Story

The Return of the Hand: Chapter Four

sea_cave_by_stephengarrett1019-editOberyn jerks upright. His body feels numb and cold. All is dark. He feels for a blindfold or an executioner’s hood, some reason for the darkness. He can feel air moving around him. So he knows he is in no closed room, no coffin, no prison cell.

“Hello?” he calls out. “Can anyone hear me?”

A distant rumbling is the only answer he receives. Oberyn listens attentively, and soon it is clear: the sound is of the ocean.

Oberyn feels around for some clue as to what has happened to him. He is naked—no robes, no leather armor, not even a silk sheet to protect him from the cold salt air.

“I can’t see,” he says, although he is still uncertain if this is true. He could easily be in a sea cave somewhere along the rocky coast of Blackwater Bay. “I could use some help.”

His cries go unanswered. Oberyn tries to recall what might have happened to leave him—a prince of Dorne—naked, shivering on a heap of cold, wet stones, caressed only by what feels like sea weed.

The pain of death returns to him. Gregor Clegane—the Mountain—goring his eyes out with meaty thumbs—an ignoble end Oberyn burns to think of. How shameful.

“My own damn fault,” he curses, under his breath. “How many times did my maester say not to show off?”

Oberyn chokes back a sob. There is no one to pity him, but still the sense of humiliation threatens to overwhelm him.

Oberyn almost feels a need to pray to some god. But what god? The ghost of Nymeria? Oberyn scoffs at the idea. He has never been one to seek divine aid, even in the most dire of circumstances.

He tries to stand. His legs shake violently, and the cold cuts him to the very marrow of his bones.

“What god would bring heat?” Oberyn wonders. “Probably the Lord of Light.”

Oberyn spits at the thought of the Lord of Light, a deity he has always despised. The taste of iron fills his mouth from the blood still caked on his face, and he thinks of the Iron Isles and their Drowned God. There is no way in hell he would pray to that god, either, though the thought crosses his mind that it is indeed the Drowned God who has restored him to life. What a bitter irony that would be. Oberyn laughs harshly as he considers the possibility.

A scraping sound startles him. Oberyn turns to try and find its source and almost collapses in terror. While he can see nothing else, a White Walker approaches him, spear in hand, eyes burning. Oberyn squints out of habit, though he can feel no eyes in the sockets of his skull. The eyes of the White Walker burn a bright green. Oberyn’s face tightens with confusion.

Then Oberyn’s worst fear faces him. It is the Lord of Light after all. Tall as the Mountain but shining with all the light of the Dornish sun at noon.

“So you raised me,” Oberyn says, unable to keep the scorn from his voice.

“No,” says the Lord of Light. “Your fate is your own. I have merely been led here by Fodor.”

Oberyn shakes his head. “Who is Fodor?”

The Lord of Light motions to the White Walker. Oberyn cannot help but feel a sick fear in his chest and belly. The White Walker does not attack, though, despite the gleaming spear in its hand.

Oberyn hears a voice hiss in his mind. It sounds not unlike the battle cries of his daughters.

My duty to you is now complete, Master. I wish you success and swift victory, Sanson, Hand of God, Lord of Light, Whom Death Could Not Drown, Now Returned.

“Fodor,” says the Lord of Light—or rather, Sanson—reaching out his hand. “Don’t go.”

But the White Walker is already beginning to dissolve—like a pillar of sand in a fierce wind. As the White Walker disappears, the bright green energy inhabiting the creature’s eyes enters Oberyn with all the force of a hail of sinuous arrows, lifting him off his feet and into the air.

When the energy subsides, Oberyn gasps. His eyes have returned. He can see the mouth of the sea cave he has been in the whole time and also a small creek. He stoops to peer into this, and his eyes widen. The green glow of the White Walker’s eyes now apparently belong to his own, as brilliant as any viper’s.

“I can see again,” Oberyn laughs.

Sanson smiles and pats him on the shoulder. “Now you know what it is like to lose something dear.”

