Estimated reading time — 25 minutes
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I need work.
Now that I’m alone, I need to be able to provide for myself and my daughter, I need a job. I have some military compensation from the war and my…loss, but it will only go so far. I want to be able to provide the best for Maddisyn. She’s had a difficult young life already, and I hope for her to grow up with joy and accomplishment. Without fear.
It’s hard to grow up without a father
So I approach a tall, beautiful office building, the RSL Headquarters, and walk in. At reception I assure the sweet girl at the phones that I indeed have an appointment, and let her know where I’m expected. She directs me to a line of elevators, and wishes me luck. What a nice girl!
On the way up to the top floor, I practice my lines. I rehearse how I will sell my strengths and skills, sure to become a valuable asset to the company. And, just in case, I rehearse how I will beg for anything in the event things don’t go well. But, it turns out I have little to worry about. As the elevator doors open, there, waiting for me all the way at the top, is Jack Robinson, the President of Robinson Savings and Loan, and my former Math and Business Teacher from High School.
He is happy to see me, and wastes no time in giving me a huge, comforting hug, before leading me down to his office., the office of the President of one of the most successful S and L firms in New York. And he’s happy to see me not just because he is in desperate need of a new Administrative Assistant, but because he is a genuinely good man. He was a good teacher who cared for his students, and, being aware of my situation, and what happened with Andrew in Vietnam, was thrilled to be able to help me get back on my feet.
He invites me to relax into the plush seats of his vast office. And we talk. He doesn’t ask me a single question about the job. He simply takes stock of how I’ve been since school, and it is assumed that I will work as his Administrative Assistant. And he knows about Andrew, and the heart he had for a student years ago transfers into an extremely human act today.
What is interesting is that none of his purposes appear to be out of pity or…well…out of trying to take advantage of me. He simply sees my condition, and wants to be a part of allowing my daughter a safe and healthy childhood. After a few hours he ends the meeting and simply requests that I come in at 8am on Monday. He will allow me time to get after school care for Maddisyn resolved of course, and to let him know if I need any help. I spend the entire time holding back tears, because other than Andrew, Nathaniel my father, and Joe, my stepfather, I have not known such kindness.
Choosing after school care proves to be the most difficult hurdle. There aren’t very many in the area, to be frank, but choosing a caregiver for your most precious is heavy work for any parent, and especially a mother who is alone. But I didn’t want to let Jack down, so I got down to the heavy work.
The first school was very quiet and cute, with happy children studying, playing and engaged all around. Unfortunately, the teacher for the older children was named Nathan. There was just no way I could do it. The second school was a little more raucous. It quite seemed as though the inmates were running the asylum! But it was in a very convenient location proximate to our home, so I gave it my due diligence.
There was a set of twins in the classroom Maddisyn would be in. A girl and a boy. Nope.
In the third school, I noticed that the owner smoked. I know it’s a stretch. But no.
Finally, I settled on a school that was closer to where I would be working. It was very plain. Not special. Quiet. Boring, actually. It promised nothing in terms of field trips, tutoring, exceptional curriculum, or even highly educated staff. But it had no Nathaniels, no twins, and no ghosts! It was close to work, so I could get her easily if she were ever ill, and most importantly it was affordable. Done!
So, the following Monday I put Maddi on the school bus and set off for work. Mr. Robinson was very forgiving my first day. I had to learn to do everything the job required including answering a complicated phone system, taking messages and forwarding them properly, keeping a calendar and a schedule, trying to become a model employee and all the while knowing that my proficiency didn’t matter. It was fun. Even more, it became a career!
One of the problems I faced living where I did, were the gangs and the boys looking to cause trouble. There was a very trendy gang where I lived, and often the members would harass me when I would return from work at night. I’m a strong woman, that has lost friends and family to a killer ghost, and can handle the stress of violence quite well. But often they would approach me with their crass demands while I was with Maddi, and that upset me.
