Of Thorns and Lightning

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Oh Captain, My Captain

“Welcome back, chosen one! Wow, you look like shit!”

♦️

William Townsend sat across from Maize in the quiet of her room. He sat at her desk chair while she sat on her bed, dabbing the rest of the blood off her face.

“Tell me what happened, Maize.” He began generally.

“I was talking with Peter in my room and then all of a sudden I fell and had this vision, this nightmare of something terrible happening. I can’t really remember it all that well, but there was blood and there were bullets, and I don’t know if that means I’m going to hurt anybody.”

“Okay. I’m thinking that the nosebleed was the predecessor to you collapsing, so we’ll keep an eye on you. If you can remember them when you wake up, let’s keep track of what you see. So, you passed out and had a vision, that could mean a lot of things for your powers, but you’re going to be fine. We’ll figure it out, Maize. Don’t you worry. Get some rest for now.”

Maize nodded, and William rose from her desk chair and left the room. She sat on her bed for a few more moments before looking around, analyzing her grayscale room. She glanced over at her bags by the door, and she fully realized that this was exactly where and who she was supposed to be. She accepted that she would be here for a while, and took out her first decoration.

She put her teal and magenta floral throw pillows on her bed, giving a splash of color to her white pillows and gray bedspread. She tucked her green Vera Bradley blanket at the end of the bed, as well as made a home for her stuffed dog among the pillows. She plugged her phone charger into the wall and her phone onto her home before turning on the lights in her room that made it brighter. Her closet was already full of clothes that had been provided to her, and they were perfect. There were tie back sun dresses, jeans, blouses and sweaters as well as training clothes and a few pairs of new shoes.

She put some of her framed pictures of her and her friends and family on her charcoal desk, and she put her succulents on the windowsill. As the afternoon sun came streaming through the windows, she looked around and realized that this place wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Meanwhile, Meaghan was in the other room without realizing Maize had returned, which made for two surprise visitors that day. Meaghan was getting ready to have her first meeting with Dike as part of the program where each God would mentor and train their legacy. She was nervous to have a one-to-one meeting with the actual Dike. Anyone would feel small in his presence, and Meaghan’s heart was racing since he was her icon, and she was training to be him. Then, she understood how overwhelmed Maize was earlier. The sudden knock at her door startled her, and she turned around to see who was at her door.

It was Talia Townsend.

“Hey, Meaghan!” She said a little too sweetly, with a hint of malice laced in her voice that Meaghan identified immediately.

“Hi, Talia.” She responded.

“Listen, I know you’re about to head off to your first meeting with Dike, so I won’t hold you up for too long, but I wanted to make one thing extremely clear.” She introduced, her sweetness fading to sharpness like Meaghan had expected.

“Yeah, what’s that?” She responded, getting defensive. She crossed her arms and shifted her weight to her left hip, ready for a standoff with Thoth’s daughter..

“You and all the other initiates might think you know everything, but I’m telling you now, don’t you even try to get cocky. I run this place. This is my territory. If you think I’m here for the sake of the team, you’re badly mistaken, Meaghan. Just know that I can and will take you down, no stress on my part, without even thinking. Don’t stand in my way, Meaghan, because you’ll just get shot down and I don’t give a shit. I know everything that goes on in this place. I’m always watching and listening, Meaghan. You have no secrets that I don’t know. So, have a nice meeting with Dike, darling. Watch your back.”

“Not for long, Talia. If you think you’re in charge, you won’t be for long.” Meaghan responded, keeping her glare locked on Talia as she walked away, leaving Meaghan rattled.

It was a power move from Talia. Almost like a form of subtle sabotage, trying to scare her before the biggest meeting she’s had this entire year, nevertheless.

She grabbed her ID card and her phone, exiting her room and walking down the hall towards the elevator. She was instructed to meet Dike on the top floor deck that had a glass floor that overlooked the entire compound and the hundreds of acres it was sitting on. She wrung her hands together as the elevator rose, then it stopped and chimed when they reached the top floor. When the doors opened, Dike was revealed to her. Her heart jumped a little as he noticed her as she walked out of the elevator, through the room and over to the double doors that opened up to the balcony. She stopped just before stepping out, taking a deep breath and then greeting him gently.

“Hi, um, Dike,” She said timidly. He turned around upon hearing her voice with a broad and welcoming smile, and suddenly she wasn’t so nervous anymore. He had that immediate soothing quality about him; he didn’t have to say or do anything; his presence was enough to calm even the most restless soul.

“Hi, Meaghan! It’s so great to finally meet you, other than the brief introduction a few days ago. I’ve read all about you and it’s an honor to meet you, you have an impeccable record of service, Meaghan.” He complimented.

Dike just told her it was an honor to meet her. This felt like a dream come true to her. Maybe a fantasy once, but that was only once.

“I don’t even know where this all starts, how to mentor, to be honest.” He admitted.

