Beyond the Island
by John W. Steele
I awakened the next day around noon. I’d slept nearly sixteen hours, and it was the sweetest slumber I had ever known. I felt as though I’d emerged from oblivion, and my island was once again secure and impenetrable. But as soon as Karen’s memory appeared, my world lost all its light and plunged into a feeling of despair.
I went for a long run along the old country road. The air was crisp and fresh. The cool thermal drifts tumbled down from the mountain. My old friends, the crows, were hidden somewhere in the pines high overhead, and their raucous cries filled the morning. A scant ray of sunshine found its way through the foliage and coursed my path along the cracked and broken macadam.
I wanted to step on the shaft of light and follow it into the sky. After all I’d witnessed since my apprenticeship, I believed anything was possible and I tried to jump on a beam of light. But my feet never missed the ground, and I knew I was destined to face a challenge over which I was powerless.
I couldn’t run forever and I’d soon throw away everything that mattered to me in order to do the Lord Nagual’s bidding. Death was no longer an option. My island was as real as stone. For a long time I believed Lord Nagual was the spirit of death, but now I knew the spirit of death was me.
For years I had been searching for information about the Overself or the Nagual, as the Mayans referred to it. I scoured the archives of libraries and sat in their tiny cubicles pouring over all the information available about these mysterious entities. There were references to their existence in translations of ancient Tibetan, Egyptian, and Sanskrit texts but they offered no remedy to rid me from the terrible curse that had befallen me. My efforts to free myself from this power were futile, and it seemed Lord Nagual was indomitable.
At last the leaden hour arrived and, late in the afternoon, I called Karen. The phone rang three times. I prayed she would not answer. In the middle of the third ring, I heard her voice.
“It took you long enough,” she said.
“Hi, Karen. How was Buffalo?”
“Oh, about what I expected. I sat in a conference room with a group of power-hungry, anal-retentive bastards and listened to them lecture about how they plan to own the world. It was a special occasion so I wore a yellow rubber band on each wrist.”
She sighed. “Anyway, I must have passed muster. I still have a job.” Her giggle was infectious, and I laughed. “How about you? What have you been up to?”
“Not much. I kicked a ball around and did a little bird watching, nothing too exciting. I’m waiting for the Kaminski brothers to bring over the revisions to our contract.”
“Well I have good news about that,” she said. “I was going ask you to come to the bank tomorrow but there’s no reason to wait. Your credit line has been approved. Confederate is willing to allow you seventy percent loan to value on Sky, which means you just held us up for around five million dollars.”
I pretended to be excited. “That’s great news! The Kaminskis will be here in about an hour. They want to go over the contingencies with their attorney present.”
“Oh, really? Who are they using?”
“A guy named Feinstein. I guess he’s pretty sharp.”
“Feinstein? Oh, I know Melvin. He’s in the bank all the time. He’s a great lawyer but you’ve got to watch him.”
“I’ve been around the block with lawyers. What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean, he’ll probably try to sleep with you.”
We laughed uproariously. I hadn’t been able to laugh for a long time, but Karen’s sense of humor disarmed me.
She abruptly changed the subject. “When are we going out?”
The moment had appeared and the window was wide open. “Evidently my papers are in order,” I said.
“I know everything about you. You do get around don’t you?”
I thought about what she said. She knew everything about me that didn’t matter and nothing about me that did.
“That thorough, huh? That’s scary.”
“The omnipotent eye sees all, knows all,” she said. “That’s why it appears on the dollar.”
There was a brief moment of silence.
“Well, I was hoping you could suggest where we could get a good steak.”
“I know the perfect place. It’s called The Copper. The food and the ambience are absolutely wonderful. It’s about forty-five minutes from here at the outskirts of Rochester.”
“The Copper it is. I can pick you up around seven.”
Karen started to tell me a little bit about herself but I really didn’t want to know anymore about her. I felt I knew her too well already. She was talking about her son when I interrupted her. “I’m sorry, Karen, but I have to run. The Polocks will be here any minute and I need to pour over the survey one more time. I’ve studied the abstract all day and I want to look over my outline.”
“Of course, I understand,” she said. She gave me the directions to her townhouse.
“I’ll be there around sevenish,” I said.
“I’ll be waiting. We’re going to have a wonderful time.”
“Yeah... yeah, we will. I’ll see you tomorrow, Karen.”
“Brian,” she said coyly.
“Don’t run off with Melvin. He’s not your type.”
I giggled. “You’re brutal.”
“Not really,” she said. “I probably just need to be spanked... Bye.”
I looked out at the mountain and wondered why fate had brought us together, and why this world is so pathetically unsynchronized and fraught with imperfection. Where the hell was she when I needed her? Before the terror devoured me.
The stage was set; the lights were on. Soon Lord Nagual would draw open the curtain. I was the villain. I hated the role but I was made for it, typecast in a character I could never change and destined to live with what I had become for eternity.
To be continued....
Copyright © 2009 by John W. Steele