One night, not long after I started my job, two of the bangers, Staar and Skreem, approached me as I was coming home after a hard day. Staar was apparently the leader, such as it is, and Skreem earned his name just from having a big, filthy mouth. They made all of the typical disrespectful remarks about my body and what they’d like to do to it. I sent Maddisyn inside quickly so that I could face them. My mouth was harder than my heart, and I let them know precisely the brand of scum I took them for. Then Skreem showed me a knife and I retreated inside. This particular dance repeated for many months, but thankfully despite the threats and the discomfort, they never actually harmed my daughter or me.
Jack wasn’t interested in keeping me as an assistant forever, but wanted me to grow as a financial professional. Over the years he sponsored my education, and slowly gave me accounts to manage. He knew I was more competent than a secretary, and worked to allow me the freedom to grow into a much bigger role. Within five years, I was an expert financial planner in my own right. And it was fun!
That is when Smoke decided to appear.
”Hello Mira,” he seethed.
“What a nice little life you’ve made for yourself. A great job and a great boss, and you have a wonderful little family!”
“Smoke, you’ve all but destroyed my family. All I have is my little girl and my job. I’ve worked, and I’ve worked hard to clean up the mess my life became after I lost Andrew. Because of you! I know. I know what happened to Andrew was your doing you heartless chalky little prick! Dammit! Damn it I’m sorry that our birth was so bad for you, and that you were born the way that you were. You’ve gotten even in spades, so just leave now. Leave me be!”
“Oh Mira,” is the unemotional reply from Nathaniel Mirras. “Mira you are responsible for everything that went wrong in my life. And you will continue to pay, with misery and loss, for the rest of yours. I’m so happy for your job and your child, and it’s true, there’s not much I can do with your job, unless you let me…”
“But there’s always your daughter, you little bitch. And you have the choice right now to decide which part of your life I will control, and ruin.”
With that, Nathaniel is gone. But his words echo mightily in the weeks to come, and I realize there is a choice I must make. I can put Jack and all of the other workers in the office at risk. After all he’s done, I would have to be an absolute ghoul to make that choice. My life is finally bearable, back on track, and in many ways happy, because of Jack Robinson. And Nathaniel is demanding I offer up Jack’s company, his friends, and his life, simply to satiate his murderous hunger.
But the other choice is the life of my child. It really is no choice.
So, I give in to Nathaniel. I allow him to possess me whenever he chooses. This has made for some very interesting events over time. At first, he didn’t use me as a contact for his victims, but rather as his window to a world he never was able to join. He enjoys the cutthroat nature of finance, and for a while, he removes enough of my professional inhibitions to allow me to become very very successful. In a strange, sick way, Nathaniel Mirras actually does much to provide for the future of his niece. All while dead!
There’s more to it of course. He compels me to agree to dates with men. Thankfully I don’t remember much, but what I don’t know fills me with guilt and regret for Andrew. He is still my only love, and while I’m sure he’d forgive my actions on behalf of our daughter, I’m not so sure I will ever forgive myself.
I’ve also gained a bit of a dangerous reputation at the office. Not violent, but aggressive. I become somebody very confident and secure, and one to be avoided at all costs. Success is very lonely. Jack even had to call me into his office to discuss my change in behavior. That hurt. It was also stressful because between his affirmations and admonishments, every moment of that meeting had me fearing for his life. But Jack Robinson’s death was not yet on Nathaniel’s agenda.
Then, today, when I went home, there was Staar and Skreem waiting for me. We would have our usual banter, but now they would wait until Maddi went inside, and it became more of a game. Skreem was still inappropriate, but Staar had begun to keep more control of him, and the remarks became almost…complimentary. Almost.
Tonight, Staar was in the frisky mood. He looks me up and down, and I can sense a change in his breathing. I would expect that from a normal teenage boy his age, but we knew each other, and it had never gone past words. But this time, Staar came very close to my face, with a look of salacious glee and said, “Hey beauty, I got something for that booty! How about you put that little girl to bed early and we can spend some quality time together.”
It sounds less like a question and more of a statement. I’m stunned at first, but decide to respond with one of my best comebacks.
“Staar,” I say, “You couldn’t satisfy me if you had a Snickers bar in your pants…”
And I thought that would be it. I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with that, but then immediately sorry I had said anything. Staar grabbed me and shoved me up against a wall, again getting very close. His voice seethed, “We’ll see who is satisfied tonight!”
