Forever thru eternity

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
The following story is based on the premise that having is not always as desirable as wanting. It follows the life of a man named Matthew Bowden whose obsession to possess what he desires overshadows the consequences of his actions. In so choosing his path he learns that what he thought of as a gift is in reality a nightmare.

Submitted: August 20, 2012

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Submitted: August 20, 2012

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Forever

by

Bernard T. Paulson

 

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He stepped out from the deep shadows and into the lighter darkness. His bare foot crunched down upon the soft cover of surface snow. He curled the toes of his left foot scrapping them against the icy subsurface. He let his head drop and gazed at the trail his toes had made in the snow. The mist from his breath wafted around his unkept beard and clung to the icicles already formed there. Then he let his head loll back and let the sparkle of the multitude of stars shower his sight. His eyes wander over the deluge of stars in the ever night sky. It was absolutely amazing how many were visible without the defusing lights of the human race. There must be literally billions visible now.

His brow furrowed in confused concentration. Then a moment of clarity brightened in his eyes.

“Matt? He whispered softly

“Matt…Matthew!” He whispered more forcefully into the darkness.

“Matthew Bowden.”

It amazed him that someone could begin to forget their own name, but it had been so long since he had heard it spoken from another person. So terribly long.

A gust of wind buffeted him knocking him sideways. He stretched out his right arm and braced himself with his hand against the ice covered rock wall that stood dominatingly overhead. Turning outward he leaned his back against the very same wall. Tears formed in his eyes and began to slide down his reddish wind scorned cheeks. They froze almost immediately.

He let his head droop down into his hands and brushed the ice particles from his face with the fingers of each hand. Then he let his head rest in his cupped hands as the memories of the beginning of this nightmare seeped in unstoppably without mercy.

 

The little asian man moved deftly through the throngs of people on the Singapore sidewalks. He kept

nervously looking back making sure his charge was keeping up and following. He had little to worry

about though if he was bringing Matt to what he wanted. Nothing in this world could shake him from this

little mans tail. But still the little asian man kept a constant vigil. Matt was a tall man with thick dark hair and intense observant blue eyes.

Once again the little asian man looked back.

“Come. Come this way.” He said in his halting English, while waving his arm.

They continued on in the hurried pace the little asian man kept. Suddenly Matt’s guide darted to his

right into the opening of an alleyway. Matt’s pace slowed and he began to get wary. His senses heightened. As he entered the alleyway he came to a stop. The alleyway was neat as most streets in

Singapore were. There were two lights further down into the alley. And Matt could see the little asian

man standing about thirty feet in.

“This way…OK…we go.”

Matt hesitated. He tightened the grip on the package he held under his left arm. At the same time he

reached his right hand into his jacket pocket and felt the comforting grip of the 9mm nestled there.

This wouldn’t be the first time someone had tried to ambush him. He had been on numerous ventures in

search of this valued prize.

The little man sensing Matt’s hesitation waved his arm. “We go. OK this way.” And then he gave what he believed to be a genuine smile.

Matt looked past the man and down further into the alley. There was no real place to hide and the alley was not that long. He gripped the pistol and with a determined sigh moved on to follow the little asian man. The little asian man grinned and nodded his head then turned and moved swiftly on.

They came to the end of the alley and turned right onto a narrower street from the one of which they had just been on. It amazed Matt, it was like moving from the light into the dark. The buildings on this street were much lower and the lighting on it was less dramatic. Fewer people were crowding the walkway enabling the two men to travel at a quicker pace. The little asian man led them through a labyrinth of streets. With each successive road they traveled on further from the main thoroughfare the buildings became more primitive, more simple. And the people, who were becoming more scarce, were composed of only the thin, short stature asains as opposed to the mixture of nationalities back on the main street.

Matt felt as if he were traveling backward through time. Finally they stopped.

Matt found himself standing in front of a pleasant looking house. There was a few stone steps leading to a small square porch with two worn but highly polished wooden steps stretching from one end of the porch to the other. At each corner of the porch was a solid, thick square pillar of a dark wood polished in the same manner as the porch. On the front of the roof of this small porch was a piece of red painted wood cut in the classic pointed and curved Chinese pattern. It stretched the length of the porch as well and was intricately carved with a pair of dragons facing each other as if preparing for a clash. Surrounding the porch and encompassing the rest of the small front yard was a neatly kept rock garden. The sand within delicately raked in a soothing, gentle pattern. At both corners of the house tall bamboo stalks grew unhindered.

The little asain man had continued up to the plain red door of the house and was waiting patiently for Matt to join him. As Matt approached the man rapped lightly on the door. Within a few moments the door opened slightly. Matt could see the light oval face of a young asain woman through the narrow opening. The dark hair surrounding her face along with her dark garb gave the appearance of a disembodied head floating in the opening. The man and woman exchanged low soft words in Chinese that Matt could not make out, but whatever the little asain man had said allowed them entry into the house. The young woman pulled the door further open and motioned for them to remove their shoes and bid them enter. As Matt stepped in he was offered a pair of house slippers from the young woman then he stepped further into the foyer. The man and woman again exchanged soft words. The woman then stepped out onto the porch, bowed politely to both men, turned and hurried off. The man then quietly closed the door. Matt realized that he had still had his hand in is pocket griping the 9mm and decided to keep it in hand until he felt assured it was safe.

“Please.” The little asain man said as he led Matt further into the modest house.

The foyer opened up into what Matt would describe as a larger hallway. He followed his guide down the hall. As he passed an open doorway he peered in seeing what he believed to be a living area. It was exceptionally clean and decorated in a modern Chinese motif, as would be expected. But scattered throughout the room Matt observed what he thought was authentic artifacts from a bygone Chinese age. If they were real they would be priceless. They continued down the hallway toward another plain wooden door. Just before the door to the right against the wall was a small rectangular cushioned bench. The cushion was covered in red cloth and decorated in gold thread and lined with gold tassels. It was the only piece of furniture in the hallway. When they reached the door the little asain man knocked lightly upon it and then placed his left ear close to it. From beyond the door Matt heard a muffled voice, which he assumed was an acknowledgement to enter. The little asain man opened the door and directed Matt in by bowing and extending his arm.

