(A podcast selected and performed my story. Click the link to listen.)
“I think I’m just too nice,” was the answer she gave to his question. Immediately, she recoiled at her own words, recognizing the moronic simplicity of them, sinking down into the driver’s seat. She was glad that she didn’t have to see his reaction, that she could keep her eyes focused on the narrow, remote road. How was he to believe such a vapid, beauty-pageant response? But the time had come for this question, (which she had anticipated yet had not prepared words to convey a complete picture), What would you say is your biggest flaw?
There had never been a lap around the dating-game cycle, in life’s decathlon for contentment, that came without the guy probing into Synthia’s life and relationship-ography. And so, she didn’t blame Damon for wanting to know what fault may have been hers in causing her past break-ups. And now, she was trapped in this inevitable conversation, alone with him, in his beguiling, royal blue ’66 Mustang, which he had insisted Synthia take a stab at driving. She had coyly protested but was, in truth, stoked to have the privilege, and Damon smirked, knowingly.
“Too nice? But, you’re not a doormat, Sweetie,” Damon offered, more as a statement than a question.
“No, not a shit-scraped welcome mat, that’s true,” Synthia replied, giggling a bit. “I’m more like an open front door with an accompanying, unlocked, screen door, who seamlessly allows people into the warmth and comfort of the home and protects and cares for them. Once inside, instead of being grateful and caring for the home as if it were their own, the home being my heart, they throw a wild, parents-are-away-for-the-weekend type of party and trash the fucking place.”
“Dear God, you ran pretty far with my initial analogy, Doll,” Damon grinned, his smile so large his cheeks made his eyes squint. “You know, I love the way your mind works. And I love the way you speak. I love the way you respond to life. I mean, fuck it, I actually love everything about you. There isn’t anything that I don’t.”
“Ohhh…wow…I’m…I…,” she stammered, her face beginning to flush. There was a long pause.
“See, and look how you are right now, Synth. I even adore you for not being able to say those words back to me just yet, keeping yourself guarded and protected. Remaining level-headed. You’ve been let down a hell of a lot, and it’d be painful for you to take that leap of faith with another guy, only for it to end again- I get it.”
It was true. She wasn’t cold, calculating, or walled-up. She was wise. Experience had made her that way. Damon reached over and swept Synthia’s hair off of her face as he continued talking.
“Believe me, many others admire that quality, a healthy hesitancy,” he added. Synthia blinked her eyes slowly and gripped the steering wheel tighter. The corners of her mouth subtly turned upwards. He wasn’t making the driving any easier with his charming distractions. The degree of difficulty was already high, what with the darker-than-dark night due to the absence of any street lights on this rural road, and the added pressure of driving someone else’s classic car for the first time, someone who Synthia had already fallen completely in love with, although she wouldn’t dare let on, to Damon or to herself.
“Thank you,” she exhaled, and then attempted to cut the tension. She cleared her throat. “So, do you have any gum in here?”
“Um, yeah, lemme find it.” He began rummaging through his pockets and then popped open the glove compartment, which had an automatic, internal light whose thin, piercing ray shone abruptly on a package of Trident gum, a tire gauge, various papers, and a large handgun. Damon huffed, lowered his head and pinched the bridge of his nose, between his eyes. Synthia’s eyes widened when she caught sight of the hefty, silvery metallic gun. He swiftly snatched the pack of gum up and slammed the glove compartment shut, as if agitated, his left knee starting to bounce rapidly. “Before you say anything…I…look…I…must’ve forgotten it was there. And I’m sorry, it’s just that I know how you feel about guns-”
“How I feel about guns?” Synthia interrupted, not quite yet sure how to react or feel about the fact that she was in a moving car with an intimidating-looking gun, the first one she’d even seen with her naked eyes. “Now how would you know my thoughts on that, Honey? We’ve never talked about that subject before.” She was able to talk herself into remaining stable and even, not assuming or overreacting, pushing down the wispy tendril-like thoughts about Damon possibly being a sociopathic murderer or his possible involvement in a different type of serious crime.