And then it hit me. Staar had been getting more friendly for just nearly a month. At this point I realize that Smoke has him, and I am no longer afraid for my own safety, but his. I realize that Staar is going to die right now in front of me, and I kick myself for not seeing this sooner. He’s just a child himself! But, Nathaniel has not chosen to kill anyone that I work with yet, and though a child, Staar is a criminal, so in some ways I am grateful. I feel terrible for feeling that way. But at this point, Staar is Nathaniel, I can see it in his eyes, so all I can do is watch and wait for what will certainly come.
Poor Staar. He probably never knew love, and will never know it in this life.
Unexpectedly, Skreem comes to my aid. He begins hurling all manner of filth toward Staar, demanding that he let me go, and what the flying Hell is the matter with him? I suddenly find myself liking Skreem, the hopeless pig, just a little more. But I realize too that this act of genuine courage will likely also cost him his life. All I can do is watch. I have given control of my life to Nathaniel Mirras for the sake of my daughter. And he is a killer.
Staar does not immediately address Skreem. He continues to look into my eyes to be absolutely sure that I see that it is Nathaniel in charge here. Without letting me go, Staar looks over to Skreem and says, “Give me your knife!”
Skreem does not want to oblige, but Staar incites the name of someone called ‘Prime’ and Skreem hands him the large, dangerous blade. Staar, with the same crazed look stares at me for just a moment, then quickly turns around and plunges the blade deep into Skreem’s throat. Skreem was clearly not expecting this move, and his face shows confusion, betrayal and wonder, all at once, as the life passes from his body which then slumps to the ground. Then there are only the two of us left. And I know that Staar’s death will be brutal. The battle is not between Staar and me, but Nathaniel and Staar, and the young gang banger is assured to be the loser.
So Nathaniel turns to face me, the bloody dagger in hand, and stares at me, making sure I recognize him in the eyes of Staar, already devoid of life. The eyes of by brother, already long-dead, and I wonder how he will choose to now destroy Staar. Will he have me do it? Will he have me mutilate the boy to resemble the chalky child?
But Nathaniel says to me, “Well, Mira, it has been such a long time since I’ve had this much fun! Vietnam, I believe. This feels sooo good! And I promise you, I’m just getting started. Don’t get too close to anyone in your life. No one will escape me. You thought you had won with Andrew, by sleeping with him, you little whore! But all you did was give me the same power over Andrew that I have over you. And I was able to destroy him by destroying everyone around him that he cared about, right before his very eyes.
“Were you proud of yourself, Mira? Did you think you had beaten me? I carry all the hatred for you that I have held since the uterus! And I will destroy everything that I have created for you these past years. You will know the loss I have felt for the rest of your miserable life. So don’t get too close to those about to die. If you do, it will cost you the life of that sweet little girl of yours…”
He is right, of course. I saved Andrew by being with him, but in doing so all I did was open him up to the same curse I have endured my entire life. What a fool I am. And Nathaniel was right. I had been proud. That alone makes my misery that much more complete. But, I am doing the only thing I can do to keep Maddisyn safe. She is my first priority, so I have to sacrifice everyone else. My grief knows no limits, starting even with Skreem and Staar. But I have no choice.
Nathaniel speaks, and as he does, he takes the blade and turns it on himself. In the grisly fashion I have sadly become accustomed to, he plunges it first into his left eye socket, digging around and finally removing the eyeball itself! I literally lose my lunch at the sight of it. I can only hope that Staar is unable to feel the pain and trauma of this action.
As if reading my thoughts, Smoke continues, “No, Mira. Staar is under my control, but he feels all of the pain and fear that I create for him. He will die a truly agonizing death fitting for a piece of crap gang member of his like. He would have killed himself one day. Don’t waste your tears on this garbage!”
And as Nathaniel Mirras continues his tirade, he plunges the knife into the right eye, then removing it from the socket. I want to cry, to kill Nathaniel for the pain he is causing this poor boy. But I can do nothing. It is out of my control. Nathaniel Mirras is a killer, and he is plying his craft at this moment.
