and the Last
Her arm lay motionless in his hand. As the warmth of life trickled away, her skin became firm; the color having turned pale. He sobbed with no tears, bracing her body gently. The crowd continued to pass; the rain continued to fall. As if the world kept turning; without noticing his grief.
The cold storm heightened. The water slid harmlessly off her exposed body but drenched his grief. He began to shiver in response. With unstable composure, he stood, holding her closely and walked the long road home.
Louis stands before the grave of a woman. It's been days since the tragedy. The violent storm broke the sky with lightning and rain; soaking the dirt into mud. His mind continued to question the events that have led to her death. However, he struggled to make sense of it and decided to leave the area.
A few hours later, the bereavement appeared to offer him no solace either. Louis sat quietly before a fireplace. He stared deeply into the fire while remorse clearly weighed down upon him. His solitude drowned out the people in the other rooms before an elderly man bravely reached out to him.
Elderly Man: "Mr. Louis… I presume?"
The aged gentleman stood before Louis. He was well dressed and approached with caution; clutching a glass of brandy in his hand while taking a seat across the way. A moment of respectful silence passed before it was politely broken.
Elderly Man: "I am sorry for your loss."
Louis: "Thank you."
Elderly Man: "I can't say, 'I know how you feel'... I would just be lying. What I can say, is that you aren't alone in this Mr. Louis."
Louis: "Louis. It's just Louis."
Elderly Man: "Louis then. I seem to have forgotten my manners. My name is Samuel Yaza. You may call me Samuel. I know this may seem too early to discuss; believe me it's never a good time…"
Louis: "Whatever you are here to sell me just forget it. I don't care what it is; I don't want it. Please leave."
Samuel (Elderly Man): "What I have is something you can't simply buy. However, nothing is without a price. What if I told you that you can have the one thing you desired the most?"
Louis: "I would really like for you to leave actually. So, what do I owe you?"
Samuel: "I meant Ellen. I can help bring her back."
Louis: "I'm sorry but cloning is not something I can afford right now."
Samuel: "Not cloning."
Louis: "Resurrection then? What's the going rate? Do I get a coupon if I act now?"
Samuel: "Mr. Louis."
Louis: "Is there discount for a Frankenstein package? Do you guys offer reincarnation overhauls? She really loved animals…"
Samuel: "Mr. Louis. To answer your question, yes, I'm talking about resurrection. However, as you can tell I am not Mary Shelley or Doctor Frankenstein for that matter. Also, I am Catholic; for the record. So, I do not believe in reincarnation. What I'm suggesting to you is beyond all you can fathom. This is no joking matter; it's a very serious one at that. The journey you would be a part of may take your life or possibly worse. You would be wise to think on it; especially if you value your life over hers."
Louis: "Get out. Get out! Get the fuck out!"
Louis released his hold on Samuel and sat back down. Fixing his jacket, the elderly man gently placed a card on the end table next to the fireplace. He paused as the griever slipped back into a thousand yard stare.
Samuel: "I am sorry. Your anger was not intended. I can't say, 'I know how you feel'. I would be lying. I can say, 'I've lost a loved one too.' In fact, I've lost quite a few loved ones. I cannot answer the questions you're asking yourself right now. All I can do is offer you a path… a path that worked for me. I don't want your money; I don't need anything other than your trust. You know where to find me."
With those final words, Samuel departed from the room with respect; leaving Louis to his silence. The crackling from the charred logs began to waiver as the fire slowly died. He looked at the card briefly; wondering whether or not to take it.
Night fell and the concession came to an end. The last tinder smoldered to an end as the smoke drifted off. Louis stood up, taking a much needed breath while he fought desperately to control himself. As the last few people left the building he gathered himself and took Samuel's information off the desk before leaving the funeral home as well.
Memories of his love echoed in Louis' dreams. He woke in tears late at night and sulked as each day just dragged on. The mental anguish of his loss had led to dangerous levels of alcohol consumption; the side effect worsened his nightmares. Insomnia soon set in; causing him to lose a grip on reality.
One vague night, a hallucination lured him out to the same balcony from where Ellen fell. As he climbed onto the railing of the seventh floor residence, a whisper caught his ear. Louis imagined the face of woman that died in his arms. Before he could take it all in, a blast of wind launched him backwards.
