“Sing slowly as the river wanes. Speak softly as the stars slumber, for we dare not wake them. Express with care as the tides are shifting, because they are fickle and foolish.”
We used to stray, and we used to wander. It seemed like neither of us really knew where we were going. We spent hours upon hours endlessly exploring. Crossing the old paths from days before, we finally recognized that we were traveling in circles. Yet though we were purely lost, we felt no fear. We kept our hearts strong, but our emotions even stronger. Until we found the waterfall, and that day I will always remember.
I sat among the rocks and began counting and remembering every scar and scrape. Placing and labeling each wound on the map. I tried to think of a time when I knew which direction my life was headed. However, those memories seem far too distant to encounter again. It is just another day without them, another day alone. I have begun to wonder when I would see them again, when I would feel that connection. Nevertheless, I cannot look back now, they are long gone, and I must press against the wind.
The six of us were a living thing. Each of us came from separate but perfectly unifying backgrounds and each of us possessed very particular abilities. Though we each had these binding ties, we were nothing alike at the time. Our scars were the only thing really keeping us together. We were powerless without the other. Until the day, the swing caught us, and the winds of change altered our perceptions of the other.
I remember Laura Mae, the angel of angels. Laura, whose nickname soon became L&M after really getting to know her. She was a wanderer from the West Coast. Yet nothing about her really seemed American. She moved to Chicago after her parents discovered her getting too deep into the “scene” of Seattle, whatever that means. She never really talked about it. But the few moments she spoke about it, she seemed rather broken. As if her soul was still there, though I guess we are all broken in that aspect.
Now the thing to understand about L&M is that she’s considered the chameleon back home. She showed us pictures of every type of social group you can imagine. She was a part of them all. She knew someone, in every city. She was quite literally a social genius. So why she came to cling to us is purely beyond me.
L&M loved to change herself, loved to shift and loved to remain a mystery. She spoke in accents from places she’d never been. And had an innate ability to see into your heart, and help fix your wounds. Too bad, it never worked on me. I would have loved one of her therapy sessions to actually work.
When she told us the story of how she recognized this “ability”, the rest of us felt that light bulb sort of activate. And we all began telling our stories. But hers has always stuck with me. I can still feel the warmth of her around me at night. It was as if she radiated, she attracted us.
Then there was Mac. The first person I have encountered on this little journey of mine. Now Mac was your classic Jock in high school. Well, if classic Jock applied to Men’s Volleyball. Does it? It’s a sport right? Mac was a pretty quick dude. He could close any gap with his speed. Sort of like a lion chasing a gazelle. Mac grew up in Florida, moved to Chicago after he earned a scholarship because of his constant A’s through all of his years in school.
The way Mac tells it, he never wanted to move to Chi-town. He never wanted to leave Florida. He had plans to marry his HS Sweetheart Santé. Obviously, Mac is so far living up to the old school tragic jock story. But this is where it gets interesting.
Mac was in a car accident before his first day in college. His 07 royal blue Mustang happened to get broadsided by a city bus. Fucked up right? Apparently, the bus was trying to avoid a jogger who fell into the street because he didn’t tie his shoes. (Lesson to the kids). Mac’s Mustang literally turned into a metal coffin. The bus met the Mustang; the mustang met a telephone pole. Telephone collapses, and leaves Mac with a steering wheel pinned to his knees, with his hands inside the steering wheel as well. Pretty gruesome stuff, but he didn’t flinch one bit when he told me this.
After spending months in the hospital, Mac walks out on his own two feet. He either was a medical miracle or had some insane luck. I like to think it is a mix of the two. But that’s just my opinion.
Mac is the living breathing personification of “I shouldn’t be alive”. He has been hit by cars, fallen off ladders, you name it and he has not been hurt by it. Until I punched him and broke his nose.
Enough about miracles for a moment. Let’s turn the focus on Scary. No, that’s not her real name, her real name is Memphis. But Scary wasn’t born in Memphis. She’s originally from Maine. No idea where, she never said. Nor do I know how exactly she came to be in Chicago. But I do know that she was one of the nurses who watched Mac walk out of the hospital.