When Matt entered the first thing to catch his attention was a young asain man sitting behind an intricately carved oak desk. He sat in a leather chair facing Matt with his elbows resting on the arms of the leather chair. His hands were pressed together prayer like with only the fingertips touching. He radiated a completely calm demeanor. The room was filled with very old books. Some of which Matt might consider ancient. More artifacts were scattered about this room as he had seen in the living room, only there were quite a few more.

The young man stood and bowed slightly. “Welcome Mr. Bowden.”

“Mr. Ming?” Matt inquired.

The man behind the desk simply nodded once acknowledging his name.

Then Mr. Ming and the little asain man exchanged a few words in Chinese. The little man bowed to Mr. Ming, he then turned to Matt and bowed, which Matt returned with a bow of his head. The little man then exited, quietly closing the door.

“Please sit.” Mr. Ming requested extending his arm toward another high backed leather chair that was sitting on the other side of the desk immediately across from him.

“Thank you Mr. Ming.” Matt replied while taking his seat.

“Would you care for some tea? I’m sorry it is all I drink.”

“No thank you I’m fine.”

Mr. Ming bowed his head and then sat himself gracefully down in his chair.

“You would like to get straight to business I assume?” Mr. Ming inquired.

“Yes thank you. I must say you speak English exceptionally well.”

“Thank you. I’ve had quite some time to utilize the language.”

This statement peaked Matt’s curiosity. “You’ve lived in America?”

“Many times off and on.”

Matt simply nodded. “The items on your desk and in the living area, authentic?”

Mr. Ming answered again with just a nod.

“Impressive.” Matt stated with obvious admiration.

“Did you bring the required item?”

“Yes.” Matt took the thin narrow wooden box that he had been protecting so diligently and which was sitting in his lap and placed it on top of the desk. “I must admit it really isn’t much of an asking price.”

“Ah, Mr. Bowden some things value are not always immediately evident.”

“I’m pretty sure that what I’ve brought could never measure up to what you are offering.”

“Only time will tell.” Mr. Ming said while smiling sadly, knowingly.

“Infinite time.” Matt returned.

Mr. Ming just looked over at Matt the same sad smile still on his face.

Matt then reached over to the wooden box he had brought and carefully opened it producing an item wrapped in a dark blue silken cloth. He moved the box aside and placed the silk wrapped item on the desk where the box had just been. Then with care gently grabbed the corners of the silk and pulled them away neatly smoothing the cloth out into its rectangular shape. Upon the blue silk sat a ten inch dagger. It had a six inch stainless steel double edged blade. The handle was covered in black onyx and etched and inscribed in pure silver the Chinese character for time on one side and forever on the other.

Mr. Ming reached out and carefully plucked the dagger from its silken resting place. He held the handle with the fingers of his right hand, while he ran the fingers of his left hand up and down the length of the blade allowing the blades edge to gently caress his finger tips. He then used his finger tips to feel the raised silver inscription on one side of the hilt then turned the dagger and examined the other side and the inscription on it in the same manner.

“Its quite sharp. I had it made exactly as you instructed. Although it was a bit difficult to find someone with the skill of the ancient sword makers. I hope it meets your specifications.” Matt waited for Mr. Ming to reply and again began to question if this was another elaborate con.

Mr. Ming continued to sit starring at the dagger as if mesmerized. Finally he raised his head and peered deeply into Matt’s eyes as if seeking answers to some unspoken questions. He nodded his approval never breaking the intense questioning gaze.

“Are you absolutely sure you wish to continue with this Mr. Bowden?”

The soft sound of Mr. Ming’s voice startled Matt for a second. He felt caught off guard by the question and the concentrated gaze of Mr. Ming. “Yes, without question.”

Again Mr. Ming merely nodded. Matt thought he had seen a moment of sadness and disappointment in Mr. Ming’s eyes just before he broke eye contact with Matt. Matt quickly dismissed the thought as an overactive imagination.

Mr. Ming placed the dagger back onto the silk cloth and pulled it toward himself so that it now sat on his side of the desk and directly in front of himself. Mr. Ming then pulled out a drawer to his right.

Matt instinctively moved his hand closer to the jacket pocket holding the 9mm. He was still leery of the situation. Was this some sort of con? If it was he couldn’t figure the angle. Maybe these people were professional kidnappers, but no one had even attempted to touch him let alone search or assault him. He couldn’t shake the feeling that these people really believed in what they were offering. Still he would not let himself be lulled into complacency and allow them to take advantage of him.

Mr. Ming lifted out a thick worn leather roll from the drawer. It was frayed and cracked around the edges. The contents inside were secured by two leather straps tied near each end and on both sides of the roll keeping it closed. Mr. Ming stood and carefully placed the roll in the middle of the desk and untied the leather straps.

“Before we continue Mr. Bowden I must ask again are you sure you wish to pursue this?”

“Abso…” Matt was stopped by the raised hand of Mr. Ming.

“There are many things you may chose that could make you equally happy Mr. Bowden. Family, money, fame. Perhaps the dedication to a peaceful existence between you and your fellow man. Charities. To assist your fellow man can be quite rewarding.”

“I’ll have plenty of time for family if what you are providing to me is legitimate. I have more than enough money than I can spend in a single lifetime. My parents left me a small fortune. And if you don’t know of me you should be aware that how I increased their fortune threefold isn’t quite conducive to a peaceful existence with my fellow man or charities for that matter. Fame is fleeting. And I believe each man should be responsible for themselves and accept the consequences of their own lives. If this disappoints you and affects our business deal I‘m sorry, but I will not apologize for how I chose to live my life.”

“No. Mr. Bowden. How you live your life dose not concern me. I simply must know that you accept this agreement completely of your own free will.”

“Absolutely. Who wouldn’t want to live forever? Only a fool would turn down an opportunity such as this. And again, no offense, if this is legitimate.”

“I feel no offense Mr. Bowden. It is a concept that most would not be able to comprehend. You would be surprised at how many would not want this and I would not consider them fools. Forever is quite a long time.”