Oberyn stands and scoffs at the giant’s—Sanson’s—statement. “Surely dying at the hands of the Mountain counts for that.”

Sanson chuckles. “True. Who could argue with that?”

“My sister, for one,” says Oberyn.

Sanson chuckles again. Then the giant sighs. He reaches down and picks up the spear left behind by the White Walker.

“Fodor,” Sanson mumbles, sadly.

“How can you care what happened to a Walker?” Oberyn asks.

Sanson lays his hand on Oberyn’s chest. A warmth spreads there like hot brandy or spiced wine. Suddenly Oberyn feels the sorrow that he has been ignoring.

“You knew it for such a short time and yet you felt such kinship?” Oberyn asks, impressed.

Sanson nods. “It found me when I thought I was dead, guided me, brought me here. We spoke little, but I felt I understood it.”

Oberyn nods. He eyes the spear. “That’s a fine weapon.”

Sanson hands it to Oberyn. “It’s yours.”

Oberyn isn’t sure whether or not to trust this giant—Sanson—who appeared to him even when Oberyn had no eyes. Now looking more of flesh and blood, Oberyn wonders whether or not he should kill Sanson on the spot, run him through with the Walker’s spear and make his way back to Dorn. The sword at the giant’s side makes Oberyn hesitate.

“Every weapon needs a name,” Oberyn says in place of an assault. “Does that sword have a name?”

Sanson gazes for awhile at the sword at his hip, until a tender expression crosses his face. “Brangard.”

Then Sanson nods at the spear. “And what of your weapon?”

Oberyn looks away from the giant, thoughts straying through the decades. “Obadya,” he says, his voice cracking momentarily. “The name of my first daughter, or that would have been, had she not been stillborn.”

Sanson turns toward the entrance to the sea cave. “We must go to King’s Landing, Oberyn.”

Oberyn cannot hide his surprise. “How do you know my name?”

Sanson purses his lips and shrugs. “Fodor told me.”

Oberyn shakes his head. What point is there in questioning such things when one has just risen from the dead? He sniffs the air. “We can’t be far,” he says. “This is indeed Blackwater Bay. May I ask what you intend to do in King’s Landing?”

“Find the rightful King of Westeros,” says Sanson. “Who is currently a humble chef calling himself Hot Pie.”

Oberyn wrinkles his nose. “Not a very kingly name.”

“No,” says Sanson. “But it is an honest one. For an honest king.”

“I hope you don’t mind, but could we take a little detour?”

“What is that?” Sanson asks.

“I could use a fresh set of clothes. Or any clothes, for that matter.”

Sanson laughs. “Not used to the cold, are you?”

Oberyn looks down. “Apparently not.”

TO BE CONTINUED

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Story

The Return of the Hand: Chapter Three

waterway_by_jjpeabody-editAs they hike over the ice-choked streams and snow-covered crags, Sanson cannot shake the pull of his old home. Winterfell calls to his soul in some silent language, but he knows he can never return there, at least not until he finds Sansa and repairs the rift between them, though it is a rift formed through no fault of his own. The people of Winterfell would only fear him now, and try to destroy Fodor with fire or chain him up or otherwise abuse the creature who Sanson has come to think of as his closest friend and companion, however silent and emotionless.

“We’re going to need to find you a cloak to hide in,” Sanson says to Fodor, who continues to shamble steadily around lichen-covered tree roots, following paths cleared by deer and avoiding the snow-covered mouths of rabbit warrens.

There is no need. There is nothing any mortal hand could do to harm me while I am in your service.

Sanson frowns, still worried. “At least hide your features enough so no one is afraid who sees you.”

If you ask it. I will, of course, obey. But first we must find a boat.

“Why?”

We will meet Oberyn by the sea.

“Oh, right. Blackwater Bay.”

Fodor changes direction when they reach the Wolfswood, following as direct a path to the Bay of Ice as possible. When it senses its master is tired, Fodor stops and lights a campfire with a seemingly endless supply of the mysterious spheres the Walker removes from somewhere within the creature’s disheveled rags. The days and nights begin to blend together, and Sanson loses track of time. Eventually, the two of them reach Sea Dragon Point, where the waves whip themselves into white foam against the clawlike rocks.

