The interior of the tower was more ornate than I expected. Thick red and blue tapestries hung from long wooden poles. Massive stone benches were grouped along the sides of the wide room leaving a center walkway to a fireplace on the back wall.
Tattered flags from forgotten rulers dangled haphazardly from a large shelf along the entry wall although there was no obvious doorway to be seen. I tried to map my surroundings quickly as this image seemed to be the true state of his home.
Lirot stood far across the room from me leaning on the hearth of an at least twelve-foot tall fireplace. The flames were unruly and looked to have spilled out onto the charred stone floor many times before. His wings were tucked away and he appeared to be trying to hide in the shadows of the room.
“Stay where you are. This fire won’t warm you. You’re not really cold or tired but I am. After a few minutes of rest, I can transform this place into something more suitable for you.”
“Are you hurt?” I asked walking towards him.
He raised his arm into the light and opened his weathered claw-like hand wide. “It’s nothing you need be concerned with.”
“This place seems pretty real to me. I can feel small stones on the floor under my feet and it’s cold.”
“Hmm, your brain is not suited to these encounters. Think of a place where you have been very hot, like a hot beach in the baking sun.” I could see Lirot focus his thoughts and point his hand towards a shallow pit next to a large stone bench. “Sit there and wait a moment for me to recover.“A small campfire sprang to life on the floor at my feet.
With my eyes closed and my arms wrapped around my chest, I did my best to recall my last trip to Oahu. Getting off the plane and being hit by that hot, humid air as you walk down the stairs to the tarmac. The outdoor bar where I sat with my friends and drank with sweat rolling down my back. We waded into the ocean to rinse off only to dry completely on the short walk back to the resort.
The large room around me became quiet. I opened my eyes to find my campfire cold and Lirot was nowhere to be found. I snuck quietly to the fireplace at the back of the room and stood by the hot open flames. Drag marks in the dust on the floor led to a square doorway to the right of the fireplace. I tiptoed towards the doorway and found another pile of banners on the floor. I selected a velvety red mound of fabric from the bunch, ripped it from its wooden pole, shook it out, and wrapped it around my bare skin.
There was a sound like a tree branch in the wind scraping on a pane of glass. I didn’t want to go any further. I was asked to wait and I was warm enough here at the edge of the fires glow.
“Lirot, are you there?” In the perfect blackness of the open doorway, I saw a wide-set pair of purple, glowing eyes blink open, fall to the ground and slowly shut.
Before I could blink I traveled beyond the darkness of the room and had my hands on his thick, hot flesh. His skin felt like rubberized leather as I ran my small hands over his hulking muscles. I found a wet gash in his shoulder longer than my arm could reach across.
I placed my hands in what I assumed was the middle of his chest. “Let what power I have over this creature heal his wounds and restore his strength. I ask the universe to grant me this request for my highest good.” Nothing happened.
I couldn’t see anything in dark space. I rose to my feet and tightened my wrapped clothing under my arms. I could feel the thick pads of his fingers and the claws attached to them stroke the back of my leg.
“Patience is a virtue you have never possessed.” Lirot laughed and sputtered.
“I’m going to get some fire on a stick and look for something to sew up your wounds with.”
“No sewing, I have seen you try to attach a button, no thank you.”
“I can’t see your injuries and you are too heavy for me to drag into better light.”
“You are the light. Focus your thoughts with much less anger right here”, Lirot pulled me back to the floor and steadied my hand a few inches above his wound. “Say the words and melt the opening closed, don’t stop until you have made your way across the entire gash.”
I could feel his weakness. Frailty was not something I expected from him. His power over me had always been complete and final. His serious tone and the level of his wounds frightened me.
“Why were you hiding from me Lirot?”
“Hmm, I am weak and possibly beyond repair. I can lay here for hundreds of your linear years and might recover but If you wish to end me, now is your chance.”
“I've wondered something about you. I didn’t think I would ever get the opportunity to ask.”
“You can ask anything you like from me. I’m in no position to refuse your request.” Lirot took in a deep exaggerated breath. I could hear the liquid in his wounds protest.
“What are you? Are you a demon or a fallen angel or something else my kind has no name for yet?”
Lirot snickered and slid a leg across the floor. I could feel the bend in his wrist cover my hip and his heavy claws rest on my thigh. “I was not given a label or any instruction when I woke here. I have no memory before my first day in this tower. Others I’ve met look similar to me in various realms. Demon is such a broad term. Would you prefer an angel? I have wings but I don’t think that makes me one.”
“The ones who look similar to you, did they have anything to share with you about your origin?”