He then looks at me one final time. I say he looks at me, but having removed Staar’s eyes, it is really just a figure of speech. He glances my direction with a smile that mirrors both Nathaniel’s murderous glee, while reflecting at the same time, the pain the body of Staar is enduring. He smiles that smile of pure insanity, then inserts the blade into his mouth, under the tongue. I am sure he will force me to watch him cut out Staar’s tongue, to reflect Nathaniel’s deformed mouth. But he does much more. He pushes me to the side, ramming his head, the head of Staar, into the wall, at an angle that plunges the blade through the top of his skull. For only a moment, I see the pain and confusion of Staar, as his body finally gives in to the torture and simply falls before me, to the ground.
I am still standing over the bodies, in horror, as the police and medics arrive. As has always been the case, the cops overlook my involvement. They believe that Skreem attacked and mutilated Staar, and in defense of my life, I killed Skreem with a quick plunge into his throat. It was meant to look that way. After all, these were two menaces that threatened the well being of the community on a daily basis. The cops, and most of our neighbors, actually feel that I have done a great service. If only they knew.
So this is my life again. I am no longer in control, and can be assured that a large body count will be a part of my life once again. I was warned not to get to close to anyone in my life, but I begin to mourn them. All of them. Jack especially. He deserves so much better.
And the very next day, at work, I am surprised to see Ms. Laurenne Day, the Hall Monitor from high school, busily typing at my old desk. I was surprised to see her working at my job, but just as surprised to see her even alive after all these years! I’m guessing that will not last long.
You would think that she would be happy to see me as well, but such is not the case. As though I were running late to class, she flashes me a disapproving look and states, “Mr. Robinson is waiting to see you. You must go in right away.”
Good old Ms. Day. Nope. She won’t last long.
I enter Jack’s office, and he is beaming. He invites me to sit, and says, “I see you saw Ms. Day! How wonderful! She agreed to come out of retirement to help me out. You are now too busy to help with the administrative work, and she’s perfect. That old fussbudget will outlast us all!”
I doubt that. Seriously…
“But Mira, there is a reason I’ve called you in here.” His demeanor drops slightly. “I’ve called a meeting for tomorrow at 11am. We’ll have lunch delivered and work through the afternoon. There are things happening with the company that we need to strategize on. Absolutely unbelievable things! And even though you aren’t a senior member here you are definitely an integral part of our business, and I’d like you to attend.”
“Of course Jack,” I reply.
I can’t imagine what could be so important that Jack would call a meeting of all the division heads. The company doesn’t seem to be in any trouble, in fact we’ve been investing heavily for the past few years. But, whatever it is, it feels good to be included, and demonstrates Jack’s faith in my abilities. Maybe I am going to be given a promotion during the meeting!
These thoughts keep me up all night. I’m used to not sleeping, but oftentimes it is due to Smoke. I’m not used to being kept up over a happy excitement! In fact, this worries me to the point that I can’t sleep over the anxiety.
OK. That’s more like it.
The morning takes forever to come, but as soon as my eyes close it appears. I quickly get Maddisyn situated, and work on presenting myself for this meeting. Assuming there is news regarding our company’s growth, I want to be sure to put on as professional a face as possible. And, if this happy feeling is just an omen of my impending death, well…I want to look nice for whoever finds my body.
I make my way into work with what I think is plenty of time before the start of lunch. I enter the tall building housing RSL, and enter the first empty elevator. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stay empty for long, as it seems every floor has a stop and a single individual waiting to board. I recognize some of the people and wonder if they are heading for the same meeting. After the 15th stop I realize they are all heading to the meeting. I recognize Mr. Maximillian and Mr. Vincent, from finance. The elevator ride takes nearly ten minutes and we will all just make it.