“To know you cannot die. To not age. The accomplishments one in that state would be phenomenal. There would not be anything you could not accomplish with unlimited time. Nothing you would have to fear. Not even God could dictate your life. Truly complete freedom of will.” Matt said. He could feel his heart beating the excitement building within him.

Mr. Ming stood silently for a moment. The same sad smile from before formed on his face then quickly disappeared much like a mirage as he let out a audible sigh.

“Then let us conclude our business shall we?”

“Yes please.”

Mr. Ming proceeded to untie the leather straps on the bundle. He rolled it out allowing the inner contents to be exposed. There were a variety of pockets each containing some item for which Matt could not fathom the purpose of. The first item Mr. Ming produced was a small ceramic vile with a wooden stopper securing the opening. Mr. Ming then turned around to the small highly polished dark wood table behind him that held an ornately decorated ceramic teapot on a silver tray. He grasped the tray and set it on the edge of the desk. Matt noticed that it held only one small cup. Mr. Ming then poured some of the tea into the cup. He took the vile that he had taken from the leather roll, pulled out the wooden stopper and very gently held the vile over the tea tapping lightly on the vile until a small amount of powder fell into the cup. He replaced the stopper and returned the ceramic vile back to the leather roll. Then he picked up a small silver spoon from the tray and stirred the contents into the tea. Grabbing the small handle less cup in his right hand he offered it to Matt.

“You must drink this. It is imperative to the process.”

Matt looked wearily at the cup in Mr. Ming’s hand. Thoughts of being drugged rushed through his mind. Should he continue on?

Mr. Ming could sense the hesitation. “It is fine Mr. Bowden nothing will happen.” Then he took a sip of the tea and awaited Matt’s acceptance.

Matt reached for the cup and at the same time reached into the coat pocket gripping the 9mm. If he felt anything unusual he was going to make sure he would get out of here even if it meant shooting his way out. He took the cup in his left hand and rapidly drank it down. Matt waited a moment for some effect of what he had drank and slowly began to relax when nothing apparent was occurring. Mr. Ming held out his hands and Matt returned the cup to him. Matt watched as Mr. Ming fastidiously cleaned the cup and returned it to the tray. Mr. Ming then returned the tray back to the polished table from whence it came.

Mr. Ming then took an object from the leather pouch that was wrapped in a red and gold intricately patterned silk cloth. He set it in front of Matt and unfolded it much as Matt had his. Matt was startled to see an exact replica of the dagger that he had brought to the meeting sitting in front of himself. He reached out touching the blade with his fingertips then ran them over the hilt. He looked up at Mr. Ming quizzically.

Mr. Ming smiled. “I’m sure you have questions. This dagger is now yours as the one you brought is now mine. The dagger you now have will be passed on to another should you choose to do so.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Please bear with me I will explain everything when we have completed our business. The next step may seem troubling to you but I assure you everything done here is necessary.”

Mr. Ming then reached into the pouch again and withdrew a thin, black silk ribbon with silver Chinese inscriptions running down along each side of the ribbon from end to end and set it aside. He then pulled out a glass container sealed with another of the wooden stoppers and a box of matches. Inside the glass container were small paper scrolls. He pulled one out set it on the desk with the matches then replaced the wooden stopper and placed the glass container back into the leather pouch. The last thing he removed from the pouch was a small plain ceramic bowl. This he set beside the scroll and matches.

“Now Mr. Bowden you must do exactly as I do.” Mr. Ming then picked up the dagger he received from Matt and motioned for Matt to do the same.

“You will have to make a cut along the base of the thumb of your left hand.”

“What?” Matt blanched.

Mr. Ming smiled empathetically. “It dose not have to be deep. Just enough to draw blood.”

“I don’t know…”

“I know it is a difficult request, but I assure you it is necessary. Please as I do. Watch.” Mr. Ming then proceeded to take the dagger place the tip just below the last joint of the thumb and draw it downward. As the blade cut, a thin line of blood appeared. “Quickly. Now. Please Mr. Bowden.”

Matt hesitantly took his blade, placed the tip against his skin, inhaled deeply, braced himself and drew the blade down the bottom part of his thumb. He saw the blood appear and was amazed at what he had just done. Mr. Ming slightly startled him when he reached out and grabbed Matt’s wrist with his right hand and pulled his arm toward his own. Mr. Ming then pressed the thumb of the hand he had just cut against Matt’s thumb and gripped it firmly. Matt instinctively reciprocated the grip. Mr. Ming picked up the silk ribbon laid one end over Matt’s wrist, wrapped it around their clasped hands and then around his own wrist so that it hung resting over his own wrist. Without hesitation Mr. Ming unrolled the small scroll he had pulled from the vile with his free hand. He proceeded to read out loud from the scroll in Chinese. Upon finishing he aloud the scroll to roll back up then took the scroll and placed it into the small porcelain bowl. He picked up a match, lit it, and placed it to the scroll. As the scroll caught fire Mr. Ming wafted the smoke between the two men.

“Inhale the smoke Mr. Bowden.”

Matt inhaled deeply feeling a bit foolish. He again began to wander if this was legitimate or perhaps an intricate con, but he still couldn’t figure the angle. He was also hoping Mr. Ming wasn’t some lunatic with an incurable, blood transferable disease.

The scroll burned itself out and Mr. Ming unwrapped the silk ribbon from their hands. They pulled their hands apart. Matt looked down at the palm of his hand. At the same time Mr. Ming crushed the ashes in the bowl with his thumb.

“Please, Mr. Bowden your left hand.”

Matt extended his hand out. Mr. Ming rubbed some of the ashes from the bowl into the cut of Matt’s thumb with his thumb.

“It is done.” Mr. Ming stated as he released Matt’s hand.

“That’s it?”

“Yes.”

“But I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel any different at all.”

Mr. Ming smiled. He picked up the porcelain bowl and began to wipe it clean with a clean white cloth that he had pulled from a drawer in the desk.