As the dream faded, a piece of paper floated onto his chest. Louis reached for it. He immediately recognized it as the card Samuel left for him. Sitting up, he stared out the porch door. He exchanged glances with the rail and the card in his hand.
Outside of a building on a bright afternoon, Louis approached a set of glass doors. He entered into the lobby where he was respectfully greeted by a female receptionist; eager to help him along the way.
Receptionist: "Good afternoon. Who are you here for? Ah, you're here for Mr. Yaza. Take the hall on the left to the elevator. He'll be on the thirteenth floor. It's the only door up there. You can't miss it."
Louis proceeded as instructed; down the left hallway and onto the elevator. Stepped out on the thirteenth floor, he found himself immediately facing Samuel's office. He calmly walked to the entrance; letting out a long sigh. Recalling the vivid hallucination from the previous night, he took a deep breath before knocking on the door. After a short pause the handle unlocked and he entered the room.
The interior of the office was excellently clean. Furniture of modern design occupied the space. Paperwork and binders were organized on the elaborate desk. The wood flooring was unscathed and void of scratches. Louis could hear a voice in an adjacent section, so he continued forward.
In the following area, he found himself amongst displays of antique relics and old items. Art of religious depictions hung from the walls. A coupling of aged chairs sat facing the front of a fireplace. On top of the mantle resided a frame containing an emerald encrusted golden sword.
Above the hearth was a futuristic television which appeared out place; considering the theme of the room. The voices Louis had heard revealed to be from film left playing on the screen. Not having recognized the dialog, he continued to watch the program with intrigue.
Kint: "Who is Keyser Soze? He's supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Soze… You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."
Samuel: "My favorite line in the film. It's a good story. Have you ever seen it?"
Louis: "Can't say I have."
Samuel: "That's too bad."
Louis: "I'm not a movie person. So, unless it will have something to do with… whatever we're doing, then I'll have to take your word for it."
Samuel: "You would be surprised if said it did?"
Samuel motioned for them to sit in the antique chair across; before taking his own seat. He reached for a nearby remote and turned the movie off. After a few minutes of awkward silence, Louis jumped at the opportunity for a joke.
Louis: "So, are we going to talk about how depression stems from my upbringing or are you the 'medication for everyone' type?"
Samuel: "Neither actually. I do not place much stock in phycology. Would your care for a cigarro?"
Louis: "You know those will kill you right?"
Samuel: "Indeed they will. So will liquor, drugs and more importantly… time. Sadly, we cannot escape death; we can only choose how to embrace it."
Louis: "I distinctly remember you saying that I could bring Ellen back. Now you're saying death cannot be avoided. Why exactly am I here?"
Samuel: "I like a man who is all about the business at hand. However, I need to give you all the information before you can accept such a task."
After inhaling one final puff, Samuel exhaled deeply before placing his cigar on a desk tray. The cloud of smoke from his breath filed the room as he leaned forward; towards Louis. A determination radiated from his eyes as if he wanted to know something of urgent importance.
Samuel: "Do you believe in God?"
Louis: "I'm not a religious person and I don't think a spiritual journey is going to help me in this case."
Samuel: "I did not ask if you were religious. I asked if you believe in God."
Louis: "No. I can't say that I do."
Samuel: "Why not? He believes in you."
Louis: "I've heard that one before. Look, the reason why I don't believe is… Take tragedy. Why would God allow bad things to happen? If he really existed Ellen would still be alive."
Samuel: "I know how you feel. In fact, you would be surprised how much truth is in what you say."
His response appeared to intrigue Louis. Samuel grunted in pain as he turned his body wincingly towards the fireplace. Both men entered into deep thoughts before the elderly man drew from all too common experience as he wove a story.
