Mara sighed heavily, disapprovingly. I began to think she wouldn't even answer me this night, and the conditions for a link were anything but ideal; the temperature had dropped dramatically in the last hour, our breath emitting frozen blue streams in the desert air. The road flares and tattered Civil Defense blankets we scavenged from what still stood of Reno would only keep us warm for a few more nights. Everyday Mara seemed to get weaker, and everyday I promised myself I wouldn't ask her anymore. But Mara's powers were like opiates, her visions like dreams, addicting.
"Please Mara," I begged, like a child impatiently tugging at an adult, "Take me somewhere tonight."
Mara wrapped her blanket around her limp shoulders, her white, dead eyes reflecting the flickering red of the light of our slowly dying road flare.
"The war?" she asked, her voice emotionless now.
"No. Not tonight. Show me something different. Years from now. Show me your home again if you want."
I didn't want to see anymore of the war, but Mara was fixed on it most of the time, showing me the hellish white flash that had robbed her of her sight, both physically and mentally. The war had made Mara a transmitter of picture she could not see, and for reasons I never knew or questioned, the war had made me Mara's receiver.
"Do you promise to tell me about it afterwards?" she asked, knowing well that our two-way link was always strictly a one -way proposition.
"I always do," I said , impatiently, and lying through my clenched teeth.
"Then let's start," she said reluctantly. "I'll show you what I can."
The ritual began. We discarded our blankets sand sat facing each other on the cold sand of the desert. After a suspended moment of silence, Mara took my right hand in hers, and gently guided it to her forehead. I closed my eyes. What followed then was an absolute blackness, a void of a duration I could not calculate. At first all I could see was a matrix of shifting colors that blocked any images. It was psychic static,a neon veil draped over the images as Mara's reception fine-tuned.
Then the pictures came. At first blurred and and vague, they began to sharpen. Mara's hold of my hand now became a tight grip.I was seeing a stretch of coastline in California. Mara always talked of California; it was her Mecca. When we linked the pictures she showed me were repulsive. I had seen the broken shards of glass and industrial detritus. She had showed me the blackened earth that had been fertile agricultural land. But I never told Mara what I saw. I conjured up images of my own instead, dreams of magnificent golden cities shining in the sun.
This link was different the picture became sharper then ever now, and these were not pictures from the past. Mara was showing me for the future for the first time. No rubble, no sickly grey clouds promising slow death. Instead, the bright sunlight played on the blue ocean. A building of amazing design stood in the foreground, a massive structure that I took to be a factory of some sort. The structure looked sentient, its facade an elaborate network of gleaming steel pipes that looked like human intestines. At the base of the factory, Mara was showing me something I'd never seen in a link.
I could see man in pristine white, some standing some circling the factory in cart -like vehicles. Two men stood engaged in animated conversation, pausing every few seconds, jotting down notes on clipboards. Christ , how I wanted Mara to see this! Her beloved California was no longer a cancerous wasteland. There was color and sun now. And people. There was a future.
Pull me out now, Mara..I must tell you what you have shown me...pull me out now......
Suddenly everything in the image began to change, and Mara's grip on my hand was crushing. From inside the gleaming arteries of the factory came a flashing red light, a warning. The men in white scurried from their carts and began running, their faces ashen. Black smoke now billowed from the factory's viscera, and in seconds, the sun was completely blotted out in the sky. The factory now looked like a malevolent, heaving monster, a grotesque Tower Of Babel. The ground rumbled and the factory rattled like a child's toy. The Earth cracked, and flames streamed from widening fissures in the ground. An explosion from within then spewed debris miles into the air that fell like obscene metallic rainfall on the ground.
Now I was glad that Mara had been spared her own vision. In the past I thought that if I told her what she really showed me, it might not be too rough on her; after all, she knew about the war, and understood it. But to tell her of a possible future being tossed away in the name of progress might break whatever spirit that was left in her.
Pull me out now, Mara...please...pull me out now...
The pictures vanished and the matrix returned. I wondered about this vision. Was this just a psychic nightmare? . The matrix cleared, and I slowly opened my eyes. Mara sat before me in the sold grey morning light, her body stiff and motionless. Only the thinnest layer of flesh covered her face now, and twin streams of dried blood and tears ran from her now empty eye sockets, congealing with the cold sand. On the charred patch where our flare had smoldered and burned out, Mara had left me a message, scrawled by hand.
I held Mara's body until the nest nightfall. I cried until it was impossible to cry anymore. I gently wrapped her body in her blanket, and set it aflame with the remaining flares.
I did not wait for Mara's body to turn to ash.As I moved on, the red light of the funeral pyre became a distant glow behind me. A swift wind kicked up, blowing west.
I headed south.
About the writer in his own words:
"I am a writer living in California. I have been a published poet and music critic, and my fiction can currently be seen at PIF (dimax.com) and Pauper (pauper.com)"
Nick can be e-mailed at: email@example.com
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