Now we wait.

“For what?” Sanson asks.

A skiff will arrive soon from Bear Island. Its pilot is sick. Dying. He will be too late to reach the shore and find the medicine he seeks.

Sanson frowns. “So we’re just going to take his boat? I will not steal from anyone, even the dead.”

Then allow me. Your fate is far beyond thoughts of stealing or of lying, Sanson, Hand of God, Lord of Light.

Sanson bristles at the title. “Don’t call me that. I’m no Lord.”

As you wish. But Lord you are, and Light you have become.

Sanson doesn’t know what to say, merely stands beside the White Walker and waits while the waves thunder and the wind howls. Soon a shadowy crescent comes into view and then its sail. It is a simple vessel, easily piloted by one man. There is a figure slumped at the tiller. As the boat touches ground, Sanson can hear the sound of coughing, loud and coarse, sickly.

Fodor moves to claim the vessel. Sanson follows, feeling guilty for such disrespect. The pilot is obviously too ill to save. Blood trickles out of the corners of his mouth, staining his gray beard and shirt.

Sanson tries laying his hand on the dying man, wondering if whatever power has brought him back can restore the pilot to health, but nothing happens. Soon the pilot wheezes horribly and a prolonged gasp escapes between his blood-stained lips.

He is dead.

“We should bury him.”

No. Let the sea have him.

Before Sanson can stop the Walker, Fodor heaves the now lifeless corpse into the water. Sanson grabs the man’s cloak at the last minute, saving it from sinking along with the corpse.

“Put this on. Please, Fodor. Others will fear you and merely bar our passage.”

By your command, Exalted One.

“I wish you would stop using all these titles.”

What shall I call you then?

“Just Sanson.” Sanson touches his chest then he touches Fodor’s chest, covered now by the dead man’s cloak. “I’m Sanson. You’re Fodor. That should be enough.”

Fodor nods but does not speak. The creature sits where the pilot had been at the tiller and steers the vessel back out to sea.

The water churns and splashes. Overhead, the gulls soar, occasionally crying meekly as the skiff sails steadily by. Fodor catches fish and fries them with its strange fire. It does not eat anything itself but merely provides them to Sanson.

“Thank you, Fodor. I do not know that I have ever had such a companion.”

Fodor merely gazes rigidly back into the gray mists and currents that surround them, steering the ship on its course south, along the coast of Westeros. When they reach Blazewater Bay, other ships join them. Some of the sailors cry out to them but most ignore them, busy with their own tasks and journeys.

Fodor steers the skiff past the towering rocks of the Iron Isles. Sanson fears the stormy weather for which they are known will halt their progress. Strangely, though, the weather remains calm as they pass by the Isles’ sheer cliffs and eroded battlements. From there, the ship sails smoothly into Iron Man’s Bay. They leave the skiff marooned on the bay’s stony sore and hike toward the Blue Fork of the Trident. Outside Wendish Town, Fodor commandeers an abandoned rowboat—much to Sanson’s chagrin—and rows the two of them downriver toward the conflux of the three forks near Harrenhal.

Near nightfall, when they can see the lights of Harrenhal in the distance, Sanson notices a pack of wolves moving through the woods along the Trident’s shore. Among them is a wolf of massive size, and Sanson wonders if it is not one of the Stark’s direwolves.

Fodor gestures with a withered hand. Behold the future.

“What do you mean?” Sanson asks.

Mankind will not rule these lands alone for long. The wolves ascend.

“Ascend? What do you mean?”

Your kind is too arrogant and short-sighted to rule without another race, at least, to check it’s greed and violence. The wolf race will be the first. Believe me when I say there will be others.

“Others? You mean, like dragons?”

They are already rulers of the air. And their numbers will increase. Then the sea will belong to the whales and sea serpents, kraken and dolphins.

“Would that I could live to see that day,” says Sanson, wondering what it would be like to live alongside wolves and dragons as intelligent as men.