“You will not feel any different Mr. Bowden. In the coming days and months you will notice small changes. Your hair may darken. The lines in your face will soften. But overall there will be only slight changes. You will not change much from what you are now. But, you will never again get sick. You will remain as you are. Not gaining weight nor losing it. And this you will keep until the end of time or should you convince another to assume the…” He paused as if searching for a proper description. “Gift.” He quietly uttered.

“But you’ve charged me nothing. Just the dagger. Which was by no means extravagant.”

“You have given me the price required. More than you can imagine at this time. In time maybe you too will come to appreciate the price you paid.”

“Eternal life for the price of a basically cheap dagger? Somehow I doubt it.” Matt said shaking his head.

As they talked Mr. Ming continued to fastidiously cleaned the objects from the pouch and tenderly placed them back into their assigned areas. After cleaning the bowl he carefully tucked it away and smoothed over the leather. He folded the silk ribbon and tucked it away too. Then he reached over and picked up the dagger that sat in front of Matt. He again picked up the white cloth and gently wiped the blade. Carefully he turned the dagger around and began to wipe down the hilt, almost caressing it. When he finished he placed the dagger back on the colorful silk cloth and folded the cloth around it. Then he placed the dagger into its slot in the pouch.

Matt sat quietly watching Mr. Ming tenderly handle each object as if it were some delicate priceless piece of glass. He watched as Mr. Ming finished checking again each pocket assuring each item was present. He tenderly smoothed down each pocket, brushed the leather off then rolled the pouch up tying the two leather straps. He placed the roll in front of Matt.

“This is yours now. I have some words of advice for you if you will permit me?”

Matt hesitated, looking down at the pouch that now sat in front of him. He was beginning to think this was some kind of joke. Maybe put on by some friend or enemy. But since Matt had few close friends the latter seemed more plausible.

“Ah…sure. O.K.”

Mr. Ming sat in silence for a few moments, as if he were trying to formulate just the right words. As he sat he picked up the dagger Matt had brought and began to wipe it down.

“Do not seek out fame.” Mr. Ming’s voice spoke. Startling Matt who had been fascinated by the way Mr. Ming was polishing the dagger.

“Do not marry nor have children. Do not commit crimes that require significant time in prison. Obtain a number of alter identities. Move frequently. Do not seek medical attention and do not allow anyone to attend to any wounds. The world is not ready for a person such as you. They will fear you. Perhaps try to kill you or worse imprison and attempt to study you. In the end you will end up alone. Heed this advise Mr. Bowden it will keep your life…uncomplicated.”

Matt smiled with reluctant acceptance and nodded politely. He had no intention of following any of it. If this was at all real he intended to do just the opposite of what Mr. Ming had just stated.

“I…will…try.” He responded.

“Please do Mr. Bowden. There is but one more task to do before we are finished here.”

Matt tensed. He wasn’t completely unprepared for this moment. He had been expecting some sort of exorbitant cost. Or perhaps this was the hook in the con. What ever was coming Matt was prepared to confront them even if it meant using the weapon in his pocket.

“I hope you find joy in what you have sought Mr. Bowden, but not all things desired are worth the price you must pay to have. Thank you for relieving me of it.” And with those last words Mr. Ming twirled the dagger in his left had with a magicians flourish so that the tip pointed toward his own chest. Then without hesitation he quickly placed his right hand over the hilt and plunged the dagger into his left chest. There was a single quick inhalation of breath then Mr. Ming relaxed and his head tilted slightly to the right.

Matt was stunned. His entire body frozen in shock. He could not comprehend what he had just witnessed. As he sat motionless he couldn’t get his mind to accept what his eyes were seeing. Everything in the room dissolved from his vision. His sight tunneled down to focus only on the corpse of Mr. Ming sitting in the chair. Eventually he was only staring at Mr. Ming‘s face. He watched as Mr. Ming’s eyes gazed sightlessly, unblinking. Nothing else existed.

“Mmmister Ming?” His voice barely rasped out.

He cleared his throat. “Mr. Ming?” He inquired again slightly louder.

After a few moments of terrifying silence Matt shakily pushed himself up from the chair. He forced himself to stand rigidly still. Bracing himself until he could quiet the trembling of his legs and calm the rapid beating of his heart. Finally he forced himself to maneuver around the desk. His legs moved stiffly in a stilted shuffling manner. It was all he could do to force himself toward the corpse of Mr. Ming instead of bolting out the door and away from this place. Standing beside the chair he was transfixed by the man that sat there still not believing he could be dead. Reluctantly he reached out and shook the shoulder of Mr. Ming with his right hand.

“Mr. Ming?” Matt whispered and immediately felt foolish for doing so.

The body shook, but there was no indication of awareness. Matt’s eyes drifted down to where the dagger jutted out from the chest. He was hoping that this was all just a prank and that the dagger was merely one of those trick ones. But he could tell that it was all too real and he could see a darkening stain spreading slowly into the red silk robe that Mr. Ming had been wearing. He looked back into the face of Mr. Ming trying to fathom what would compel a person to go to such lengths to perform an act such as this? He peered closer onto the features of this man’s face. It was slowly turning pale losing the once noticeable glow that he had first observed when he arrived. He noticed more gray in the hair then what he thought he had seen. And there were more lines around his eyes and mouth. He looked more of an advance middle aged man than the youthful person he had first encountered when he entered the room. Forcing himself he reached out and felt along the man’s neck searching for the carotid artery. The skin felt cool and rubbery. He pressed into the flesh where he thought he should but couldn’t find any movement any sensation or rhythm discerning a pulse.

Matt took a step back repulsed by the thoughts of commingling with the dead. His mind was beginning to clear. The synapses firing within his mind sending alarms throughout the rest of his senses. A rush of panicked thoughts began to form in his head. Was this a set up? Was that sirens he heard? Was this how they did it? Set you up for a murder at the cost of some exorbitant bribes. Were the police going to swarm in at any minute or was he experiencing some sort of stress related paranoia?