The doors open, and the other men and women brush past me and quickly enter the boardroom. Nobody bothered to hold the door or wait for me. In fact, no one spoke the entire ride up. Now, suddenly, I am alone as I step out of the elevator, and into the sight of Ms. Laurenne Day. She is standing next to her desk, the unofficial welcome committee of the big meeting. She taps a worn-down, nubby #2 pencil on her desk, and looks at me with a strange grin. I would worry about Smoke upon seeing this grin, but it occurs to me that of all of the people in my life, Ms. Day always had Nathaniel’s look about her.
“You’re late, honey,” she practically sings. “You’d better get inside, or I’ll have to give you detention!” At this, she can no longer contain a series of inappropriate giggles. There is something already very ominous about this day, and this meeting, and I wonder if I should just turn back and go down the elevator. But, no, that won’t do. If Nathaniel Mirras is up to something today, it’s best I go along regardless of consequence. For my daughter.
I enter the boardroom.
It is surprisingly calm. And…normal. All of the division heads are seated around a large set of four rectangular tables, set up into another rectangle, with Jack seated at the head. “Mira, I’m so happy you could join us. We are just beginning lunch. Have a seat!” There is no irony in his voice, in fact it seems completely normal. I begin to think that maybe I was overreacting to my own fears, and that today would be a perfectly normal day of business. Business we were about to begin.
And yet, something seems off. The people seated around the table, including the head of investments, the head of finance, labor, AV, and Jack’s Vice President, along with all the other invitees all look back at me in unison, and as I take my seat toward the back, all turn again toward Jack. No one makes a sound or speaks a word. As though they had rushed past me in the elevator just to get into position to wait for me to arrive. It felt as though no one had said anything until Jack spoke to me.
And seated next to Jack is a young man, mid-twenties at most. He is not dressed in business attire, and in fact looks to be dressed similarly to Staar and Skreem. He doesn’t seem to belong here, yet holds a place of honor at the table. Very odd.
Lunch has arrived, and it is a simple lunch of soup and finger sandwiches. Everyone has soup and three small sandwiches set before them on little plates. Everyone has a small glass of ice water in identical crystal glasses as well. As I look around the room, I notice that no one is eating, or drinking. And even more, each of the three sandwiches before each of the members is arranged in precisely the same pattern. The soup and water are filled at what seems to be identical amounts in each glass and each bowl, and set with the sandwich plates at exactly the same distance from each other, and from the person sitting in front of them.
Except mine. And the young man seated next to Jack. My plate has only two sandwiches and my soup bowl is empty. My water glass is only half-filled. Conversely, the young man’s plate is filled high with sandwiches, and his bowl and cup are up to the top as well. He seems to notice this too, looking around, but he isn’t saying a word.
And still, no one is eating. I decide to test my suspicions by picking up my water glass, as if to take a drink.
“Hold on Mira,” says Jack, almost jubilantly. Everyone in the room appears in a trance, but Jack is in the same happy mood as yesterday, and ready to charm the audience it seems. “Let’s hold off on the meal for just a moment while I make some announcements.
“Folks, I’ve called you, my A Team, here today to celebrate the last day of Robinson Savings and Loan!”
Suddenly, the entire room erupts with laughter. Jack is making a joke?
“I can assure you all that after today this company will no longer be in operation,” he says again with absolutely no change in his tone. The room erupts with laughter again. What the hell?
“Okay, folks,” Jack asserts, though not forcefully, while waving his hands downward to indicate quiet. “Let’s keep it down to a dull roar!” Again, laughter.
This is bad. I’m beginning to wonder if the entire room is possessed by Nathaniel, other than the kid dressed as a gang-banger, and me.
Jack stands up, and as he does, the entire room stops laughing, but Jack maintains his confident smile and happy demeanor.
“You see folks,” he begins, “our long term loans we had issued have fixed interest rates. But those rates are lower than rates at which we can borrow. We have also been liable for all deposits at our higher, fixed rates. We have not been able to generate new capital for years now. Due to an oversight, however, we were able to invest in some speculative, well, we’ll say questionable, opportunities over that time. Those also failed, and we are insolvent. We are completely out of business!”