Fodor’s gaze remains blank, eyes smoldering green. Live no. But see it, you will.

Sanson wonders at the White Walker’s meaning. But he lets the matter go, not wanting to know more than he already does about what powers and forces shape his fate and the fates of all men.

As they glide along the Trident’s shore, Sanson watches the turtles slip into the muddy waters. The hawks and the kingfishers wait for prey. The doves and sparrows perch on branches seeking berries and grubs. Occasionally, Sanson and Fodor pass fishermen and women washing clothing. These wave at them, and Sanson waves back. Fodor remains steady and unmoving, except for the tireless regularity of his sculling.

After many days journeying, finally the crashing waves of the Narrow Sea greet them. Fodor steers the ship past Claw Isle and the towers and battlements of Dragonstone until the mouth of a cave, skirted by stones and blue-gray sand appears before them.

Fodor brings the rowboat to rest on the mossy rocks then rests his arms in his lap. Now we wait.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Story

The Return of the Hand: Chapter Two

walker_by_bzartt-d5ou28zThe wind whips around Sanson with all the fury of the North. Ahead of him, the shambling shape of Fodor is almost lost in white.

Sanson gathers his garments and skins tightly around his body, trying desperately to trap in what heat remains to him. Fodor looks back, sees his master’s predicament and stops.

We must start a fire.

Sanson hesitates. “Won’t a fire hurt you?”

Not this kind.

The White Walker removes a metallic sphere from somewhere in its rags and hurls it at the ground. Green fire erupts and burns, without tinder, without branches or wood of any kind.

Sanson reaches out his hands, grateful for the warmth. Then he and Fodor sit beside the verdant, flickering flames.

We are near to where I was “born.”

Sanson detects the shift in the Walker’s voice on the word born. “What do you mean?”

This is where the Night King raised me.

“You mean as a servant in the army of the dead?”

Yes. But I was different. I retained my human purpose. The Night King could sense it somehow and drove me away, far from its army.

“Where did you go?”

I hid. In caves. There is one nearby. I have weapons there. And armor. You will need a shield. I will take one of the spears I have won from the other Night Kings I have slain.

Sanson’s eyes widen. “How many have you slain?” he asks.

I have lost count. It does not matter. Another always takes its place.

The two sit in silence, except for the howling wind. When Fodor senses the warmth has returned to his master’s body, the Walker extinguishes the flames with his hands. Sanson wonders why the flames do not harm the creature, but does not ask the cause.

The two continue onward through the cold and the ice. The sky is gray. The snow does not fall but merely hurtles across the desolate wastes and down the rocky crevices of the North.

Eventually they come to Fodor’s cave, a jagged wound in a low-lying outcropping. The wind dies down as Sanson and the Walker delve farther within the winding passageways.

In a kind of central chamber, Fodor stops and lifts a large, flat stone. Sanson isn’t sure even he could lift such a heavy burden, but it seems to give the Walker little trouble.

Beneath the stone are weapons, some made of black glass, some made of a brilliant, silvery metal. Breastplates and shields lie piled up beneath them. Fodor takes a shield made of leather—banded with metal—and hands it to Sanson. It is surprisingly light, given its obvious strength.

Against one side of the hidden cavity are spears, crystalline and shining. Fodor takes one of these and sets it aside. Then the Walker closes the cache, sliding the massive stone with great ease back into position.

We should not stay long.

“Why not?”

There is a warrior named Oberyn. His body lies slain and discarded in Blackwater Bay. We must meet him soon.

“I don’t understand.” Sanson says, as the two of them begin to retrace their steps back out of the Walker’s cave. “You just said he lies slain.”

And so were you, until I found you.

Sanson hesitates. “I heard a voice. I thought it was the source of the voice I heard that raised me.”

It was. Where do you think my power comes from?

Sanson goes silent. The prospect of such a source—described by no religion known to Sanson—overwhelms him. He follows Fodor out of the cave and down the sloping, ice-covered rocks, headed south again.