His next thought was to flee, but as he started to turn the silver tray with the ceramic tea pot and cups caught his eyes. He stopped dumbfounded for a second trying to remember why it was so significant. DNA. Just like on television. It was the DNA and fingerprints on the cup and around the room that would lead directly to him. He hurried over to the tray pulling a handkerchief from his pocket intending to wipe the cup, pot and tray down, but he recalled he only touched the cup. But what of the DNA? How do you eliminate DNA? Matt looked around nervously trying to find something that would clean out the cup. Seeing nothing he snatched the cup from the tray and placed it into his jacket pocket hearing the scraping noise of the ceramic against the metal of the gun he also had there. He hurried over to the desk and began wiping down the side which he had sat on not even sure if he had touched the desk. Next he wiped frantically at the chair. Convinced he had gotten everything he touched he went to the door quickly wiped the frame and grabbed the knob with the handkerchief. Opening the door Matt froze. Sitting on the single bench in the hallway was the little Asian man.

Matt stood in the doorway still holding onto the doorknob frozen in place staring at the little Asian man. The man turned his head as he heard the door open. He smiled softly and stood then walked toward Matt. As the man approached Matt stepped out and pulled the door almost shut.

“You finished, yes?” The little Asian man inquired.

Matt had no idea how to respond. Panic began to gnaw at the edges of his mind. His eyes darted from the man down the hallway to the front door and back again several times. His mind was telling him to bolt past the little man and flee. Matt turned his head back to the door that he was still gripping and realized how hard he had actually been squeezing the knob. He could feel the knob digging into his palm and fingers. The sweat of his hand began to soak into the handkerchief he still held against the knob.

“It OK. I understand. I know.”

Matt turned back to the little Asian man confused. He looked into the man’s dark eyes and saw a deep understanding.

“He…”

“I know.” The little Asian man said comfortingly. “I take care of.” Then he reached out and grabbed Matt’s arm tenderly pulling it off the door knob. “You go. Car waiting.” He stated extending his arm toward the front door.

Matt slowly stumbled to the front door, dazed. He could hear the slight squeal of the hinges on the door behind him propelling him forward at a faster gait. Matt continued forward expecting a horrible scream from the little Asian man with every step he took.

“Mr. Bowden?”

Matt froze hearing his name spoken softly by the little Asian man behind him.

“Mr. Bowden?” The little Asian man spoke again.

As Matt stood there he realized there was no urgency nor alarm in the other man’s voice. So he turned slowly around. He saw the little Asian man standing there with the leather bundle in his hands extended out toward Matt.

“You forgot.”

Matt still in a state of shock staggered back to the man and absently grabbed the bundle from the man’s hands. He looked back into the room and could still see Mr. Ming as he had left him sitting in his chair the dagger protruding from his chest. He looked back down into the face of the little Asian man intending to say something, but saw only a calm smile on the man’s face. Matt turned and quickly made his way to the front door not looking back.

Once outside he took a deep breath of the cool night air. In front of him he could see a dark limo waiting for him. The driver stood at the open back door. Matt hurriedly climbed in allowing the driver to close the door behind him. The interior was luxurious with deep leather seats and a small bar, but Matt was unable to enjoy the amenities within arms reach during the drive back to his hotel because of the previous events of this night.

Arriving at the hotel Matt barely remembered exiting the limo, walking through the opulent lobby, the ride up the elevator or entering his room. All he knew was that he was standing in the middle of his room still clutching the leather bundle in his hands. Immediately he realized he had to leave and he would need someone to be waiting for him when he arrived at Hawaii. Knowing this he pulled his phone out and called the one person he could count on, that he would need, that he paid well for. His lawyer.

“Andrew?”

“Yes?” A sleepy voice answered. “Matt is that you?”

“Yes, this is Matt. Listen I need you to meet me in Hawaii. There’s been a problem here.”

“A problem?” The voice became more alert. “What kind of problem? Are you OK Matt?”

“For now. Someone committed suicide in front of me.”

Matt heard a sigh. “I told you you needed to stop these irrational quests of yours Matt. There is no fountain of youth. No magic potion for eternal life.”

“I don’t need a lecture from you Andrew. I need you to do what I pay you for. Keeping my legal needs in order. And right now I need you to be in Hawaii. Understand?”

“Yes Matt. When are you leaving?”

“Immediately. I’m not waiting around to find out how this will be interpreted. I don’t want to be sitting in a cell waiting for you to provide enough of a bribe to free me.”

“OK. I’ll meet you there. If your not there when you should be I’ll head to Singapore. Money in hand.”

“Good.” With that Matt ended the call.

Matt tossed the leather bundle on the couch in the room then walked through the bedroom and into the bathroom. He peered closely at himself in the mirror leaning in to get a better look. Turning his head from side to side looking for any subtle changes but pulled back disappointed. There was nothing he could see. He began to feel foolish the brunt of some oddball joke. At least it cost him very little, for now. Matt turned on the cold water and put his hands under it wiping away the dried blood that still clung to his left hand. As he let the water swirl the blood down the drain he examined the base of his left thumb to determine the damage and what would be necessary to deal with it. He was startled to see nothing there. No cut. No scratch. Not even a scar. He wiped at the area again with the thumb of his other hand and still nothing appeared. Grabbing a towel he wiped again at the thumb with the same results. This was impossible. He had cut it himself. He knew that he had. He leaned on the bathroom sink watching his reflection in the mirror trying to make sense of what was happening. He had to get out of here, quick.

Matt quickly stuffed all his cloths and toiletries into his bags. The last item left was the leather bundle still sitting on the couch. He stood looking down at it weighing its importance. It could connect him to Mr. Ming, but maybe he could have some people examine the contents for some hallucinogenic that may have been slipped to him. Perhaps it was a combination of drugs and hypnotism that made him believe what he had experienced earlier. Snatching the bundle up he stuffed it into the bottom of the suitcase.

The entire way to the airport Matt was anxious. He was on constant surveillance for the police and sirens. Thinking they would surround the private limo at any moment and drag him off to some archaic prison where he would languish for the rest of his life. Of course if what Mr. Ming had done was real then he could be in that cell for quite a long time. A slight smile crossed his lips at that thought. Wouldn’t that be a surprise for all involved.

Matt only began to relax when his luggage was loaded and he was nestled into one of the plush private plane seats, drink in hand. He didn’t completely breath easy until the plane was well on its way to Hawaii.