I know what you’re thinking. This group can’t possibly all be related to Mac’s accident. It just doesn’t make any sense right? Wrong. If it hadn’t of been for Mac’s accident, I wouldn’t have been stuck in traffic trying to get to the hospital for an IT position interview. Scary wouldn’t have been hired at the hospital, because the person who should have gotten her job tripped on her shoe laces and caused the accident and twisting her ankle in the process. And L&M wouldn’t have been taking photographs of an accident that hadn’t happened.
You’ll see how the other strings connect, as the story goes on. But for now, let’s just talk more about Scary.
Now the reason I call her scary, is because she’s a pretty intimidating girl. She’s not too tall, but she’s got a voice that would scare the pants of Zeus in a second. This fiery little redhead packs a pretty mean kick too; she literally kicks like a kangaroo. It’s pretty damn painful.
Scary is not the person to piss off. She’s like our little guardian demon. Though I’d give anything right now to watch her and Mac wrestle and see who’s stronger. That shit is hilarious.
Oh! I almost forgot about Cole. Cole kept us calm all of us, even Scary. Cole could diffuse any situation, no matter how tense. Even when he thought Mac and Scary were getting too into their pissing contests. Still, that shit is hilarious. I met Cole two weeks after the accident. Fourteen days after I say that gorgeous mustang become a death trap. Now Cole isn’t the person you’d expect to be a natural smooth talker. He’s an acne ridden geek, with a huge inferiority complex. But when he turns on parent mode. Everyone listens.
While returning to my normal morning routine, traffic, coffee, traffic, endless crosswalks. Cole interrupted my cycle of routines. He bumped into me, and spilled my coffee all over my pants. Scolding hot coffee flavored sugar milk, all over my crotch. NOT a good morning. Considering the circumstances, I’m quite surprised I didn’t knock this kid’s block off. I know I wanted to. Though I’m sure the fiery coffee crotch kept me distracted pretty well.
Cole didn’t interview me that day, because he himself was stuck in traffic. He was traveling east, as I was traveling west. Just like we were when he spilled my coffee. You sensing the swing now?
And then there’s me. My nickname is Ink, but my real name is Isaac. They call me ink because I always have an ink stain on my hands or my pants. I’m always writing. Though it’s never something I’m supposed to be working on at the time. I’m always writing something.
But I’ve got to admit. I’ve never thought any of this was strange. None of it. The accident. The unbreakable man. The angel. The demon. Not even the soothsayer. Because I’ve written it all. I’m the author of this group’s story. I know the twists, turns, plots, and shifts. And I don’t mean author as in “you reading this after I’ve written it. “ I mean author as in “me writing the future and never sharing until it’s already passed.” I know that seems kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. But humor me.
If you knew one of your closest friends would abandon you, because of some choice they made that would help them out in the long run, would you tell them? Would you tell them the greatest mistake they’d ever make, would be finding their family? Would you tell them that within the next 48 hours one of them would die, and that one death would cause millions? Would you? I thought not. So this is the story of us. The Swing. The change in the world that started with six people. I know, you only know of five people.
There’s a reason for that. There’s a reason for everything. There’s a reason why Mac’s bones heal 20% faster than normal humans. There’s a reason why Scary’s family put her up for adoption. There’s a reason why L&M has an obsession with religion. There’s even a reason why my dreams are purely in words. But we’ll get to all of that. Let’s just get back to the story.
Now in most religious Genesis stories, there are six days of creation. Where the maker of the world rests on the seventh. Well, our Genesis story is an extended cut. It took six weeks for all of us to come together. For the synapses to fire. For every single proximity mine to explode. For Raye to finally find us, or for us to find her. I’m not exactly sure about that yet.
Six weeks for the group to come together. And through those six weeks, one of us nearly died. One of us was just cut short of a big break. One of us lost everything. One of us found something special. One of us lost themselves, and one of us became lost in the dark.
You would think six people directly connection to one major event would have an easier time finding each other in this world? This world of instant information. Instant coffee, instant light, instant food. Nearly instant at least. But this is life. Complicated, corroded, convincingly sweet.