“Sharing is not something we do, killing yes but not so much sharing. One did show me how to possess a dog. My first successful jump was a brown, scraggly mutt.
I stared into the chaos for what seemed like forever and noticed some of the particles sparkled. A great time later I noticed some of the sparkles showed a flash of an image. It was one of those flashes that let me to you. I have learned many things but what I am not — is human.”
Lirot’s wounds were spilling out more liquid around the edges than before. “I’m afraid this light trick of mine will hurt you if I don’t do it right.”
“Oh, it will hurt a great deal either way but the light will seal my wounds shut.”
“Are you ready to try then?” I could hear Lirot situate his body on the stone floor. His claws lifted off my skin and scratched into the ground as he positioned himself to endure my special version of operation.
“Regardless of what you hear, don’t stop until my wound is sealed all the way across.” Lirot took several short, quick breaths. “Hit me!”
The noise that came from deep within his hulking mass was like nothing I have ever heard before. Deep pain mixed with the roar of a bear and the thunder of hell itself. I did as he asked and sealed the wound. After I finished he lay motionless on the stone floor. I could feel him breathe and hoped he would live long enough to get me back home.
I retreated to the fireplace and assembled several banners on the floor. My makeshift bed was dusty but comfortable and warm in front of the flames.
“Cat, Catherine you have to wake up. Your lips are blue wake up.” There wasn’t anything I could do. Without a solid form, I couldn’t shake her or warm-up space around her. I could however find help. The work crew left tools in the garage. I touched each one until I found energy I could use.
Joe, the main guy hired to clear the yards, his toolbox was covered with his energy. I used this energy tied to the toolbox to locate him sitting on his porch enjoying a sandwich and beer. I planted the idea that he left his extension cord and saws-all plugged in by the old greenhouse and it was close to a puddle of water.
As the wind picked up Joe couldn’t shake the idea of losing his tools. He wouldn’t be able to sleep until he knew for sure.
"That’s right come on buddy check out the house. You don’t want to lose a tool or cause any damage.” Joe put down his half beer and wrapped his sandwich in a napkin. A few minutes later he pulled into the driveway and noticed Cat’s car.
“Ma’am, Catherine?” Joe looked into the windows but didn’t see anyone moving around, then he saw the light peeking out from under the garage door.
"Go around to the door and look in the window,” I whispered to the confused man. Joe passed by where he thought he left his power tool and was relieved to not find it out in the elements.
When he got to the garage door Joe saw Catherine lying on the cement floor bundled up on the pile of towels. ”Maybe she’s dead or dying," I whispered. ”Break it down."
Joe slammed his shoulder against the door several times before it broke open. It was cold inside the garage and smelled like car exhaust from the street traffic. He opened the door to the back yard and carried Catherine to the newly installed deck, sat her down, and tried to rouse her. She was breathing but she wasn’t waking up.
“There’s somebody touching you, trying to wake you.” Lirot stood over me in front of the fireplace steadying himself on the mantel.
“Really, nobody knows where I am,” I explained.
“We need this. You won’t have to wait for me to recover enough to travel through the horde. You can wake up on your own.” Lirot winced as he rose his arms to the sky. He yelled a string of gibberish and I found myself on the back deck being patted on the face by my handyman.
“Mister Lopez, what are we doing out here?” I asked.
“Joe is fine Ma’am, I came by to check my tools. I thought I left one outside but everything looked fine until I saw you on the floor.” Looking across the lawn I could see Boo Boo arms folded and foot-tapping with fire in his eyes.
“Oh, I’m so grateful you stopped by.” I pulled myself off the deck and tossed the towels off my shoulders.
“I don’t mean to pry Miss but why the hell are you sleeping in the garage?”
“It’s stupid, my hotel packed up my stuff because of a double booking. They couldn’t get ahold of me during the day and now I can’t get a key until the manager comes in tomorrow morning. I figured I could sleep on the carpet for one night but the paint fumes are too strong in the house. The garage was my next best option.
“No, you can stay at my mother’s house with my daughter and me, but this is not safe for anybody out here.” I nodded in agreement.
The situation looked foolish but I couldn’t tell the truth. We secured the broken door with a piece of old plywood from the trash pile and a few screws.
I followed Joe to his home. A kind older woman in her nightgown met us at the door with a cup of hot chocolate and a pile of fresh towels. She insisted I get warm and change into some of her teenaged granddaughter’s clothes for the night.
When I emerged from the shower the couch was made up for me with sheets that smelled like tide and bleach. It was the same way laundry in my grandmother’s house smelled and I could almost feel her with me.