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td class="norm" style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10pt;" align="left"Powerlessbr /By JayDeebr /br /"Not the powerful," the voice told /br /"No, no, no, please," she moaned back. br /br /"The powerful are always destroyed," the voice added. "The meek. Oh yes. The meek are the survivors."br /br /"Get away from me." She craned her neck back to protest further and the shadow that addressed her fell away. "Leave me alone," she beseeched. "Please leave me alone." Her plea became a /br /Jorine Isome's arm was broken. She was sure of it. The icy river chill numbed her forearm below the water's surface and it actually felt good. But above, where the current formed an eddy encircling her elbow, a singular unbearable agony spiraled upward into her shoulder. Jorine plunged her arm deeper, as deep underneath the frigid surface as she could manage without slipping further down the sloped /br /The position she chose did not hold. Her body slipped into the water slapping the shoreline. She twisted to her back and with her good arm grabbed for a clutch of grass sprouting from the cliff overhanging the loose scree blanketing the riverbank where she had fallen. Her fingers hooked tight around the dangling shoots only a moment before she would tumble the rest of the way into the river's edge. br /br /Instantly her arm electrified; a searing current of pain surged upward as if the muscles holding the bone in place had caught fire. In that same instant, her heel caught a submerged something under the water and all motion forward halted with a jolt. Her ankle twisted. The pain /br /"Help me. Somebody, please help me."br /br /"Seems like you are doing just fine by yourself."br /br /Jorine jerked her head toward the voice. A face materialized at the corner of her vision, just at the point where she could crane her neck no /br /"Help me," she /br /The grass shoot gave way pulling free of the cliffside…and as she fell, her mind registered the lump of sod clinging in mid-air to the embedded /br /The face grabbed /br /She saw hands reach out and pluck her from the water. The hands were connected to arms shouldering that face -the right side of her brain laughed at the imagery –the left side cringed at the horror. The fire in her arm blazed to life exploding outward slicing through her skin like wildfire. Her entire body lifted from the rock pimpled beach up over the earthen ledge onto a leaf-strewn bed of topsoil under a canopy of downward reaching spruce boughs. She rolled again to her back. Her broken arm caught at her hip as her wrist wrenched upward to her /br /She slammed eyes shut and /br /From the riverbank came a /br /The gust enveloped her cries, carrying them swiftly up into the trees. An odor heavy with body sweat met her inward breath; then expelled back out to mingle with a sour taste of bile that sought escape from her /br /Jorine opened her /br /The sun slipped into her vision expertly through the top canopy pooling in her sockets until all the world, captured by within eyesight, curdled to sour white. Beneath her, the damp grass wetted her backside while dried leaves tortured her bare legs. br /br /"Scream all you want honey, these trees care little."br /br /Gaining as much immediate perspective as she could, ignoring the pain, her eyes searched the white space for the /br /"Over here dear one," the voice said. br /br /She craned further but could see no more of the face than the features that had first appeared; an outline edged in fading amber-grey moving forth from shadow to /br /"I can't see you."br /br /"Everyone says that. But I beg to differ. I say yes you can. Just barely maybe, but you can see."br /"They broke my arm."br /br /"Oh honey, they did more than that."br /br /"Please help me. I can't run anymore."br /br /"Why did you run to begin with?"br /br /She craned to get a better view of the /br /"Whoever you are, call someone, please. I was jogging and they came - out of nowhere. I think they broke my arm."br /br /"I don't care."br /br /Jorine shifted her gaze to an overhead viewpoint. br /br /"Tell me why you ran."br /br /The voice issued from a monochrome shadow. It had depth - as if she were viewing a space around her through three-dee glasses. "Why did I run? Why do you think I ran?" she said, lowering her voice in /br /The voice did not /br /"Three men attacked me. They came out of nowhere and pulled me from the trail." br /br /"Three of them?" the voice /br /"Yes. I screamed and they ran away."br /br /"If they left you, why did you run?"br /br /She lifted her head. "Come into the light."br /br /"Oh, my dear. You don't want to see my face in the light, not really."br /br /She craned to see. Still, all that appeared were glimpses of shadow intermixed with black movement. She saw no more than if staring at her own reflection in the bathroom mirror before the lights were flipped /br /"Trust me, a shadow is enough."br /br /"Who are you?"br /br /"Why is that question always asked? What a waste of time to wonder who I am. "Answer my question; why did you run?"br /br /"I ran because…I ran because…they attacked me. But…" she let the question linger although the voice prompted no /br /Jorine peered up at the sky. The hard, hot sun beat down on her. Pyramid crowns of a dozen firs bent downward outlining a perfect circle of white sky pierced at the edges by the tips of each treetop. Had ornaments topped the bending timbers, like droplets gaining too much girth, each would have pulled loose to drop onto her prone /br /"I ran to get away."br /br /"You're wasting time." The voice returned echoing the ire her own tone had taken "Did you not also hear my pronouncement? Are you so weak minded you would not consider?"br /br /"I am not weak," Jorine shot back in protest. "But please, I –"br /br /"What did I say?" The voice cut her /br /She lifted her head. The bank above the river was /br /Lowering her chin to her chest she searched but there was no one. In doing so, her eyes caught sight of the body - her body - stretched out beneath her vision. The landscape before her appeared foreign. Her vision wavered. She studied this thing that had carried her to this riverbank. Ghostly fissures of red mist rose from below the rise and fall of her chest. Scarlet tendrils of smoke spiraled upward from her torso dissipating beyond where her perception could /br /Many /br /"What is happening to me," Jorine asked. "I ran because I ran. What difference does it make? Just help me." br /br /"Not yet," the voice /br /"Show yourself," she /br /"Quiet," the voice commanded. "Do as I say."br /br /"I want to go home."br /br /"Focus."br /br /"I have quiche ready for the oven. I have beer. I don't work tomorrow."br /br /"You are not going home tonight. Tell me what you see."br /br /"What?" she asked. "What?"br /br /"Tell me," the voice said. br /br /Jorine glanced down at herself, perplexed by this information. The red mist blurring her vision coalesced into clear undulating pools of scarlet splashed across her midsection, soaking through the threads of a pale yellow tank-top, overspreading her stomach, collecting in rivulets that spilled over her ribs to the earth that held her. br /br /Not mist. Not smoke. br /br /"I was stabbed?" She asked. br /br /"Don't ask questions for which you already know the answer," the voice /br /Jorine swiveled her neck toward the speaker of the words that came to her from behind her, from her side, from in front, from /br /"I'm telling you to survive and you will do as I say."br /br /Again her eyes nearly met the face but she could not turn her head far enough to get a full /br /"I will ask only one more time. Why did you run?"br /br /"I ran to get away," Jorine repeated. "I screamed and they ran.."br /br /"Did they?"br /br /"Yes," she said angrily. Then, hesitantly, "No. Only two of them ran." she whispered to herself. A sudden realization came to her. "The third did not. The third still follows."br /br /Jorine covered her eyes with her uninjured hand. "Please, who are you? Why do you not help me?"br /br /"One more question you must answer first. What was my pronouncement?"br /br /The tone from this shadowy face encased her mind. The query triggered a recent memory, "The powerful are always destroyed," She /br /"And…" the voice /br /"The meek survive."br /br /"Close enough," the voice came from in front of /br /She swiveled to meet the gaze but again was too late to see anything. "Why don't you show yourself? Help me - why don't you?"br /br /No /br /"Who are you?"br /br /"A reminder."br /br /"What is wrong with you. Help me," she /br /"I have," the voice answered /br /Jorine strained to see the face of her tormenter. She rolled from her elbow to her back. The tree boughs parted above revealing a circle of dark ozone. Nothing passed through it – not a bird, not an insect, not even a thin trail of misty cloud. The sky was empty forever above until she noticed one white pinprick at the edge of the /br /"Where did you go?" br /br /The voice did not /br /She looked for the face. What she saw was confusing. Down where her leg had hung over the ledge when the voice had pulled her from the water, her sneaker was submerged under the surface. She lay on the riverbank where she had first fallen. Her body was not pulled free of the current as she had felt. Her legs below the knees had slipped into the river and were slipping /br /The chill of the current returned. Her vision came back with it, clarifying enough to scan her body once again, this time up as far as her eyes could manage to her chest. The pooling spots of red bloomed like a small garden of camellias interspersed and staggered along a thin waistline above spandex running shorts, to the ivory logo of a determined sprinter painted in full stride between the breasts on the shirt she had pulled from her