But the time passed, and the bridges were made. It’s not something easy to explain though. There were reasons for the delay. Reasons I don’t think you’re ready to hear yet. Sort of over simplification of what could be a grand tale. Without the excess bells and whistles of a fairy tell though. Fairy tales are bullshit.
They called us monsters once. They brought the cliche pitch forks and shotguns. The mobs of the angry and the clans of the useless, every single one of them followed us. This was of course after what happened in Rochelle, IL. Before the pranks and tests of mettle got out of hand, before we let Mac get into our heads. Mac was secretly a hot head. He always loved to prove that he was top dog, especially since we nicknamed him “the dump truck”.
Mac had a thing for trying to recreate his accident. Only, it was never him who played the victim anymore. Though by the time we caught up to him, he’d been long gone of course. That’s when we met Raye. Who could see what wasn’t there. The spirits of those left tethered to this world from rather “unfortunate” accidents. A kin to those Mac himself was creating. See thing you have to realize about Raye is... You don’t mess with an Asian woman with an eye patch. You just don’t. That’s just illegal on so many levels. But Mac loved to test any limit. Dump Truck, loved to cause a scene.
Wait. Let’s back up a little bit. Some back story on dear creepy ole’ Ghost Eye. Raye’s from California. Specifically she came from Apple Valley, California. Her grandparents moved to California from New Jersey back in the 50’s. For god knows what reason. And Raye’s father Tikozu had a thing for cars. Picture an Asian version of Rambo, yeah that’s Raye’s father. Raye is short for Rayounnu, her mother’s name. But we won’t go that far back. A lot of names, a lot of information but I just needed to say that.
On this specific afternoon, Raye was watching her father tinker with an engine in the garage. She also had a love for playing peek-a-boo, and hide and seek. You see where this is going? Raye’s left eye didn’t. Raye snuck up behind her father and screamed “BOO!” Now being the jumpy muscle bound Asian fellow that he was, there’s nothing like a swift right hook with a spark plug to set someone’s clock straight. But sweet 16 year old Raye didn’t find this game of peek-a-boo so pleasant.
So not only does Raye now have the ability to see and communicate with spirits, she also fights like a fucking samurai. Once again, you do NOT piss off an Asian woman with an eye patch. For future record!
OK, back to Dump Truck. You know how people always tell you to look both ways before crossing the street? Well, make sure you press the crosswalk button as well. Better yet, just stay off the streets. Dump Truck used his speed and his steel like bones, to cause as much havoc as possible. Shit got serious quick. None of us could catch him, or even hope to stop him after a while.
That is, until we caught up to him in Rochelle, IL. We were about six hours behind Mac, doing whatever we could to catch up to him. Though it wasn’t much with whiny Cole bitching up a storm, we were still trying. I kept wishing he would have crept into parent mode this whole time. But nope, apparently he only saved that for special occasions.
Once we got within visual distance of the city limits. We begin seeing helicopters. And not just normal everyday obnoxious news choppers. We start seeing fucking Apaches. Considering what the hell was going on, this was sort of a big deal. And they weren’t just hovering, they were chasing something. Something fast, something tough and it had to be Mac. It just had to be.
But it wasn’t. It was Raye. She was jumping rooftop to rooftop trying to stab helicopters. What kind of crazy shit was this? You have a guy the size of a tank running around the streets, and a chick samurai trying to stab helicopters. I just love my life.
You would think they would be trying to stop each other? Some sort of comic book style face off, right? Wrong. They were helping each other. Mac was throwing this bitch in the air, so she could cut people. More awesome right there and my day couldn’t get any worse. Or so I thought.
L&M decides it’s a good idea to get out of the car, and run. Why the hell would you get out of a car and run. She doesn’t run to anywhere in particular, just starts running. She was pretty much track meet running, ridiculous right? Before I could even tell Cole and Scary to stay put, they’re off chasing L&M. And this is where it all goes to shit.
So to recap the current situation, we have a psycho samurai stabbing helicopters. Just picture a former all-star athlete who’s nearly invincible, terrorizing the streets and helping a crazy one eyed chick. We also have a red haired (who could possibly be an actual demon) anger monger, chasing a geek, who’s chasing a wannabe monk. OK, now that that’s figured out.