“It’s not hard to guess, is all I meant. And I don’t want you to think…I mean…oh, God, the last thing I want to do is scare you off,” Damon clarified, handing over a piece of gum to her. He turned his head towards his passenger-side window, staring across the vast, ominously black, grassy fields and star-pocked sky.
After several soundless seconds between them, with the exception of their simultaneous gum chewing, Synthia asked, “So…what kind is it?”
“Trident. Golden Pineapple.”
“That’s not what I-”
“I know that’s not what you meant,” Damon blurted, his chin to his chest. He took a deep breath. “Looks like a .357.”
“Looks like? You mean, you don’t know your own gun?” Synthia inquired, gently.
“Why does it have to happen so soon?” Damon mumbled, so quietly that Synthia didn’t catch it.
“What’s that, Babe?” He didn’t respond to her. So, Synthia thought some reassurance was in order.
“Damon, don’t worry. I’m not scared and I’m not upset. So, what? So, you own a gun. I’m sure it’s legal, legit, and there for the right reasons.” Synthia always approached any new situation with controlled, cautious optimism. It was her thing. “Look, we’re here,” she gestured, “and there’s the pond. The whole reason I wanted us to come out here tonight was for us to be alone, in a peaceful place and enjoy each other.” Damon took her hand in both of his and kissed it.
Synthia grabbed her bag from the trunk and forcefully threw a velvety blanket at Damon. He laughed and spread it out on the billowy grass. The two relaxed for hours, deep in intimate conversation. Some might’ve found the out-of-the-way location a bit off-putting, especially on such a daunting, moonless night, at such a late hour. But it had an enticing electricity to Synthia; she found it transcendental, not scary. The stillness. The silence. The darkness. Being among the grass, the trees, and the water. It was as if she was fused with or imbued with all the things she loved most, including Damon, with whom a genuinely rare bond had been created- a unity.
Lying on her side, contented, Synthia stared at her beloved as he rambled, imparting his exquisitely intellectual thoughts.
“Sometimes I wonder, could the men and women of today ever willingly band together to achieve something, like, building the equivalent of the Pyramids of Giza?” Damon pondered, waxing on. “Like, why aren’t people out building pyramids together, you know?”
“Well, I suppose, in order to build something of grandeur, one needs to have subordinates or servants. Peons. Slaves, really, as there were said to have been in ancient Egypt,” Synthia responded, thoughtfully. “Actually, today, it seems most of us are still enslaved somehow, maybe part of constructing something intangibly pyramid-like. I’m not even quite sure what I mean. Maybe wealthy or powerful empires of a sort. But, there will always be slaves of some kind.”
Damon nodded feverishly. “Oh, how right you are, my dear.”
After a timeless interval had passed, (for this night existed outside of any clock with which she was accustomed), Synthia felt a breeze upon her. Then, an iciness followed, as if a square foot of arctic air had clawed the back of her legs and neck. In the middle of one of Damon’s sentences, she felt compelled to turn and look behind her. Startled, she strained to make out what looked like the silhouette of a person but she couldn’t accept that there could be anyone else in that secret, secluded spot.
The atmosphere shifted and the clouds moved, revealing the moon, as if it were a spotlight, on cue, during a theater performance. The figure of a man could now be made out, distinctly. His back was mostly turned away from Synthia and Damon, and his piss glistened in the soft light as he urinated in a broad arc.
Finished, the man adjusted himself back into his simple, cotton pants and smoothed down his loose, creamy tunic. Combing his fingers through his wavy hair, he drew in a loud, long sniff. Suddenly, the man turned his head slowly, as if he now sensed he was being watched, and threw himself backwards in a grand, graceful ariel flip off of the giant boulder on which he was standing. His bare feet landed on the grass with merely a whisper.
“Did I scare you?” the man hissed.
“What the fuck!?” Damon spat out.