When they have walked for several miles without speaking, Sanson asks, “How will we get past the Wall?”

I know a way through.

“Won’t the Night’s Watch stop us?”

They do not know this way. I carved it out of the rock myself. It took a hundred years.

Sanson shakes is head. “Your patience and power are remarkable, to say the least.”

The Walker stares back at Sanson dispassionately. The creature’s green eyes smolder but give off no heat of anger or disdain.

It is nothing. So long as the Night Kings are no more, I will rest at peace.

Sanson reaches out to embrace his friend but fears to touch the Walker’s seemingly rotting form. The Walker seems to ignore Sanson’s gesture, and they move on.

Before long the towering bulk of the Wall comes into view. Fodor does not seem daunted by its gargantuan height but shambles onward, spear held at the ready. They come to a stone archway that penetrates the outer rocky surface, and Fodor leads Sanson inside.

The passageway is smooth but cold, the rock polished by whatever power Fodor used to carve it. When the light of the entrance begins to fade, Fodor thrusts the butt end of his spear against the ground and green flame ignites it. Their way lit by this unusual light source, Sanson presses on behind Fodor.

After several hours of dull progression through the dismal tunnel, finally another archway appears, first as a lozenge of light, and then it is almost within reach. Sanson almost rushes ahead of his guide but waits until the two of them emerge together. As they pass through the archway, Fodor knocks the butt end of his spear against the ground again, and the green flame vanishes.

Now on the other side of the Wall, the air feels warmer in Sanson’s lungs but still chill. The pine trees have no ice on them but are merely laden with snow. Sanson can already sense that he is nearer to his home, to Winterfell. He almost begins to think of himself as Hodor again. Or even Wylis, the stableboy he once was. Then he looks down at the body he is not yet accustomed to seeing. No. In truth, Hodor is dead. Wylis too.

He is Sanson, and his quest is clear. He must find the boy named “Hot Pie.” However humble-sounding the name, the voice made it clear the future of Westeros—and perhaps the world itself—is at stake.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Story

The Return of the Hand: Chapter One

hodor-dead

As the icy fingers and bony hands close around his throat, Hodor lets go. His life passes before his eyes, from his time at Winterfell tending the stables to his most heartfelt task caring for his friend, Bran. Sansa is there too, standing imperiously over him, mocking him. Hodor feels nothing but love for her now, where before there was much fear and hurt. The memories fly by, like terrain to a bird’s eye.

Hodor cannot breathe. The skeletons and wraiths and shambles are burying him alive. Hodor feels as if he is drowning in a heap of bones, shown no more mercy than any of the corpses piling over him. His shoulders can barely feel the stone doorway he still strives to keep shut, even though it lies mostly pulverized around him.

“Hodor,” he whispers, sure it is his last breath.

Time slows. Suddenly, the snowflakes freeze in midair around him. The bodies of the undead too cease to move. Hodor hears a voice inside his mind.

Hodor.

“Hodor?”

Hodor. Your time has not come.

“Hodor.”

You must go to King’s Landing. There you will find a young chef named Hot Pie. He has power unknown to him, or anyone else. You must protect him. You must show him the way of true compassion.

“Hodor?”

The voice, at first male, now sounds motherly in Hodor’s mind. I am sorry for what I must now do. Know that I love you more than any other soul in this world.

Hodor screams. He is thrown into utter agony. It is as though every part of him is on fire. It is a fate worse than death, he is sure of it. The pain courses through his every vein, every muscle fiber, every nerve. Hodor believes he will never escape this seemingly unending state of torment.

Then the pain subsides. Hodor stands. His body glows with the light of a thousand suns. Even the distant mountains reflect the pure white light of his radiance. No trace of evil surrounds him. The army of the undead has vanished. No sign of their foul overlords remains either.

One last time, Hodor speaks the name that no longer seems his own. “Hodor?”

The voice, still kind but male again, resounds inside his warming skull. No. You are now the Hand of GOD.

Hodor stutters. “Ho—of who?”