All of this comes to a crashing halt when Scary picks up a megaphone. You guessed it, she screams the most blood curdling scream your bones will ever chill to. Everything stops. Except for the Apaches trying to blow the block up at least, yeah they keep shooting. Cole snaps the megaphone and finally snaps into parent mode and says:
“If you dumb shits don’t get down here, so we can get the fuck away. I’ll leave you both here to get shot and die. And for the love of god Mac, zip your pants. We don’t want to see your goal post. Hey crazy bitch, that means you too. Get down here. “
So Mac finally settles down. And drudges his way over to us, like a beaten puppy returning to his dog house. I look at Mac, square in the eyes. And punch him square in the face.
“Hey Dump Truck, your face is bleeding.” I say.
“Wait, what? “ He says with utter confusing
“Wait since when can I fucking bleed? This is bullshit! And why didn’t that hurt? Oh what the hell. Fuck you Isaac.”
I admit. I’m pretty proud of myself for that. I made the steel man bleed. Well, I wasn’t celebrating for too long. Raye decided to blindside me and smack me with the hilt of her sword. God, I can still feel that hilt six years later. Yeah, you read that right. This happened six years ago. But we’ll get there as well.
From what Cole and Scary told me. We had to move, and we had to move fast. Raye and Mac gathered a lot of unwanted attention. From a shit ton of people, but they were just glad it was getting dark. It’s a lot easier to hide from people who want you dead, when they can’t see you.
So we high tail it out of the city. Literally hot wiring any car we could get our hands on. Well, a car that could handle the load at least. A group of five became a group of six. And one unconscious person doesn’t make traveling any easier, Y’know? I still can’t believe she smacked me with a hilt. Really? She couldn’t punch me, or ninja kick me. That’s like being slapped with a pool toy in the desert. That’s just wrong.
Anyway, we managed to somehow slip away for about 12 hours. Either we slipped away, or they (meaning everyone who Mac and Raye pissed off) needed time to regroup. I pick option A, helps me sleep at night.
By some weird stroke of luck, we found a barn. Not like your typical nice barn, with hay everywhere. And crates that were sturdy enough to bang on. This barn looked like it went through seven rounds of the zombie apocalypse. It really wasn’t fun. And I’m pretty sure we all got tetanus, but I digress.
It was enough for us to at least rest up. And try to knock some sense into Mac. And figure out where the hell Raye came from. And why she was so dead set on stabbing things. And most importantly, why she decided smacking me with her damn hilt was necessary.
After things settled, and Mac finally calmed down. Raye told us a story. A rather long story about how her father was pretty deep in government business. How her father began putting his nose where it really did not belong. This is where I realized that things were changing. The rules had changed. We’re no longer special. We were a project from the start.
Things were just winding up until we all collided. And then Raye pulled a few pages freshly torn from a binder, out of her knapsack. At the point, we still knew next to nothing about this girl. And now she’s pulling out “Classified” information from her bag? C’mon, this shit is getting ridiculous.
The pages were labeled “Operation Meltdown”. And after reading these pages, I knew in my core that we were in deep shit.
The pages read.
“However futile it is at decaying this rapid progression of our regression, still we fight. Still we fight to be remembered. Still we yearn on to force our impact upon this lifetime. Even going to the ends of space for this “mankind” seems silly in the long run. Though whatever we believe to be fact today may just as easily be proven to be a lie tomorrow. This is our humanity. This is our undermining, and self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is not the time passing, which sends that chill up our spines. It is our body’s recognition of death that freezes our core. The waking world which is only a reflection of light upon our eyes is only a skewed version of the reality that we have not yet begun to recognize.
We strive for glory and perfection. We strive for all things to be covered in gold and made from the stars. Yet nothing short of immaculate will ever soothe our ever aching stomachs. Will we ever have enough? Will our appetite for this endless hunger ever cease to exist?
They say this world is doomed. I welcome it. I welcome the destruction of all the material things we have come to be addicted to. I welcome the raging seas, and I hearken to the shifting winds. The buildings and the effigies, I hope they crumble. The systems which have bound us by our souls, I dearly pray they soon implode.