Again, the entire room roars with laughter. The board members and division heads are completely out of control, coughing with laughter, patting each others’ backs as tears of humor pour from their eyes. It is absolute bedlam! I wonder how much of this is Smoke’s fault. Not just the condition of the room, but the condition of the company. How much of Nathaniel’s meddling in the business through recent years has brought on this mess. The absolute destruction of Jack Robinson.
How much of this is my fault?
All of it, I suppose. It’s more than I can reasonably handle, and I need some air in order to see what comes next. But I am fixed to my seat. I realize that I’m being held by Nathaniel Mirras’ power right now, and I suspect that the young man seated next to Jack is under the same power. He doesn’t seem to be under the same spell as the rest, laughing and carrying on, yet he doesn’t move.
As though my thoughts could be heard out loud, Jack turns to the kid next to him, and as he does, Ms. Day enters, and takes a place on the opposite side of Jack Robinson. She has that crazed smile she had when I first stepped off the elevator, and I know she is also possessed.
I knew she wouldn’t last long. The old biddy.
Jack addresses the room, but looks straight at me, with a look of amusement. “Well, team, I’d like to present you with two gifts to celebrate our last day together. Beneath your plate, you will each find a crisp, new, $100 bill. It’s all yours. And allow me to introduce you to my friend here. His name is Prime Minister, a street name you’d call it, and he is the leader of one of the more prominent gangs here in our city. He has kindly provided us with our other gift, which you’ll find next to it!”
I lift my plate to find a white powder in one even line, next to a brand new bill. Before I can react, Ms. Day is next to me, grabbing the $100 note, rolling it up into a small straw. “You won’t be needing this honey!” she screams with glee and sucks the entire line of the powder through the expensive homemade straw, and into her nose. She ceases movement, then exhales, and takes her place again next to Jack.
At this, she begins to laugh much like the group had done many times during this meeting. And Jack says, “The hundred dollar bill is yours to do with as you please!” At this, all of the other members do the same as Laurenne Day, again with large bouts of shouting and laughter. The entire scene is chaotic, like something out of some future Gatsby, and I am still fixed to my chair.
“Mira,” says Jack, his face a mess of white powdery snot and tears, “it seems that you know some friends of Prime here. He tells me that you killed two of his men. Now…what shall we do about that?”
And again the crowd goes crazy, bloodthirsty, hoping that Jack will release the Prime Minister to have his way with the defenseless girl.
“Mr. Prime Minister. Would you like to address your grievance at this time?”
The boy called Prime Minister nods, and is suddenly able to move. He stands up, and sizes me up. He doesn’t really look like he wants revenge, but in fact has realized that he is in deeper waters than he has ever known. He tries to maintain a tough look, but his eyes show the truth of his fear. A quick glance toward the door betrays his true intentions, but it is too late. With Nathaniel Mirras, it is always too late. And Jack has produced a small revolver, from where I do not know, and quickly, gleefully, opens up the right side of the young man’s skull with a single shot.
Again, a cacophony of laughter. I’ve never seen Smoke cause such widespread, controlled chaos. This must be what Andrew experienced in Vietnam, in that hut, watching all of his friends tortured and killed. Like me, I doubt he feared what would happen to him, but rather thought about how much he would miss Maddisyn and me. That’s how I feel right now. Missing Andrew, and aching to hold my little girl again.
Jack, still standing, lifts his glass and announces, “A toast!”
The group of 12 around the table stand as one and lift their glasses with simple water in expensive crystal, and cheer, “A toast!” They all pause as one, in eager anticipation of what Jack would honor with a celebratory toast.
Jack smiles, his glass high in the air, matched by the group’s glasses as if all in one.
“To Nathaniel,” he states with majesty.
“To Nathaniel!” they all reply, Ms. Day cackling in the background, too far gone to participate in the toast. And, as one, the entire board, all the division heads, the vice-president, all drink the full drink as one, and scream in a furor, “To Natha…!”
But their voices are silenced within the last refrain. Their drinks have all been laced with cyanide, and their bodies writhe with impending death, though not now as one, and their mouths foam as the tainted liquid kills them all. Some begin to bleed from their mouths and noses, and many lose control of their bowels. Some slump on the table, and some fall to the floor. The body of the VP, Mr. Cygnus, gets caught halfway and hangs half off of his chair, his head scraping the ground. And all the while Laurenne Day laughs.