One breath. One blink. Instinct took her over and warned Synthia of impending danger. Without hesitation, Synthia found herself inside the Mustang, diving across the leather seats and into the glove compartment. She was instantly out of the car again, upright, in a textbook, marksman’s stance, aiming at the man’s chest, the safety lock clicked off.
“Ooo hoo hooooo!” the strange man hooted in a high pitch. He began clapping maniacally fast with the heels of his hands held together. “Quite impressive! You have superb reflexes there, Lovely.”
“Who are you? Why…how did you get all the way out here?” Although Synthia had never been in a situation of this particular nature, she was handling herself as if she was seasoned. “Did you walk from-”
“Not a trace of hesitation,” the lanky, sinuous man continued in a sing-songy voice, ignoring her question.
“Good on you, too. I could very well be someone who’d cause you and your…friend…harm.” Damon laced his fingers together, put his hands on top of his head, and breathed out hard, as if to relieve tension.
“Shut your mother-fucking comments up and answer the question: What the fuck are you doing here? Because, I don’t see a car so you’re going to explain right now and do it fast!” Synthia commanded. The man giggled. Quickly, though, she realized that sticking around and satisfying her curiosity was risky.
“You know what? I actually don’t give a shit. Damon, start the car.”
“Oh, isn’t she delightful?” The stranger’s mint-green eyes crawled up and down Synthia’s body. “Not only does she have a firm and shapely backside, she also has a solid backbone, doesn’t she, Damon? We weren’t counting on that.” Damon bent down and put his hands on his knees and stared at the ground.
“You know him!? Damon!? What is this?” Synthia was shouting by now but she was absolutely determined to keep her emotions at bay. She would not allow them to cross a line that might jeopardize the control she needed to maintain over this predicament.
Damon let out a big sigh. “Yes, Synth, I know this fuckstick. Meet Odin. It’s been a long, long time. If I never see him again it’d be too soon.”
“Oh my God. No…Damon…,” She croaked, facing toward Damon, lowering the gun slowly to a forty-five degree angle. He tried to reach out to touch her, to comfort her, but she sprang backwards, repulsed, and aimed the gun straight at his chest. “You told him to come. But you didn’t know I was taking you here so… how… what…what do you want? What are you guys planning?” Synthia’s words were pouring out quickly as she tried to process things in between her despairing thoughts of Damon’s apparent betrayal.
“Great! This is just fan-fucking-tastic,” Damon turned to Odin. “You broke the trust she had for me. Happy now, you dick?” Irritated, Damon hopped up to sit on the hood of his Mustang. “She’s never gonna be open to listening to us now, let alone going with us. And nice touch planting the gun. I wasn’t aware we had exactly agreed upon that approach. Did it ever occur to you she might actually fire on us?”
“Mercy, I’m all broken up, Cassanova,” came Odin’s slimy retort. “I apologize for souring the mood tonight, before you could strip her shirt off those ample breasts.”
Damon looked at Synthia. “Oh, here he goes. You see what a vile shit stain I’ve had to deal with?” He leaned back against his windshield and put his hands behind his head.
“Rest assured she won’t shoot, not without good reason. We both know that,” Odin added, calmly.
“Yeah, I believe that. But she does still have free will,” Damon responded, proceeding with his exchange with Odin. “Who sent your ass anyway? Not only did you show up way too prematurely, they decided to send you? Jesus.”
“Which are you more upset about: that I ruined your cute little date, that I was selected to proposition her, or that I may have stunted our shot at acquiring her?” Odin asked, counting the options on the ends of his long fingernails.
“Stop it,” Synthia ordered in a low, firm voice. “What in the actual fuck are you both talking about? I don’t know what kind of twisted bullshit is going on, but it’s not going to happen. Not to me. Do you understand me?”
Damon went over to where the blanket was laid and began to pack up the scattered snacks and drinks back into Synthia’s bag. Although it was painful to watch the only woman in existence he’d ever truly loved writhing in shock and confusion, he forced himself to remove emotionality from the equation. He had been through this a countless number of times and understood how necessary this transition was, the moving of a key person from innocence and ignorance to making her aware of a truth that had brought strong men to their knees. “Synthia, I know you are assuming there’s some kind of betrayal right now. And in this moment, your feelings for me have been tainted.” He stood up and started to fold the blanket.
