I woke the next morning at sunrise. Dew clung to my hair as I leaned up on my elbows and watched the sunlight creep towards the nameless one's sleeping form. He seemed to shimmer just before the sun hit him, his skin softening and blurring as though he were a mirage – just for a moment. Then the light hit him, warming him, shining off his intricate silver necklace. The rays touched his eyelids and he squinted, pulling a face before his eyes opened, pupils dilating to pinpricks in the sea of pale color.
"Morning, Cor," he said, voice husky with sleep. He smiled at me, a brilliant honest smile.
I felt my brows draw together and sat up, legs crossed, studying him. He cocked an eyebrow at me, but stayed where he was. After a moment, I growled inwardly at the thought that refused to make itself clear and reached for my bag.
"I have to go write," I said, grabbing a notebook and pen.
He sat up on his elbow and cocked his head at me. "Apparently." There was laughter in his voice and I fought the scowl that threatened to appear. He knew me well enough at this point, he could tell what was happening in my head.
"Don't go far," I called as I walked off into the woods. "I'll be back soon."
"You won't loose me, Corinne," he called after me, smile still present in his voice.
Ten minutes later I'd found the perfect spot. Following the sound of running water, I'd meandered off the 'path' and found a stream, no more than two feet wide and one foot deep. Looking into the clear water I saw minnows-silver and shining swimming in place, fighting against the current. At one time I would have grumbled and sympathized with them never getting anywhere. Things were changing in me, and this time I watched and smiled as they all shifted at once and moved forward one inch.
I sighed, settling back on the roots of an elderly willow tree and began writing.
Merrick watched. That's all he could do now, watch and guide as best as he could from his station of Subconscious. He didn't mind. The soul he was set to watch was one he knew well – one he'd spent many lives with. He'd been her brother, her father, her son, her lover and now he was her guide, maybe even her muse. A life without him now, she was a young aspiring writer in 21st century Middle America. Only it seemed she was unhappy. None of Merrick's tricks seemed to work. No dreams were remembered. No signs were seen. She continued to live a dull dreary life, falling farther into a rut of blocked creativity. At first he thought it just a phase, the girl's soul was old. Old enough to inherently know better than to loose faith. But, maybe something was different this time. Maybe her lesson stripped her of those spiritual Knowledges, in order to make her learn…something?
Oh who the hell knew what the Higher Ups had planned for her in this life. Merrick wasn't privy to the ultimate point of her life, his station was a learning one as well. All guides were learning as they went, maybe this was a lesson for him?
Watching her climb into her car, bags packed, he solidified himself on the limbo plane just so he could put his hand to his head in frustration. He felt her thoughts. 'Last chance,' she was thinking. 'If I can't snap out of this writer's block on this trip, I give up. I'll be a secretary for the rest of my life.'
Merrick cursed, stomping a non-existent foot on incorporeal ground. He'd tried everything he knew short of-
The idea was born and Merrick felt himself smile.
"It's not unheard of," one of them said, stroking a luminescent beard.
"But it's most definitely not a regular occurrence," said another, appearing only as a shimmer of candlelight.
"But really, what can it hurt?" said the last, voice the epitome of benevolent mischief. "There will be rules of course."
Merrick nodded, the light of his soul brightening with hope. "Anything."
It could have been years or minutes later when Merrick found himself standing on a Ford Station Wagon. The chill of the air touching his skin, a cigarette in his hand. He smiled, amused as he looked down at himself. His appearance wasn't far from what he normally took when in Limbo – but the leather pants were maybe a little overboard.
It felt strange being in a mortal body again. The tactile feel of the fabrics he wore. The slight itch of the silver necklace dangling in the hollow of his collarbone. The distinct scent of Spring night air. And the stars, he'd forgotten how the stars looked from down here. He kept his eyes turned to the sky as he felt her come up behind him. He said a small prayer to the Higher Ups before finally turning to her and putting his plan into action.
"I know this is probably your car," he said. "But I seem to have a slight problem." He looked into his charge's eyes then, seeing for a brief moment all the lives they'd lived together. "But I seem to be lost."
There was an odd feeling in my stomach as I reread this last story. A thickness creeping through my lungs and into my throat. It was short, but I couldn't extend it. Hell, I barely remembered writing it. It was like I used to write, when I'd put pen to paper, and the words would come out before I thought them.
I didn't want to think anymore, I felt mentally exhausted. Looking up I was surprised to see the sun had climbed westward, now sitting at a space just after the noon position.
I stood, getting ready to find my nameless friend when movement near the stream caught my eye. He was crouched fingers trailing in the water, barely taking notice of me. "How long have you been there?" I asked.
"Only a little while," he said, looking up to meet my gaze. "Your car's fixed, the guy just brought it back." He smiled. "I was bringing you some lunch, but you seemed so entranced with what you were writing that I didn't want to disturb you." He paused, as though waiting for me to speak.
"Did - did you want to read it?" I asked, unsure of why I stumbled on the words. "It's finished."
He watched me intently for a long moment, eyes narrowed as though he were reading me and not my story. "Not yet, okay?" his voice sounded plaintive for a breath, then he smiled at me. "Let's eat first."
We ate sandwiches that he'd nabbed at the gas station, listening to the running water and chirping birds. "It's so peaceful," I said, swallowing a mouthful of bread and washing it down with a soda.
"You should come back here every year," he reached in his bag, pulling out a jar of peanut butter and a chocolate Hershey bar. "An annual writer's retreat."
I gave him a quizzical look. "What is that?"
"A writer's retreat is what real writer's do to get away from mundane dreary lives and gather inspiration for their next novels," he continued, opening the foil on the candy bar.