KNOW THAT I AM THE ONE TRUE UNIVERSAL FORCE. YOU ARE NOW MY BLESSED SERVANT. Go forth and fight the forces of true darkness AND the forces of false light…my beloved Hand.

Hodor’s mind clears. His body ripples with newfound strength. He looks down. His physical form has changed. His hair is no longer gray, now thick and full. His muscles—once buried under rolls of fat—now are hard and well-formed. His eyes widen when he sees the sword sheathed at his hip. He draws it. It glows bright blue. For a moment, Hodor fears that he has been tricked, that the weapon at his side comes from the undead. Then he hears an icy rattle come from behind him. He turns, and a White Walker approaches him.

Hodor prepares to swing the sword with all his might. To his surprise, the White Walker bows before him. Another voice—this one like a serpent’s hiss—whispers in his mind.

For centuries I have awaited your arrival.

Hodor is tempted to repeat his name. However, words now fill his mind and heart as never before.

“Rise, then, walker,” Hodor says, his voice echoing with a tone of command he is not accustomed to. “Rise and join me.”

The White Walker stands. Its eyes—before an eerie blue—transform themselves into a glowing green. They remind Hodor of the leaves of the trees he grew up climbing in Winterfell when lit by midday sun.

I hear and obey.

The two set out across the frozen wastes, headed south. Hodor sheathes the sword, no longer glowing blue. Before him, the White Walker stumbles onward.

“Do you have a name?” Hodor asks.

Once I did. It is long since forgotten.

“Then I will call you ‘Forhodor.’ Fodor.”

I am honored. And what shall I call you?

Hodor thinks of the girl who once tormented him, wonders if she can yet be made to embrace the warmth and compassion he feels as a glowing sun inside his chest. He clears his throat.

“Call me Sanson.”

I live to serve and defend you—oh great Sanson—Hand of God.

the_warrior_by_dominuself

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Story

Agent Cooper In Hell: Chapter Two

lost-highway-bill-pullman-patricia-arquette-edit“Pull over here,” says Alice, nodding to a drab, one-story motel surrounded by short, somewhat withered palm trees. “I’m tired.”

Coop nods, his knuckles white on the grooved steering wheel. He pulls the Mercedes-Benz into the motel’s parking lot. He goes to pay at the front desk while Alice waits in the car.

“That’ll be forty dollars,” the clerk says.

“That’s cheap,” says Coop, looking in his wallet. He sees several hundred dollar bills there and frowns. Something doesn’t feel right, but Coop isn’t sure what it is. He removes a hundred and hands it to the clerk. “For two nights. Keep the change.”

The clerk grins widely and nods, miming tipping his hat. “Thank you, kind sir.”

“Don’t mention it.”

When they’ve settled into the motel room, Alice begins to unbutton Coop’s shirt. Coop is uncertain what to do. A confusing mix of feelings begins to overwhelm him. Alice removes her coat and blouse, stripping down to her undergarments. When she reaches to undo her bra, Coop shakes his head and closes his fingers over Alice’s hand.

“No,” Coop says. “This has happened before, and I let it happen. I don’t know why…but not now. This is not right.”

Alice pushes his hand off her shoulder. Her voice takes on a resentful tone. Her right eye twitches. “God, Fred! How many times have we fucked? Why are you so hesitant now?”

Coop winces at her careless language. “Who did this to you? Why do you feel the need to experience intimacy this way?”

The look on Alice’s face shows confusion. Then a look of anger emerges, but it passes quickly as she stares—disconcerted—into Coop’s eyes. “You don’t sound like the Fred I know. What’s gotten into you?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” says Coop. “Except I’m not Fred.”

Alice shakes her head and laughs bitterly. “Let’s just go,” she says. “This was obviously a bad idea.”

Coop nods quietly and buttons up his collared shirt. He slips into his suit coat and fastens his tie neatly. Alice dresses quickly herself, unable to look at Coop.

Back in the car, Coop and Alice remain silent. The lights of gas stations and warehouses form a kind of continuous audience while Coop drives the Mercedes-Benz mechanically toward the seemingly endless dark horizon. Coop’s attention is caught by the cherry-red neon lighting of a diner. He pulls into the diner’s parking lot and opens the door for Alice.