Synthia’s thoughts raced. He lied to me. Damon’s been manipulating me. He and this Odin guy are going to attack me…force me into something. Why is he tidying up? He doesn’t want to leave any evidence behind. They’re going to kill me. Maybe they’re wanting to take advantage of my innocent appearance for some criminal scheme. Use my passport? Social Security number? Sell drugs? They want my money for something. They want to put me in a snuff film. Harvest my organs. Force me to participate in an orgy? Fucking, sociopathic perverts. A blood-letting, sacrificial ceremony? A suicide cult?
“I know you’ve become programmed to be skeptical, untrusting. But things need to be explained to you now. You do have a choice in the matter. All I ask is that…” Before Damon could finish speaking, Synthia sprinted for the car.
She trounced on the gas the instant the engine fired up. Roaring down the narrow, dirt road, the tires launching tiny pebbles everywhere, Synthia told herself to keep breathing deeply. To calm down. After almost one mile, she had confirmed to herself that she’d made an escape and she was not going back. She would make a police report, immediately. But would the police dignify my request? She asked herself. Neither of them had actually done anything illegal.
Synthia gasped. Abruptly, Odin and Damon appeared in the beams of the headlights, in the middle of the road. She pounded the brakes hard, nearly slamming her head on the steering wheel. A sharp groan of fear escaped her lips as she gazed at the men, standing there, Damon with his arms folded, and Odin with his hands clasped in front of him, both unmoving and expressionless. She searched her thoughts for a reasonable explanation as to how the two had managed to get ahead of her near seventy-mile-per-hour dash. And a word flashed to the forefront of her mind: paranormal. The word pounded repeatedly in sync with her heartbeat. That’s insane. There’s no such thing. Nonetheless, Synthia took a firm hold of the gun again and got out of the car, slowly. She gestured a go-ahead motion with the gun and lowered both her arms to her sides. “I’m listening now.”
“We are extremely glad to see that your fight-or-flight response is very much alive. That will be important,” Odin said, plainly. “As well as your capacity for open-mindedness.” Synthia was unsure how to interpret these statements.
“You see, my love, I’m not the only one who has been waiting a long time to find you,” Damon began, serenely. “For me, you are what makes me whole, my vital motivation to continue with what I must. My partner. For Odin, and many others, you are someone for whom they have come to have faith and hope, due to your potential capabilities.”
“I may not be as sensitively intuitive or as romantically inclined as either of you,” Odin chimed in, “but I haven’t completely forgotten what it’s like to be in your shoes, Synthia, for I once was…as confused as you are right now. Forgive my crassness. Thousands of years of companionlessness will do that to a man. I have been admiring who you’ve become for a time my dear, although, not as long as Damon, and not for the same reason as him either. Forgive me for being eager to have contacted you. Perhaps I should have waited, as Damon wished. But who could blame me?”
“Thousands of years. Thousands of years,” Synthia repeated in a whisper.
“Sweetheart-” Damon tried to resume.
“Who are you?” Synthia interrupted, awestruck. She allowed herself to utter an uncanny thought aloud.
“Am I going to die? Am I…dead?”
“Not hardly, Synthia,” Damon answered, smiling. “On the contrary, this is a beginning, not an end. Besides, death is a fallacy, a layperson’s concept.”
“You think those fetuses you miscarried years ago died? You think their end is lying buried in the dirt?” Odin asked, insensitively, fiddling with a wooden pendant at the end of his stringed necklace. Synthia covered her mouth and closed her eyes. Tears quickly followed.
“You’re so fucking obnoxious,” Damon flashed, casting a disgusted look on Odin.
“Well, they didn’t die,” Odin continued, almost delighted, without a pause. “You think that was your fault? You think your body failed you? Ha! It had to be that way. They were taken, needed, immediately.” Synthia was too horrified and confused to speak.