Samuel: "In the beginning God created the foundation of existence and time; as we know it. From this came the structures of both the universe and of life. Despite the love he shared for all creation, God took particular interest in the world known as Earth. He watched as humans evolved from the basic forms of consciousness to a higher level of intelligence; exceeding all of His expectations. Proclaiming it as His greatest creation, God asked for the Seraph to share their sacred values with this perfect world. All of them complied… except for one. Believing humans were flawed, this advocate offered a wager to God. If He could be convinced that Earth's inhabitants were corruptible, God would have to relinquish control over its people to this skeptic. Although the Seraph advised to forgo the deal, God accepted without hesitation. So, the protestor granted Earth's final gift… the gift of choice. It wasn't long before God became aware of the impeding defeat. He conceded and withdrew claim of perfection towards Earth. Affronted by the exploit, God's Seraph berated the lone advocate; demanding expatriation and even branded the outcast as the 'Dark One'. However, God remained humble in loss. Rather than ostracizing the traitor, God offered him a choice. The Dark One may take the prize of Earth but at the cost of his position within the Seraph. Arrogantly, the Dark One took his exile with pride and banished himself to our world."
Louis: "You're saying that freedom of choice is a sin?"
Samuel: "Choice is the worst kind a man can commit."
Louis: "There are probably a few billion people willing to disagree with you."
Samuel: "Is that so? Let me ask you a question. If a man decides to murder or steal, who stops him? Is it law, is it rules? No. The choice to do or not to do is the man's. Right or wrong, shouldn't be a choice. Doing that which is right, is the only path a man should walk upon."
Louis: "A good argument for debate class but what does this have to do with me?"
Samuel: "Allow me to continue… Upon arrival, the Dark One's took residence in the center of the world; known as the Heart of Darkness. Dwelling in a frozen chamber, he watched the world slowly consume itself in the choices they made. The powers of decision just strengthen his resolved and added to the influence he had over all human ordeals; including the phases of life and death."
Louis: "So, what are you saying? I have to confront the Devil to get Ellen back?"
Samuel: "In a manner of speaking, yes. However, I will caution you. Once you start down this path, there is no turning back. It's an evil and unforgivable road you tread on. What you face may ultimately kill you or possibly worse. I hope you consider this fully."
Louis: "Did you just offer me a choice?"
Samuel: "The way I see it… You don't have a choice. If you want her back, there is only one way."
Having been caught off guard by Samuel's resolve, Louis sat back and examined the demeanor of the elderly man. Despite his skepticism, his intuition favored the potential in what was being offering. He was compelled to venture further.
Louis: "I won't say I believe you. However, to answer your question earlier… my life means nothing when compared to Ellen's. I would trade mine if it meant bringing her back to life. Despite my convictions, I will go along with your bedtime story; for now."
Samuel: "Mr. Louis. With every journey there is the first and the last step. This is the first step into a new journey and the last step out of another."
The two men shook hands before Samuel stood up and moved about the room in delight. Louis remained seated; appearing to have entered a deep thought. As he processed through his memories, a single moment crossed his mind.
Louis: "The first and the last… She said that once."
2 - I am the Alpha and Omega
'I am the first and the last woman you will ever come to know'. Yeah, that's what she said to me once. At the time I didn't believe her. In fact, I assumed she was just another stuck up bitch.
She was right though and I'm not one to admit when I'm wrong; however, that changed when she came into my life. I became a different person. I wanted to be a better person and I blame her for that.
My life certainly wasn't as glorious as I once believed it to be. It's funny how loss or gain can adjust one's perception. I had no idea how wrong I had been before I met her and I blame her for that.
I don't remember much of my childhood. I would say had parents but I can't see their faces in my memory. I could say I was an orphan but I don't recall a school or housing for that matter. I have these flashes, quick thoughts, which remind me of things in my past. Nothing is ever more than a random image though.
What I can tell you is that I lead a very casual life. I had a job; here and there. I once tried to develop an accurate resume but I they don't make font small enough to fit all my previous employers on one page. When I did work it wasn't for very long. I would make enough money to survive a few months before my ribs began to eat my spine.
Where I lived wasn't so bad. The sixth floor of a building that violated the city code monthly is where I took residence. It wasn't terrible if you could deal with the occasional rodent or if you ignored the obvious asbestos hanging out of the dilapidated walls. The rent was cheap; especially in my case. Fucking the landlord's daughter came with its perks.
Speaking of my love life I made do. Sleeping with a new girl every night got me by. I wished for more but then I just didn't. It was so easy to get a release and then not have to care about them. After years of practice I had come up with the perfect way to streamline the process.
It was simple. I would wander about town in my spare time; seeking the ripe fruits of a woman. I never chose the same place twice; out of respect but more importantly because I didn't want to run into the same girl twice. Once I had my target I would find a safe spot to plant myself nearby. In distance terms I was close but not too close. I was good about hiding in plain sight.