“Maybe what we need is some good old-fashioned coffee and pie,” Coop says.

Alice says nothing but follows Coop into the diner.

The waiter—wearing a name tag that reads Steve—brings Coop and Alice the asked-for coffee.

“I’m sorry,” the waiter—Steve—says. “We’re all out of cherry pie. Will blueberry be alright?”

Coop sips the coffee, tastes the pie. “Not cherry but still damn fine,” he says.

The waiter smiles, gives Coop a little wave.

“I think he’s attracted to you,” says Alice. She tries her coffee and wrinkles her nose. “Damn fine? It tastes like shit.”

Coop shakes his head sorrowfully. “That’s hardly a helpful perspective, Alice.”

Alice frowns at Coop. “I don’t get it, Fred. Or whatever you want to be called now. Why are you acting this way?”

Coop shakes his head. “I can’t answer that. But tell me more about yourself. Never mind. I get the sense what I need to ask you is: what are your hopes and dreams?”

Alice gazes up at the ceiling. She begins to converse in a way that Coop feels is much healthier, for both of them. Coop can’t help but notice Alice no longer objects to the pie or the coffee but eagerly—if absentmindedly—devours both. As she talks, Coop listens attentively, prompting at the right moments, affirming others. In the course of an hour, Coop uncovers the life Alice wished she had lived before she met Fred.

“In high school, I had always wanted to study journalism,” Alice says, now on her third mug of coffee.

“That’s wonderful,” says Coop. “Alice, the world needs talented journalists, now more than ever. Surely there’s a local paper here. Here, take the rest of the money I have in Fred’s wallet and try to get yourself a place.”

Alice stares at Coop in disbelief. She accepts the cash with trembling fingers. Coop suspects it’s not just the caffeine making her fingers shake. He puts his hand on hers. “Don’t be afraid, Alice. I believe in you, whether or not this Fred you speak of ever did. You have a lot to offer the world. Don’t hide yourself from it.”

Coop wipes the tears that begin to form from Alice’s eyes. He gets up, leaving a tip from the small bills he kept from Fred’s wallet for Steve. As he drives off in the Mercedes-Benz a storm begins to gather. Coop turns on the windshield wipers, makes sure the headlights are on full. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning strikes the vehicle, and Coop feels as if the world has caught fire all around him.

Everything goes black for an instant. Then, Coop sits up in bed. For a moment, he fears he is back in the same motel room with Alice. But this room is more lavish, the sheets plush and elegant. Beside him, a familiar-seeming woman with ear-length hair and blonde highlights smiles at him.

“Janey-E?” says Coop.

The blonde-haired woman shakes her head, frowning. “No. It’s Diane. Are you okay, Camilla?”

Coop looks in the mirror beside the bed. He sees himself as usual but notices that his voice sounded a little different when he spoke.

“What do I look like to you?” he asks.

The woman—Diane—sits up, a look of concern crossing her face. “Like you. What do you mean?” She begins to massage Coop’s shoulders. “I think you’re beautiful. Or voluptuous? What do you want me to say? I’ve already told you I love you.”

“You have?” Coop feels another wave of disorientation cloud his thinking.

Diane grabs his hands in hers. “You really don’t remember?”

Coop shakes his head slowly. “The hell I can’t.”

mulholland_drive_naomi_watts_by_petnick-edit

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Poetry

Green, Blue and Gray

deaverviewbridgerails

Green, Blue and Gray

Currents of air
far from sea—
bring particulates
too near to me.

Currents of water
beneath my gaze
leave muddy trails
far from waves.

Home I seek
currently.
California calls—
my soul answering.

Shall I ride rails?
Shall I book wings?
Shall I walk for miles?
Or shall I sing—departing
the land of gray on grey?

Greyhound_Lines_Edit

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For a good cause

If you want to help a transwoman in distress, please consider using the payment option below.

$1.00