This is a bloodbath. I could never even imagine. And how the hell is Ms. Day still alive?
Suddenly, she stops laughing, and takes a composed stance next to Jack. Well, next to I assume Nathaniel at this point. Then she sits down next to him and somehow has a scissor in her hand. She begins to take pieces of her hair, and cut them off, small and large clumps at a time. Her eyes are dim, lifeless, as she quietly hums a tune I recognize from back in my childhood.
Jack looks at me, and I can see his features begin to melt into the horrendous features of Smoke. His eyes sink in and his nose and teeth simply vanish. He no longer has hair, and as he gestures I see his fingers have become connected, and webbed. His face becomes a smoky, chalky white. He hisses, “And now, Mira, it’s time to end today’s fun. I will end the life of Jack Robinson. I will kill him simply because he was kind to you.
“And can you guess the best part? I will leave this doddering old woman to take the fall! She will be deemed completely crazy, and charged with poisoning the drinks of the entire board. But she will be found to have done so under the influence of Jack himself, depressed and suicidal due to the fall of his company. He will be considered a mass murderer along with this old idiot, and his reputation will be tarnished even beyond the failure of his company. His family will then suffer too!
“And, Mira, and best of all, you will be set free. You will be found completely innocent, and free to build yet another life, with more success and more friends that I will completely destroy. And because you love your daughter, you will allow me to do this for the rest of your miserable life!”
Cue the chalky-child crying laughter. It is equal parts evil and pitiful. I have never felt so beaten, and can’t help but wonder if Nathaniel has considered that I really never asked to be his twin either. Logically even a killer would not hold his sister accountable for something that happened even before birth. But Smoke is a ghost, and a tortured one at that, so I suppose logic is too much to ask.
But he’s right. I have no choice but to allow him to continue to destroy my life and relationships all to protect my daughter. But the truth is, he can’t be trusted. Where is the scenario that ends with him leaving my daughter alone? What else can happen except that I eventually die, and Maddisyn, born of my flesh, simply becomes his next victim for another generation.
Nathaniel takes his pistol, and holds it up to Jack Robinson’s temple, on the same side that Nathaniel himself is missing an ear. I am unable to save yet another man who does not deserve this fate.
My left eye betrays a tear for Mr. Robinson, and all of the friends I have not yet made. But my right eye spots my water glass still on the table, and something Nathaniel said gives me an idea. I hope I am strong.
I take care not to look again at the glass. It is important that it stays where it is, full of water. I look directly at Nathaniel, and then quickly run toward him. Nathaniel causes Jack’s arm to aim the gun at me. But he forgets, he can’t kill me, and the moment he takes the gun off of Jack I am able to act.
I speak his name, and draw Nathaniel out of Jack Robinson and into me. I have to be strong! I’ve known for a while that I could compel Nathaniel to possess only me, for a time. I would have to control him for a longer time now, but Jack’s life depends on my being strong enough. My sudden movement causes Laurenne to drop her scissor and run through the door and out of the boardroom. I’m wrestling with Jack, who is stronger than I am, but not as a pawn of Nathaniel, and I make sure that Nathaniel is fully within me. Then I run out the door.
I expect to see an empty hallway, but instead I see feet. In just that brief moment, I find Laurenne Day hanging from above her desk. Her body swings back and forth rapidly, as though she were a near-expired piñata. She is still maniacally cackling, but the sounds of her laughter are frequently punctuated but the fact that she cannot get air past her rapidly tightening throat. I wish I could help her, but I’m afraid that deviating from my path in any way could endanger Jack. I will forever feel guilty for leaving her, but the greater good requires the sacrifice of Laurenne this day.
I race past the elevators. They will not take me where I need to go. I feel Smoke struggle to be released. It takes all of my concentration and will to keep him where he is, where I need him to be for what I hope to be my final move. I make it to the stairwell, and simply take it up one floor to the roof of the vast building. I go to the very edge, and look down, knowing that the tiny people below will soon seem much bigger.