From my position I would do the one thing most men forget to do. I would listen. The woman of choice would be on the phone or hanging out with friends. If they were reading or writing, I would take note of it. When I found her separated for a second, 'we' bumping into each other casually.
Whatever information I had gained, I would feign interest in. Little comments and words carried so much weight in their hearts. Before long I found myself entering their mind and eventually their soul. They felt a mental connection but I was more interested in a physical one.
Things would progress and they would take me home. I never once brought them to my place. I didn't want them to know me. I wanted little to do with them as possible. So, afterwards I would disappear; leaving them with nothing more than a fractured memory of the recent past.
It was easier that way.
To some, it would seem as if I was a very selfish man. You may think I didn't care about the many women I slept with. You would be right in both cases. They didn't matter; only I did. That's how life was.
That all changed one night.
I remember the place. The dimly lit bar on the corner of a street which had no name. I recall the song that played when my eyes caught sight of the most beautiful thing I had ever come across.
"On our way, the sun broke free of the clouds. We count only blue cars…" Richards sings.
There she was in all her glory; sitting there across the way. Men just seemed to pass her by; not noticing what they'd missed. That mental image of her remained burned in the back of my retina for years to come.
The white dress she wore hugged her slim figure. Her long smooth legs were sensually crossed; moving seductively as she shifted. Her lush platinum blonde hair gently moved when she turned. Her breasts… they were perfect. Most of all was her gorgeous face… which I could never forget.
For the first time in my life I believed in angels, for she could not be of this world.
She caught me off guard and we shared a glance. I felt exposed. She could feel my presence; something that never happened before. I froze in terror but also in awe. She turned in dismissal; finding more comfort in her drink. I was entranced. I was unable to break from the awkward stare. I soon found my feet hovering; guiding me to her.
As I approached I caught scent of her aroma. In all of the perfumes and fake odors that I had ever smelled, nothing was as sweet and natural. Her hazel eyes radiated brighter than flawless diamond.
I felt as if I stood before God itself.
Oddly no words escaped my mouth. I stammered for what to say. All the practice, all the prior success meant nothing. I had nothing to go on; nothing to establish commonality. The only thing I had was a blank stare and drooping jaw.
"Have you come to talk or just stare?" She asked.
While she sipped at her drink, I sat down. Fighting my urges, I somehow collected myself and remembered my training. I wasn't about to throw years of practice into the wind. If I could just make her smile with a few words then I would be back on track.
"Am I able to do both? What's that you're drinking? Let me get you another."
"You may get yourself one. I've had enough water for one night." She remarked
"Water? You came alone to a bar to drink water?"
"Who say's I'm alone?" She challenged.
"Well, I assume that if you were with friends they would be nearby or at least their purses would be. As for a spouse or partner, I figure enough time has passed for them to return from the car or restroom; unless they're having bladder issues."
"Despite your deductions, I am with you. I am with the bartender here. I am with everyone in the room. So, I am not alone and neither are they. They are with me and I am with them." She stated.
"That's some deep shit you got going on there. Is that your thing… you a psychologist or something?"
"No, I am a realist. I see life for what it is. To me, life is a series of rooms and who are within those rooms; add up to what our lives are. So, we are truly never alone. In this case we are all trapped in the room with you." She said.
"Ouch. Am I that bad to be around?"
"I think you tend to bring the worst out of people." She responded.
"Wow, usually it takes a few hours before a woman realizes that."
A hint of smile briefly moved her lips. I had a feeling she was warming up to me but I wasn't completely sure. If I could get a woman to break a frown, I considered it a reason to push on. So, I figured it was the right time to make my move.
"What do you say we get out of here, so you can expand my mind a little more in private?"
"Telling by the new lump in your pants, you already have a something private going on. Look, I'm sorry; rather I'm not sorry. What works on most girls won't work on me. I am the first and the last woman you will ever have known. I am the Alpha and Omega; the beginning and end of what divinity is. The skirts you sleep with, the ones amused by your antics, are apples fallen far from the tree. If I were you, I'd try snooping somewhere else if you're looking for a cheap lay. I'm not what you want." She declared.