He arrived at the Hawaiian airport without incident and found Andrew waiting for him. They stopped briefly to dine and Matt informed Andrew of everything that had transpired. Then without further pleasantries they both boarded Matt’s private plane and headed on to New York.

For the next couple of weeks Matt scoured the Singapore papers until he finally found what he had been seeking in a small local news paper. A short column describing the life and death of one Mr. Ming. The paper made no mention of suicide, but did describe his death as natural. In the following weeks and months Matt waited for some form of extortion but nothing came. Sometime later he pulled out the leather bundle and contemplated turning it over to his science lab, then dismissed the thought. Throwing it away might be an option, but for some reason a nagging notion compelled him to keep the items and he tucked the bundle away in the back of a closet. A reminder of a foolish quest.

 

One hundred and twenty two years later.

Matthew Bowden the third, Same as Matthew Bowden Jr. and Matthew Bowden, stood with drink in hand amongst the revelers at his annual New Years Bash.

The name change wasn’t creative, but it was simple and expedient and easy to transfer. It took Matt some time to get used to the idea that what he had received from Mr. Ming was real. As the years passed and it became apparent to him that he was not aging he became creative with absences and imaginary wives and always one child, himself. In this day it was easy to photo shop pictures of his own childhood and update them as a modern son. Being the owner of multiple companies allowed him to insert his son, or more appropriately, himself into any company and position he required.

Now he stood in one such company amongst his employees enjoying the festivities. He presently stood with Carl Kranston and Marsha Brand halfheartedly listening to Carl drone on about some aspect of the company he wanted to reorganize. Marsha, a newer employee, was paying rapt attention hoping to insert some novel idea to impress the boss. Matt’s gaze drifted around the room when through the entryway a striking woman caught his eye.

“Excuse me Carl. I see someone I need to speak to about a future engagement.”

“Oh, of course Mr. Bowden I’ll catch up with you later about all of this.”

“Yes, looking forward to it.” Matt said slightly sarcastic and hoping Carl hadn’t noticed. Matt smiled at Marsha too who returned it with one of her own, I understand smiles. Matt would have to remember that. She was sharp maybe someone with potential. A confidant. Someone he may be able to trust with valued secrets. He would watch her progress within the company.

Matt maneuvered his way through the crowd stopping briefly to shake a hand and to acknowledge an associate. Eventually he made his way to the group of people that he had seen come in with the woman that he admired coming through the entryway. He could only identify one of them, Edward from the accounting division he believed.

“Mr. Bowden.” Edward stated. “Ah, everyone this is Mr. Bowden the CEO and son of the owner. Mr. Bowden this is my wife Gloria.”

“Oh, how are you Mr. Bowden? We met before…at the picnic?” Gloria said extending her hand.

“Yes, I do believe I remember you Gloria.” Matt lied eliciting a prideful beam from Gloria who proceeded to flash it around the group.

Matt wasn’t in the least bit interested in any of the other members in the small group, none of which he knew nor would remember after. The only one in the group he had any intension of remembering was the stunning woman directly across from him. The one that had unintentionally lured him over in the first place. He was hoping she wasn’t with either of the two men in the group that stood next to her. As Edward proceeded to introduce each person he couldn’t help but peer over at her.

She had thick luxuriant flowing dark brown hair that framed a narrow heart shaped face dominated by large light brown eyes. Her nose was soft and flowed perfectly into her facial features. And her smile bloomed fully without effort and with a truly genuine joy.

“…and the woman across from you, who by the way actually works for a competitor, is Katherine.”

Matt had been caught entirely off guard when Edward introduced her having been captivated by her stunning looks and was now staring directly at her. She stood gazing back at him with her hand held out to shake and sporting a bemused smile across her face.

“Ah, a spy.” Matt quipped. “but quite a beautiful one.” Matt complimented as he reached out and took Katherine’s hand.

“Aren’t most spies supposed to be attractive. At least in the movies they are.” Katherine confidently retorted.

Matt was impressed by her confidence. “Why yes I believe they are. So your saying you are a spy.”

Katherine laughed. “Perhaps, but truthfully I was invited by Mr. Bonn. Your headhunter I believe?”

“Yes. Yes he is. And if we can convince you to come over I’ll have to consider giving him a raise or promotion, maybe both. Is there anything I can do to entice you?”

“We’ll see.” Katherine smiled. “Honestly I was flattered your company wanted me. Your reputation is well known.”

“Which reputation? The business one I hope?”

“Of course, of course.” Katherine quickly assured laughing.

They continued spending most the night together. Sometimes parting and mingling with others but always returning to each other. By the end of the night a dinner was set. Matt had always been careful with women making sure to keep everything casual. And this time Matt intended for the same thing, but as with all thing involving the heart there are no measures strong enough. Soon after a relationship was built. And within the year Matt and Katherine were betrothed.

 

Forty two years later.

Matt and Katherine had just come home from a formal diner and were at present preparing for bed.

Katherine approached Matt and standing in front of him placed her right hand gently on his left cheek.

“How do you manage to stay so young looking? Your starting to look younger than our children.”

Matt smiled down at her. “You know how hard I work out. And you’ve seen the box of hair color I keep in the bathroom. And I guess I just got lucky with genetics.”

Katherine continued to caress his cheek with her hand then ran her fingers into his thick dark hair pulling some through her index finger and thumb.

“Maybe you should let a few gray hairs come out. It would make me feel better and it would give you a distinguished look.”

Matt took her hand in his then kissed it on the palm.

“I’ll think about it, but I really am kind of vain you know.”

They both smiled and stared into each others eyes an overwhelming love passing between them.

“Besides I think you see only what you want to see.”

“Really?” Katherine replied leaning back. “And what do you see when you look at me?”

“I see the woman that I first fell in love with the very first time I saw her.”

Katherine smiled contentedly and leaned into him wrapping her arms around his waist and laying her head on his chest. Matt embraced her placing his right hand tenderly on her head. While they stood in that loving embrace Matt saw himself in the mirror and as he looked around the room he could see the pictures of his four children in various stages of their growth. His eyes lingered on the latest photos then reluctantly returned to his reflection in the mirror. It was then that he knew he had to leave. The haunting echo of Mr. Ming’s words coming back to sting him. He began to formulate scenarios of departure. Which ones would leave the fewest questions and the least amount of pain for his family.