“That’s okay, I don’t know what I’m doing, either.” She supported with a chuckle. She invited her to stand at the railing next to her and gaze out on the beautiful, dense forest before them.

“If there’s any one rule in this job, I would put all my faith in using your judgement and your morals. Most times, your morals will guide you and it’s easy to see what’s wrong and what’s right, and how you can help people and not hurt them. Sometimes the line between right and wrong isn’t clear, but you have to trust yourself and stand your ground for what is right, Meaghan. I trust you’ll continue to do that, since you’ve done it for the majority of your life. Though I eventually won’t be a God at some point in time and you’ll assume my role, I’ll always be here to guide you.” He continued, placing his hand on top of Meaghan’s on the railing. Meaghan knew that everything would be alright. With Dike, she had no worries.

After her mentoring session, she took the elevator back down to her room so she could relax before dinner; Jordie was making one of his pre-hockey game meals and it was a surprise to everybody, though it was bound to be good. She was looking down at her phone, scrolling through her Twitter feed and accidentally ran into someone in the hall on her way down to her room.

“Oh, god, I’m sorry!” She quickly apologized before realizing it was Maize.

“Maize! When did you get back!? Oh, you have no idea how glad I am to see you!” She exclaimed since no one had informed her of Maize’s return.

“I came back just a little while ago, and I’m staying for good this time.” Maize answered.

“I was worried sick, Maize, especially because you wouldn’t answer your phone!”

“I just needed a few days for all of this to make sense. I had to dig a little, but I found out a lot more about myself and my parents that weren’t in the files William gave to me. I understand now.”

“Well, I’m glad. I didn’t get any sleep because I was so worried that you’d never come back, and I’d never hear from you again.”

“Yeah, that kind of wasn’t going to happen. William said he would find someone else, but I knew there wasn’t anyone else and I accepted it. This place isn’t so bad, actually. I tossed some pillows on my bed and got a plant in there, and I could make this place like home.”

“You look awful, babe! I’m sorry, but you look like a trash bag. A diamond encrusted trash bag, but you can’t shine shit, honey.”

“I didn’t get any sleep, I had to visit my dad and I ran out of dry shampoo. Sue me.” She explained.

“Go take a shower, take your time, then I’ll get you a plate at dinner and save you a spot at a table with me.” Meaghan reassured, Maize following her request.

Each room had a small bathroom attached to it, rather than having most college-style living situations with a communal bathroom. For that, Maize was grateful. She walked into her bedroom and entered the bathroom, closing the door behind her and locking it before flipping the switch for the fan. She turned on the water which became warm immediately, and she finally got a thorough shower to wash her hair and her body. Shampooing her hair was cathartic; she immediately felt better once it lathered up. She washed her face and body, then stepped out of the shower and moisturized after spraying a leave-in conditioner in her hair. She dried off and walked over to her closet, choosing a paisley sundress, a navy cardigan and Sperry shoes before tying her long, damp hair into a loose bun with a scrunchy. She slipped her phone into the pocket of her cardigan, her ID card in the silicone sleeve on the back of her phone case, and she left her room to go get dinner.

In the kitchen area, the setup was similar to a cafe. There was a separate room with an enormous dining table, but in the main area there were tables with abstract chairs around them that could easily be rearranged. She spotted Meaghan sitting in a table against the set of floor-to-ceiling windows as the sun began to set. She smiled friendly to the other initiates she passed as well as eyed up the food on the counter before sitting at the table with Meaghan. She had made her up a plate of grilled chicken, oil and garlic spaghetti and green beans. She looked over and Jordie was indeed in the kitchen, shirtless and wearing a custom apron with bottles of different spices in the front pocket. Maize and Meaghan knew he was in his element.

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m alright, I feel much better after showering, though my head still does hurt.”

“Did you hit it or something?”

“No, I had this weird vision and a really bad nosebleed, and I think that’s the cause. William said we’d figure it out, so that’s all I have to go off of. I’m sure I’ll be fine, though.” She brushed off.

“Well, it’s good to have you back. I know I couldn’t do this alone, without you, in a million years. Especially because I think we’re going to run into a little bit of trouble with Talia.”

“What, did something happen?” She asked, taking a bite of chicken.

“Yeah, I’ll tell you later. She’s staring at me from across the room.” Meaghan said, hushed. Maize felt her head throb again and as she turned to look at Talia she felt a warmth on her face that turned out to be blood. She lost consciousness for barely two seconds, but she caught herself as she slipped out of her chair, bringing herself back. She wiped the blood with the back of her hand and continued up her arm, a touch confused.

“Whoa, are you okay, babe?” Meaghan asked, leaning over the table to assist Maize. She nodded but got up, her surroundings a little fuzzy. She passed all the other initiates and became aware that they all were now staring at her, but still she soldiered on her path and made it back to her room on her own.

She collapsed on the bed, resting in one position trying to make her headache go away. As she was recovering she couldn’t help but think, though it sounded crazy, that it was partly because of Talia. And she was determined to find out why.

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