With that, she turned away. I was speechless; sitting briefly in pure shock. As far back as I could remember I had never failed to this point. In all my exploits, there was no woman in my memory that had gotten the better of me.
I searched for a rebuttal but I came up empty. 'What the hell is wrong with me?' I had faced adversity with females before and I always had something witty to say. I could always overcome objection.
This time was different.
Calmly, I sat up to collected myself. She just looked out into the distance. I grabbed my jacket and started to leave. My pride was wrecked; my confidence shattered into pieces. I just felt like going. I wanted to forget everything; pretend it never happen. 'How could I let a woman, get me torn out of shape? I'm better than this. I can get any woman I want. That's right. I don't need her. She's just another stuck up bitch anyway.'
As I neared the door I felt much better. I went from almost losing my composure to feeling like it was just a bad day. Before reaching for the handle I took one look back. The perfect woman remained in her place; not having moved an inch since my departure.
Something inside my head made me want her to reach eyes with me, one more time; hoping that she would have second thoughts or perhaps she was just playing "hard to get". It didn't happen though. It was if I existed only for a moment in her life... a fractured memory of the past.
Turning back around, I reached for the exit. I tried to erase her from my mind while pushing against the door but it would not open. It wasn't locked or being held closed by anything. My strength had escaped me for some reason.
Something was holding me back.
'What are you doing?' I turned and marched across the room. 'Stop this. Let it go.' My mind fought my legs but was powerless to stop them. A force beyond comprehension was driving me back to her. 'She isn't worth it. Just leave.' My eyes flinched as I tried to bury my thoughts. Instantly, I found myself standing before her.
Again, no words escaped my mouth; just labored breathes from the battle with my mind. I stood there with a renewed sense of awkwardness as she glanced at me with the same impartiality as before.
"Have you come to talk or just stare?" She noted.
Something came over me. It was as if, I wanted to tell her everything. Maybe she would understand; maybe she would give me a chance to earn her trust. Maybe, I finally wanted more. Of all the things I thought about saying, I could only manage to utter a vague response.
"Neither actually. I don't want to talk and I've done enough staring."
"Then what do you want?" She queried.
"I want for someone to see me for who I am. I'm tired of hiding. I'm tired of looking for my next quick fix. I want more. I want someone to love me for who I am; for all my faults and all my problems. I want to be with someone that will make me want to be a better person. I want someone that will see through this façade that is my life and embrace me when I become the person I should have been. I tell you this because I want to be honest. You're right. I do bring the worst out of people. I have done horrible things; more than I could likely remember and that scares me. I don't know why it took me so long to say these things. I don't know why you are the one to hear them. Something tells me for better or worse that you're more than just another girl and for that, I want to treat you differently."
She calmly took it all in while I stood in front of her; a broken man. I felt numb and barely had the strength to stand. She lowered her head in deep thought and silence. I thought I saw a tear run from her eye but she did well to hide it. She stood up from the chair, equally fighting her own emotions, as she extended her hand forward.
"May I have your name?" She wanted.
"Louis. It's just Louis."
"I'm Ellie. May I have number?" She requested.
I found myself writing quickly on a piece of paper that she handed me. I waited for Ellie to say something but she just simply grabbed her belongings and headed for the door. I calmly followed from a respectable distance.
As we stepped outside, I found myself trapped in confusion and uncertainty. I didn't know what to expect from her. I don't know why that felt like a good thing at the time. I just wanted to hear what she had to say.
"I have your number but I can't promise to call you. I will promise to think about what you said. Thank you for your honesty. Maybe, you will become that person you want to be someday. Maybe, I could be that someone you're looking for." Ellie finished.
Ellie departed with respect as I watched her left. It was as if I had parted from the only person I ever cared for. Before stepping out of sight, she turned around; catching me off guard as we shared a glance.
Only this time, I didn't feel exposed. I felt the warmth of her smile as she waved to me. I could only lift my hand up in response as I watched her disappear into the night. She was gone and I had no idea if I would ever see her again.
A strong wind blew and knocked me backward. The sharp chill of the cold air filled my lungs before I felt something hit heavily in my chest. As I unzipped my jacket and reached into my shirt, I could feel my heart beating a strong pulse. I thought to myself, 'So that's what that feels like?'