The secrets which are being hidden before our very eyes, I dearly pray are soon revealed. For when they do, when the library of these sins, are finally exposed I shall sit beneath the freezing rain and accept all of my futility. This life, this fickle life will rinse and repeat without yes. How dare we think we can change this?
Our strength and our determining factors are becoming the lost art of consciousness. For fighting within these years, bears only bloodshed. Resisting those forces that choose to ignore our utilities causes us only to allow our tools to rust. For this fight will always be ours. This is a fight for life. This is our fight. For our everlasting resistance, against death. Although it is futile still we press on. “
Once Cole finished reading the pages, all we could do was sit at stare at each other. Wondering what we were really involved in. What could have possible set this into motion? Having no words to really say to each other, we sat in silence.
And then Raye stood up. She looked at all of us at one time. Kind of freaky if you ask me, she only had one eye, but she still managed to pull this off. And then as if to give us some sort of moral boosting speech, she said this.
“My father wrote this. He never wanted anything bad to happen to me. He always tried to protect me. So when the military came, he didn’t resist at all. After they escorted him to truck waiting outside, soldiers began pouring into my house. Looking for what I assume are these pages. They made him out to be some sort of terrorist. Some kind of country hating villain. He was a military man, who saw too many strings being pulled from what mom told me. So when he spoke out, they silenced him. So when you douche bags stopped me in Rochelle, you just pulled your own number. And now you have to help me. Unless you want “Operation Meltdown” to really break apart.”
Scary looks and Raye utterly confused and asks:
“So, if operation meltdown is about freedom. Why are we fighting?”
Without missing a single beat, Raye replies:
“You don’t understand do you? They don’t want us, with abilities running free. They want us contained, test subjects. They want us to fuel their weapons research. They want us to be their guinea pigs. That’s why we’re fighting. So my dad can eventually come home, even if it’s in a box.”
This is when I figured out, that I wasn’t just running for myself. I was running for these other five people. I was fighting to keep us alive. I was trying to save the few parts of myself that could actually care. I was fighting for my salvation.
I’m going to regress a little here, and talk about myself. As you know, my name is Isaac, and I’m a writer. I’ve always been fascinated by language. Not just written language, by all language. The way the body speaks without saying a word. The way the mouth and vocal structures can say a single word, but mean it in millions of ways. Language as a whole is truly a wonderful thing.
I began writing as a child. Though my writing then was a far cry to my writing now. My stories or tales were basically revolving around candy and cartoons. But as I grew older, I began to realize that even those fairy tales about the boy getting the lollipop, were different words telling the same story. About the person ( x ) achieving the goal ( y ). It’s all relative. And then the dreams started. With all of the many dreams of fires and angels. And the frightening dreams of demons and oceans. I remember dreams I’ve had, coming to life within weeks of having them. Or pieces of writing I’d finished, becoming scripts of days I’d yet to live. That’s when I knew my life would be something greater.
I’m not saying I’m some sort of god send or to say some sort of prophet. But it’s worth mentioning. To let you know where all of this began. You see, there are people like me who write the actions. And there are people like Mac, Raye, Scary, and L&M, who live out the actions. So whenever we were lost or had no idea where to go, I would always find the time to write. And then our journey continued. But this is also what caused the separation.
I’d come to terms with this nagging ability years ago. I’ve come to learn that there are always inaccuracies somewhere. That nothing is bound to the ink I use. But then there are the occasions where a single phrase spoken in a makeshift philosophical debate, spark an image in my mind. And I instantly connect it with a piece of work. That’s when I always know we’re on the right path. That’s when I know, we’re not lost.
But people like Scary, and Raye, could never accept that they were only playing parts in the grander show. They could never understand that I knew things that they were not allowed to. They didn’t know how to deal with the fact that I knew their future, or how I knew that not everyone in this group would walk away alive. I guess I should have told them. Or at least told them who would walk away unscathed, I suppose that would have helped things. But I could be wrong, I’m not ALWAYS right. But then again, I have a decently high accuracy rating.
So let’s get back to the story shall we?