Matt sat at the aft of one of the families boats. It was one of the smaller ones they used for short trips that they could operate themselves. He sipped at the glass of scotch in his hand and watched the darkening horizon. Soon he would implement his plan. The unfortunate death of Matthew Bowden the third.

“No officer he was a great swimmer and a competent sailor. Don’t know why he took the boat out so far said he wanted to take it out since we hadn’t used it for some time.” Matt smiled into the glass of scotch. Then raised it up. “To Matthew Bowden may he rest in peace.”

Matt then finished the glass and tossed it onto the deck of the boat then emptied a good portion of the bottle of scotch out into the ocean and tossed it to onto the deck. The engine was set to look naturally disabled. Matt called in the mayday and jumped overboard.

Many miles later Christopher Hawkins sloughed up on a sandy shore soaked and exhausted. He collapsed face down upon the sand and eventually, after catching his breath, rolled over and sat up. He pulled the pack he carried from off his back. It was soaked but the plastic inside kept everything within dry. He sat for awhile staring out at the ocean.

“Goodbye Matt. Sorry Katherine, but its better this way.” Christopher whispered.

 

Twenty years later.

A tall man with thick dark hair and intense observant blue eyes rushes into the entry way of the hospital carrying flowers.

“Excuse me?” He asks the elderly information attendant.

She finished writing notations in a log then looked up. “Yes, how can I help you today sir?”

“I’m trying to find the room Katherine Bowden is in?”

“Ah, let me see.” She looks through a chart. “Oh, I’m afraid its for family only. Are you delivering flowers or are you a relative?”

Chris smiles. “I’m her husband.”

The woman looks at him quizzically, suspiciously. “Do you have some I.D.?”

“Yes I do.” Chris pulled out an old expired drivers license with his old identification on it and hands it to the woman. She takes it from him and examines the photo against the man. Chris notices the look of disapproval that flashes across her features and knows exactly what she is thinking. A younger man and an elderly very wealthy woman. Gigolo.

“OK, Mr. Bowden. She’s in room 513.”

“Thank you very much.” Chris said as he was already walking away. He felt the probing disapproving eyes of the woman on his back all the way to the elevators.

Chris arrived at room 513 and stood at the edge of the doorway looking in. He saw an elderly woman sitting in a chair next to a hospital bed. She was weeping profusely tears running down her cheeks. An elderly man stood next to her with his hand on her shoulder. He recognized the two. He couldn’t help but to recognize them since they were his children. Younger people surrounded the two in various acts of comforting each other and the two elderly people. Chris assumed the younger people were his grand children. He could tell by the actions of everyone in the room that he was too late Katherine must have passed on. Chris knew his appearance was closer to the age of the younger people in the room than his own children so he slowly and carefully stepped back not wanting to draw attention to himself. He stood there a moment feeling the anguish deep in his heart then he stepped away carefully and moved down the hallway setting the flowers he had brought on an empty bed in the hall. It cemented the idea to him that Matthew Bowden was now truly dead and he would never again marry or become a father. This pain was not to be revisited. Lessoned learned Mr. Ming.

 

Four hundred years later.

The population of the earth reached a critical mass. Natural resources became stressed. Oil began to become scarce. Smaller third world countries devolved first reverting back to more primitive times. The blessing behind this was that they had not far to go. The more developed nations desperate for oil warred against each other to keep their advanced societies. With the wars came diseases, of which due to medical advancements had become mutated and therefore immune to advanced medications. Desperate nations in a last desperate act and selfish involvement released nuclear options. And through the wars and diseases the population was decimated. Democracies failed, nations devolved. Fiefdoms and warlords arose across the continents erasing all prior national boarders. The United States broke apart and ceased to exist. Territories became the new norm. The largest being in the northeast stretching from what was once Maine to the Mississippi river. And as in the past they were at war with the southern territory. And upon the brink of victory over the southern territories a meeting for surrender had been established.

Seven heavily armed men crouched along a culvert next to a forgotten cement roadway. They were dressed in a mixture of civilian and military camouflage clothing. Most of them had knifes strapped to their calves, pistols on their belts and carrying rifles of varying makes and models. One of the seven had been further up the culvert leading the way. He turned signaling for one of the others behind him to approach. A tall man with thick dark hair and intense observant blue eyes jogged forward in a crouch.

“There it is Dan.” The lead man said while pointing toward a square cement building that may once have been a warehouse.

Daniel Drake, or the Demon as his enemies referred to him as, laid next to the other man and looked over to where the he was pointing. He saw a chipped and worn cement driveway curving off of the roadway making its way through a rusted and torn chain link gate. Yards beyond the gate was a large truck docking area with a multitude of door less garage entrances to the warehouse. A man was seated on the cement dock that stretched across the length of the building with his legs dangling over the edge. Daniel couldn’t tell if the man was supposed to be a guard, lookout or the reception committee for their group. He didn’t appear to have a weapon, nor did he appear interested in anything beyond his immediate person. Daniel squinted up toward the roof of the building searching for other people. There were no windows on this side of the building which was one less thing to worry about. He looked beyond the east corner of the building observing the expanse of flat cement laid out behind the building and noticed it was scattered with rusted metal parts, broken wood and littered with mounds of trash. All good places for cover. Beyond all that was a boat dock area leading to the river.

“You sure they know we’re coming Tim?”

“Yeah, they know Dan.”

“O.K. then.” Daniel said then reached into his pocket pulling out a modified phone. “Eastside this is double D, you copy?”

“This is eastside.”

“You in position?”

“10-4. Alls quiet nothing in the river. No one on this side of the building.”

“10-4. Westside?”

“Westside copy, in position. Everything quiet this side too.”

“Good. Keep your head down Jim.”

“10-4. Always do.”

Daniel placed the phone back into his camo shirt pocket and again scanned the building.