closet for the evening jog. Those spots of red bubbled as if each existed over an earthen air vent. And each one hurt. br /br /Near the topmost spot, under her left breast, protruded an object as unfamiliar to the terrain of her torso as a high-rise looming over a desert /br /She laughed. "I have a knife sticking out of me," she said. "Wow. A knife."br /br /She heard things. The world came back. She had not realized it was gone until that /"He left his fricking knife in me," she said. "Help me," she /br /No /br /"You coward."br /br /She pushed herself back up onto the muddy bank. "You coward," she repeated. "A reminder of what?"br /In that moment a rustle of movement signaled a change in her immediate /br /And the voice /br /"There you are," it /br /Jorine pulled herself from the water straining to look where the voice had issued. This time she could see a face. A fat-cheeked, pinkish tinted volleyball of a head stared down at her from the top of the bank…where… a moment before she lay arguing with a shadow – a shadow that had yanked her free of the current to the very spot this now visible face with the meaty head stared down at her. br /br /"Look at me," the face /br /Jorine registered a change in tone. "You don't sound the same," she /br /"I said look at me."br /br /She did not /br /Instead, she focused on the pinprick of light situated in a dark circle above the treetops. Not one, but two, three, a dozen pinpricks. Stars. "You want me to see your face?" she said. She stared up at a nighttime sky that she swore was daylight only moments ago. "You are not the voice."br /br /The face grinned. br /br /"You're not," she added. "You should go."br /br /The new face laughed, "Honey, we ain't done. We ain't done by a long shot. This evening is going to be one to remember. But first, I want my knife back."br /br /Evening, Jorine heard. A nighttime darkness surrounded her where a moment before a had sun beat at her skin. br /br /The face advanced on /br /Jorine rolled away, dropping her broken arm out of the way in place of the arm that still /"Where you going girlfriend," this new voice said. "Don't you know you are powerless. Evening approaches Ms. Lady. Night soon to follow –"br /br /"What did you say?" Jorine interrupted. "You called me something. What was it?" As she questioned the new face, she rolled back to confront /br /"Powerless," the face said, inching down, the bulk of movement blotting out the stars /br /"You are not the voice," Jorine /br /"Girly Girl, I am the only voice," the new face /br /"No," Jorine responded. "You are not."br /br /"Took me a half hour to find you woman. Luckily most folks is home t this time of night watching the nightly news."br /br /This new face was much more than a shadow. It was connected to a flannel print hanging under a chin, a blue jean waist-line, a form plastered solidly against a night framed sky. br /br /"I've been advised to survive," Jorine /br /The face stopped to look around. The expression transformed from a sneer of ugly fat into a play-dough ball of nothingness. Deep set eyes of blackness, sunk inward on the face, scanned the riverbank, turned to look behind into the tree line, and the face listened for intrusion. br /br /The eyes turned back upon her, "I'm satisfied we are alone," the eyes said…the new voice said. "I now can take my time."br /br /"I won't let you," Jorine said. "I was told to survive, and I will."br /br /"Sorry dearie but whoever told you that is full of shit. You are powerless. Just as I said."br /br /She responded with a whisper, "Come on closer then. No one can hear down here. Come on closer." Jorine spoke the challenge but let the words pass her lips without truly understanding /br /The face paused, hovered, a perplexed sneer spread the jaw-line that was now on top of her. It peered left. Then peered right. The sneer turned to back into a leering grin, "Well all right then." The face, the shirt, the blue jeans, and the leer moved in on her. She Shrank back letting it /br /At the end of a broken arm, a hand she barely felt now, encircled the end of a palm-length hilt of protruding polished onyx from the pockmarked countryside of burning flesh. It was an awkward grasp. She pulled at the knife, at first hesitant, then plucking it out with a jerk. br /br /The steel grew longer as it exited. br /br /Red droplets of blood dribbled down the tip spilling back over and into the exit /This new face registered /br /Completing the action, pulling the long blade free of her flesh, she turned it on the assailant…and plunged it forward until it met /br /"Not powerless," She /br /…and plunged…br /br /"Meek," Jorine /br /The knife sank into the meaty portion of cheek flesh. br /br /"Meek," she repeated. br /br /She pulled the knife free of the pink fat, and stuck it again forward…plunged it again forward…stabbed it again forward…over and over /br /"Meek," she said with every /br /"Meek."br /br /br /br /td