So after Raye’s speech, we were all pretty much left speechless. We were left to wonder about everything. The day that had just passed, and the years that eventually brought us together. It wasn’t until Mac collapsed, that any of us moved a muscle. And then Scary collapsed, followed by L&M, and finally Raye. All of them fell where they were standing. And I was left there, for what seems like hours. Then my hands began burning. My head began to spin, and my vision began to blur.
It felt as if I had been dipped in lava and thrown down a flight of stairs. I didn’t want to move, I didn’t want to open my eyes. I didn’t want to do anything, but write. But I couldn’t see a thing; I couldn’t even gather the strength to get off of my knees.
During this physical breakdown of sorts, there was a voice in my head. Over and over it repeated itself. Like a broken CD stuck on repeat. I heard the same sentences in different voices. As if a crowd of people where chanting through a megaphone.
“Keep them focused on their paths, keep them sharp. Do not let them stray, this is what you are made for.”
I woke up with the group standing above me, looking as if they’d seen a ghost. I not only woke up days later. But the word “choose” had been carved into my left forearm, and the word “fate” had been carved into my right forearm.
“Choose fate.” There’s nothing like waking up a bloody mess, huh? There’s nothing like waking up with your own flesh hanging out of your fingernails. And there’s especially nothing like an angry ginger screaming at you to wake up. God, that girl is scary.
So after finally gaining my bearings, which was no easy task! We try to figure out why the mass blackout happened. Each of us had a separate, but similar story. It seems our different abilities had been amplified for some reason. Not like Mac or Raye really needed that. Considering what just happened in the city.
Though, one of these stories is vastly more intriguing than my own. For the sake of a brighter light, I’m going to call Scary by her actual name to tell her story. Memphis, did you forget?
Here’s how Memphis tell is.
“I remember being in a room full of people. They were dressed like it was twenties. Elise was playing in the background. It seemed like a trial actually. There was a man standing in front of me with a gavel. And he started telling me of all the things I’ve ever done wrong. Even stealing candy from my brother when I was a kid. I had forgotten about that. He told me that this was my last chance to do something good. That all I’d ever done was for myself, and that I was a selfish brat.
He told me that I needed to right the many wrongs I’d committed, or I’d end up destroyed by my own darkness. And then he dropped his gavel, turned around, and walked away. The people that circled around the room simply vanished. And the room became dark. The only thing I could see was the judge’s gavel, it was hovering over the floor. It looked like it was pure electricity, and when I tried to touch it. I woke up. And I woke up with an aching and burning pain in my throat. But it’s gone now, now that I’ve told you guys what I saw. “
We’d all seen a judge in our dreams. The same electrified gavel. The same kind of pain but in different parts of our body, and we’d all been judged in our dreams. We were all being tried because of our past. But it seems for the moment we’d been given a stay of execution. Some sort of reprieve. Mac’s bones now had a faint red glow to them; I guess this is why he decided to wear hoodies and pants all the time. Raye could see our doubts and our deepest fears. I’m assuming in her head, but I never asked. I never wanted to get hilt slapped again. Memphis, could speak in any language. I guess this should have been a tip off, people having religious experiences are known to speak in tongues. So, that freaked me out a little at the time. Still gives me chills thinking about it.
And then there was Cole, the meek one. He seemed more confident, his posture straightened and everything. He just seemed, different. He told us the judge made him stand. He said that whenever he would look down or try to fix his glasses, the judge would smack him with the gavel. Cole said the judge forced him to walk to his podium. Whenever he would begin to slouch, one of the people in the shadows would kick out his knees. And if he fell or slipped, he would have to start over again. I guess the judge was trying to fix our faults. Or he was simply trying to weigh our resolve. In any case, Cole seemed the most tortured.
Though my dream still had the judge and “jury of peers”, it was a little different. In my dream, I was typing on one of those little typewriters you see in court dramas. And Raye, Cole, Memphis, L&M and Mac, were giving speeches. Not normal speeches at least. They were each taking turns saying a line. I remember every line. I remember how after every line, each of them would walk a little closer to the judge. As if they were waiting for their sentence. They were all walking in a line. Not even their clothing was out of line. Everything seemed right where it should be. Right down to our finger nails. We were all groomed, made up, and dressed. Someone put a lot of thought into these visions. A little too much if you ask me.
These were the lines said by each of them.