"I know what a writer's retreat is, I meant what is that?" I pointed to the conglomeration he held in his lap.
He looked at me, incredulous. "Desert," he said. "I may have a hard time remembering who I am, but no one can forget how heavenly chocolate and peanut butter is."
I blinked. "There's this neat thing called a Reece's Peanut Butter Cup, though," I said, smiling and taking the piece of chocolate he offered. "It's a little less messy."
"What's the fun of being human if you can't get messy," he grinned impishly and dipped his chocolate in the peanut butter, biting into it with even white teeth.
We made small talk for the next fifteen minutes. He ate through the rest of the chocolate, sharing with me, and then resorted to dipping his fingers in the jar and eating the peanut butter straight. I laughed with him, shaking my head and unconsciously pushed my notebook away from our picnic area.
We managed to put it off till the sun was in the late afternoon sky. Finally, with something akin to regret 'Merrick' took my notebook and began to read the latest story. Usually I enjoyed watching his reactions he as he read, but this time I kept my gaze down, not knowing why I felt such a sickness in my stomach.
It didn't take him long. The notebook landed on the ground at my feet. "It's the best one, Corinne." His voice was soft, and when he forced me to look at him I could see a kind of sadness in his eyes. "It's the right one."
"What happens now?" My voice broke, and with it came tears because some part of me knew the answer.
He touched my cheek, his eyes unnaturally bright. "I wish I could stay," he whispered. "I can't tell you how much I miss you."
I felt a tear slip down my cheek, onto his fingertips. "Why can't you? Why can't you stay, Merrick?"
"This isn't where they want me," he tried to smile, but his lips quivered, betraying him. "Besides, Merrick isn't a normal name, now is it? You'd have to write me a new one, and I'm pretty sure you're sick of writing my stories."
I choked on a sob that tried to be laughter. "Never." It came out a whisper.
His hands traveled down my arms and his fingers laced with my own, his forehead leaned down to touch mine. "You can't get rid of me, Cor," his voice was husky. "It's spiritually impossible for us to be apart." I saw a tear fall to the ground that wasn't my own and felt one more piece of my heart shatter.
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak.
"Promise me you'll keep writing," he said, backing up to look me in the eye again. His cheeks were damp, but his eyes were clear and insistent.
I nodded again.
"Promise me," he said, squeezing my hands in his.
I hiccupped and finally managed to say, "I promise."
Then he pressed his lips to mine, a chaste and innocent kiss. My eyes fell closed and I felt all our lives pile atop one another in an overwhelming wave of calming confusion.
"Don't stop listening for me," he said when he pulled back. When I opened my eyes a moment later, he was gone.
It was fully dark by the time I left the woods. My notebook was firmly in hand, as was an empty peanut butter jar. My car sat where I left it, unlocked, and sadly empty. I'd gotten used to the extra pack. And the extra body.
I shook my head, sighing, not allowing myself to cry anymore. I tossed the book onto the passenger seat next to me, noticing a glint of silver in the dome light. Frowning, I closed my door and reached up to turn the light on again. Something was stuck in between the well worn pages of my notebook.
My heart sped up when I saw what it was. I flipped the pages to the end of my last story. Written in silver pen underneath my last lines were the words, "Keep this for me, I'll get it from you next time – so you don't forget me. Forever, Merrick" And nestled between the pages was the flashing silver chain he always wore. Carefully I picked it up, in awe at how delicate the make and noticed for the first time that the links weren't truly chains, but tiny charms of a sort. A flower, a Japanese sword, a quill pen, a mask, a tarot card, a cross, a four leaf clover, a raven, and a hundred more. Every life. Every life we'd shared was represented, and every one of them had a story.
I smirked, casting a glance toward the sky. "Couldn't leave the jacket as well?"
AN: (2-1-06) I keep getting reviews for this story -even though I finished it ages ago - so I wanted to thank everyone who has reviewed. I haven't changed anything but the last line - but I plan on reposting an edited, possibly expanded version of this at some point within the next few months. My goal is to try and get this published somewhere, or at least get a bite on it by the end of the year. (heh) Anyway - I'm still working on Promise the Land stuff - I'll be posting again on that soon - I PROMISE! Thanks again, you're all beautiful!
AN: (the older one) Okay, it really kills me to end this story. I hope you all liked it – it meant a great deal to me. Someday I'll take more time on it, and really flesh it out. Random wants me to write it in television format and try and sell a season's worth to some station guru. Wouldn't that defeat the purpose? sigh Anyway, I'm feeling melancholy about this whole thing – I'm going to have to hop on over to my other stories and start posting them to get my mind off of this one. sniffle
Thank you so much to everyone that's read and reviewed. Despite the fact that I try and write for me and me only, it still means a hell of a lot when someone else enjoys it just as much as I do. One more review is all I ask of you all. (until the next stories start showing up, that is. ;) )
SilverRaven: I'm dizzy for the amount of spinning in my chair you've made me do over the past month. ;)
Osunale: I'm so impressed with the speed of your reviewing. I'm glad you've enjoyed it thus far.
Gatadelanoche: I'm sure you've run into some typos by now. ;) Hope you still like it – I haven't heard of the story you mentioned, but I'll definitely look it up now.
DragonLady: You deserve a cookie – you had me pegged long ago. sigh I need to get better…grumble Cheers. ;)
PureInnocentSin: I'm making a wish someday that all my characters can come to life – this guy will be my first one, I think. ;) I'll share – for a standard fee. ;)
Dedicated to my friends – Random & Kallah – because you get it – I love you both.
And to my Ford Escort Wagon – alas, the mechanic couldn't fix you. sniff
Take care. Much love.