Nathaniel screams in my head, “No! Stop, Mira! Don’t do this. We will both perish if you die with me this way!”
As I lift my hands sideways, look down, and then up, I say, “I know.” Then I bend my knees slightly and lean forward.
“Mira,” says Smoke in a panic. I’ve never heard him this way. I hear the cry of the chalky child deep in my mind. He is very scared and vulnerable. It is working. “Mira, what about your daughter?”
“Smoke,” I say, “it seems to me this is the most efficient way to protect my daughter.”
“Wait, Mira. Listen, if you do this, maybe I lose my connection in this world, but maybe I don’t. Can you take that chance? Can you be sure I won’t come back? Can you be sure that I won’t simply haunt Maddisyn?”
I smile, perilously close to the edge.
“Yes. I’m sure. You wouldn’t be so scared if it weren’t true.”
Then, the killer Nathaniel Mirras bargains for his ethereal life. He says, “Okay Mira. You win. I don’t want to haunt or kill my niece. My grudge is with you. What do you want?”
Yes. I know. I win. “Okay Smoke, this is how it’s gonna be. You don’t ever, ever get anywhere near Andrew’s and my daughter. As far as you are concerned, she doesn’t exist. If I get even the sense that you are interfering in her life, it will be the end of you, I promise!”
“Also, however the rest of my life goes, you are no longer in control. I will make friends, and you will leave them be. In fact, you will mostly leave me be. I understand that your connection with me will be the only life you are able to enjoy, but killing my friends is off the table. Do you understand?”
After a short pause, Nathaniel Mirras, still under my control, begs, “But Mira, you know I have to kill. I have to silence the voices of the children our father killed. You can’t leave me to them. You may as well destroy us both!”
All right. I need to negotiate now. I’d like to take the moral priority, but the truth is, he has a point. He has no reason to leave Maddisyn and me be if the consequence is that he will suffer eternal torture. I have to throw him a bone. He is my brother, after all, and if my plan goes as it should, there should be ample, appropriate victims for him to spare.
“Mira, please don’t call me that…”
“Screw you, Smoke. You have never earned our father’s name. But, I suspect that if what I think will happen next does happen, there will be occasional opportunity for you to kill, if needed to quiet the voices that torture you. I do not want you tortured. I am your sister, and even though you do not deserve it, I would like to help you find peace. But, make no mistake, Nathaniel. If I even suspect that you are possessing me when I do not allow it, or threatening a single soul in my life that I consider a friend, or especially if you go anywhere near my daughter, I promise you I will take you and end you. I promise you!”
Then, after a time, he speaks. “Agreed.”
And I do not simply have to believe him. He is my twin, and just as he knows that I will make good my threat to end both of our lives, I also know that he will keep his end of the deal for the foreseeable future. And, to protect my daughter, that is all I need.
The remaining events occur precisely as I had hoped. I am very fortunate that in all of the struggles my water glass remained unturned. As my fingerprints were on it, it was apparent to the authorities that I was the only one that did not drink from a poisoned glass. Laurenne Day, sadly, was no longer able to take the fall for all that had transpired. Jack Robinson, the kindest man I had known since Andrew and both of my fathers, survived! While his business was still in ruin, his reputation was intact, and in fact bolstered by these events.
What happened, as I had hoped, was that investigators would come to the conclusion that I was actually responsible for all of the killings. The prints on the mostly-filled glass showed that I intentionally did not drink the poison. The fact that I was found on the roof preparing to jump, proved that I was insane. Like with my stepfather, Joe Mirras, they were never able to discern how a girl like me could kill so many people. But in light of all of the evidence, there was simply no other explanation, and I was taken into custody.
Because, you know, no one believes in ghosts.
And I told my story. Why wouldn’t I? I told them about the chalky child, about my imaginary friend Smoke, and about the killer Nathaniel Mirras who was my twin marred at birth that spent his entire afterlife finding ways to torture and kill everyone I love. It was brilliant! And the wise powers that be, rather than prison, decide to send me to a state run institution, for the remainder of my days.
To be concluded!
Credit To: MeGoMike/MeGoMirras