“Well might as well get this moving.” Tim said. “I’ll head in and make sure they’re there and ready to surrender. I’ll give you the signal if its clear.”

Daniel just nodded still watching the building then motioned for the others to approach, signaled them to spread out and prepare to give cover to Tim if needed. When everyone was set Tim took a deep breath crawled up out of the culvert and walked toward the building with his rifle slung over his right shoulder.

Daniel watched Tim walk to the warehouse. As Tim approached, the man sitting on the truck dock casually stood. The two men exchanged words and Tim leapt onto the truck dock and followed him into the building. Daniel nervously waited fearing for one of his men’s lives, but after a few moments Tim reappeared stood on the edge of the dock and gave the all clear signal. Daniel motioned to the others and as a unit they all stood and approached the building weapons at the ready. The men protectively kept an eye out for their leader Daniel. They had formed a five man circle around Daniel. Daniel his rifle at the ready unconsciously reached back with his left hand behind his back and touched the bundle wrapped up there. It was what brought him this far, though he believed he would never have need of it again. The men cautiously entered the building and Tim led them up a wide ramp that was on the left side of the building to a second level.

The second level was well lit due to the row of waist high expansive windows lining both sides of the building. Surprisingly all the windows remained intact. The only thing on this level was a cheap heavily scarred wooden table set not far from the ramp. Behind the table stood a man. He was a short stocky man thick in the waist with no neck and a round reddish face covered in a short cropped red tinged beard. His hair, a similar color to his beard, was a mass of curls that hung nearly to his shoulders. There were two other men in the room that stood off a ways trying to look menacing though they kept their pistols holstered.

“Mr. Drake!” The man behind the table boomed then came around the table with his hand extended.

Daniel reached out taking the mans hand and each man attempted to match the grip of the other.

“Hawk, Gregory Hawk. I finally get to meet “The Demon“. No offense.”

“No, that’s alright.” Daniel replied.

“I had imagined our meeting in quite a different manner though.” Hawk intoned frowning.

“Probably better this way.”

“Maybe, maybe. For one of us at least.” Hawk said grinning showing his yellowed thick teeth.

Daniel nodded smiling slightly, a predators smile. “It seems history is repeating itself.”

“How so Drake?”

“The south surrendering to the north again.”

Hawk smiled a secretive smile. “Mm, but maybe not quite the same. You see you’re here to surrender to me.” He then turned and returned to the table.

Daniel stood stunned a confused look on his face. “I think you must be confused Hawk.” He said addressing Hawk, then to his men. “Keep an eye on those two. Tim we are the only ones here right?”

“Yeah… we are.” Tim said dropping his head.

Hawk began to chuckle. His two men stood with smirks across their faces.

Daniel was becoming more confused. What was he missing? Why would Hawk be acting as if he was holding the upper hand? He then began to notice the positions of his own men. They had moved off to one side and their weapons were leveled at him. “What’s going on Tim?”

“Oh this is too good! Don’t you understand Demon? I’ve been having some secret little meet-uns with your people. Seems they don’t much like you either!” Hawk was beaming with joy.

Daniel reached into his pocket and pulled out the phone. No one tried to stop him. Hawk, if possible, seemed even more amused.

“Westside, this is double D. There seems to be a mutiny going on here I need you to move in. Take the city and move into the warehouse. Copy Jim?”

There seemed to be a long uncomfortable silence. Daniel was beginning to wonder if they had gotten his friend. Then the answer came.

“Sorry Dan.” Jim’s voice was soft, regretful. Daniel was stunned, stupefied. His arm holding the phone went limp and dropped to his side the phone slipped out and clattered to the floor.

“We’re sorry Dan, but frankly you scare us.” Tim stammered out.

“What?” was the only thing Dan could rasp.

“My father told me stories of when you two first got everyone together. How you built our forces. The shaping of the northeast territory.” Tim hesitated watching to see if Dan was listening. “That was sixty years ago. My father died three years ago Dan. He was an old man!” Tim paused again seeing the realization of what was coming in Dan’s eyes. “You don’t even look thirty Dan!”

“Well, lets get on with this.” Hawk interrupted.

At this point things slowed and became sharp, clear. Dan scanned the room in a split second. He saw Hawk’s men draw their pistols. His own men seemed to ready themselves tightening their grips on their weapons. Even Tim stepped back and leveled his rifle.

Hawk had moved behind the table. He himself had no weapon, but he stared at Dan with a murderous glare. “Kill’em boys.” Hawk ordered with a barely controlled tremble.

Dan attempted to raise his rifle up, but as soon as he started to his men opened fire with their own weapons. He trained them well. Rounds tore into Dan’s body each one feeling like a boxers punch. Two rounds struck and disabled his own rifle. As the rounds continued to strike him he spun and twisted and seeking a means of escape tossed the now dysfunctional rifle through the nearest window pane. Still trying to dodge the continual gunfire and feeling more rounds pierce his body Dan ran for now shattered window and threw himself out of the remnants of the jagged glass. The windows were about twenty feet up from the concrete ground. Dan hit the concrete with all his weight striking his side on a piece of rusted metal. It knocked the wind out of him, but as soon as he hit he rolled onto his feet and ran toward the ship docks. The men inside were shouting and firing from the windows now. Half way across the yard Dan could see the eastside group in their boats on the river opening fire and was dismayed when he realized they too were shooting at him. Dan made it to the end of a ship dock and dove into the river. He dove deep and swam with the current letting it take him down river he knew he could stay down as long as needed.

Gregory Hawk walked down the dock to where the rest of the men had tracked the blood trail. He stood with an automatic pistol pointing it down into the dark water seeking a target. The eastside men were closing in on the dock in their boats. Some of the men in those boats were pointing their rifles at the water and turning their heads around searching for their former leader.

“There’s no way he could have lived through that. You know how many times we hit him?” Someone mumbled.

“Ain’t normal.” Hawk replied. “Man should’a died in that building back there.”

“Maybe he’s on the bottom of the river. Gotta be dead.” someone else stated.

“Mm. Have your boys take them boats n’search down river for his body.” Hawk turned his head to Tim and ordered then turned back to once again gaze into the depths of


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