“Odin, do you really think this is the time for that? I realize your brain might be tinier than I thought,” Damon lashed.
“We’ll just have to ask darling Synthia about the tininess of your-”
“There’s nothing tiny about me dipshit,” Damon spit back.
“Well I wouldn’t know!” Synthia said, erupting through her tears. “I wouldn’t know a lot about Damon because we have only just met recently.” Her speech was altered as she continued to bawl. “And this is what my whole life has been. One, big, confusing let down, one undeserved disappointment after the next. We haven’t gotten a chance to create enough of a closeness for me to allow myself to fall in love, actual love, for the first time. We didn’t even get to-”
“Fuck?” interjected Odin.
Stunned, Synthia went ahead anyway. “Ok…yeah…right, we haven’t even had our chance to enjoy the simplest of things. And now, a man, who just moments ago, I believed to be the most wonderful wants to do God-knows-what with me…some kind of crazy bullshit. I’ll never get to see this love fulfilled. Never have the partner I so long for. Never get to be the mother of…his children.”
“If you think we won’t be able to do those things, you’d be wrong,” Damon affirmed. “Incidentally, did the strangeness of the fact that we haven’t made love yet ever occur to you? Sometimes, there are things that transcend above that even.”
Synthia didn’t speak. So Damon went on. “And we know all about the hardships, Synth. They were necessary. The abuse, the broken relationships, the kidnapping, the robbery, the illnesses, losing the babies, and the unrelenting barrage of cruelty and negativity from others. We saw…all the nights you sat alone in the dark, praying, talking to the void, sometimes with your forehead pressed against the carpet, wondering if you were a fool or if there was purposeness behind it. And you never asked for anything, other than the courage and strength to redeem and uplift your own self of your own accord. You wanted nothing more than to be the best Synthia you could be towards other people and to yourself. And you were. You always have been. You’ve remained unchanged. You treat people with kindness and openness. You strive for inner peace. You are still in awe of the world, and music, life itself. You still see the good in others no matter who gives you reason to see otherwise.” Synthia was frozen, numb. “You maintain an unshakable attitude of utter sacredness for humanity. Your mothering patience, courage, everything you have become is the perfect combination of what is needed to fulfill a vastly important purpose.”
“Y-you…you’re not human?” Synthia stammered, her eyes wide.
“We are very much human,” Odin responded eccentrically, almost amused. “And don’t bother asking if we are angels, demons, deities, or aliens. There really isn’t a difference between any of those concepts.” Odin had actually addressed the very thoughts Synthia was having in that moment. “Don’t worry yourself about your partner here. It’s already been decided as necessary that you will be spending more time with him than you can probably fathom.”
“If you agree to come with us, we can take you to show you everything that will explain what we cannot convey with words,” Damon invited.
Synthia shuffled, in a daze, off the road, into the grass, transfixed on the moon. Her back was to the men now. Should I dignify this any further? Would I have common sense if I did? Will I have any self-respect if I fall for this…scam? None of what they’re saying can possibly be true. How could there be a reality where something other than the tangible exists?
In truth, she was tired. Tired of there being nothing more than the life she’d lived. Tired of having to endure, to struggle. Feeling, not exactly superior, but unsuited for the people she’d met and spent her time with in the past. Her patience and her strength had been spent. If something didn’t change now, there was no purpose in going on in this way. She had no more will for things to remain static.
Synthia dropped the gun in the cold grass with a muted thud. She straightened her knees, lowered her arms to her sides, and tilted her head. Some inherent, comprehension washed over her. She was to go with them. Fear had left her and skepticism as well. A liberating, unrestrained calm remained. She intended to embrace this, to let it consume her in the most exceptional way, wherever she was going. The exact place and nature of the journey was irrelevant, only that the time had come and the decision had been made. It was clear.
She began walking towards the men, then took Damon’s hand, and the three left, together. Synthia left willingly. It would please many others who were waiting for her, for she was needed, elsewhere.