Night. A tall stone church, rising into darkness. Two figures at a church sign.

–Oakland, CA

Centurion

“You’d have better luck sneaking in and out of the Labyrinth,” Gregor says in his imperious tone.

I shift into a less uncomfortable crouch and look up at him. “I’d have better luck if you’d help instead of chastising me with fairy stories.”

“Fa-” he begins with a stammer, “fa-fairy stories?! The Labyrinth is a part of history!”

I need to be standing for this. “You thought the half-man, half-bull was factual information?”

He does not like my quizzical look, but he’s starting to try it on. “I’ve seen one!”

“Was it at a carnival?”

Gregor lets it sink in, but grows dense before it gets deep enough. “You’re only trying to piss me off.”

Not only.

Trying to bring Gregor’s attention back to the task at hand, I exasperate, “That was my subtle hint I want you to help, not an invitation to a political debate.”

He glances down at the clear plastic sheet as it wavers; the grass underneath it flattens as I lay it down. Unfortunately, his focus can be stubborn. He drips with scorn: “Are you joking? The only reason I followed you was to talk you out of this insanity.”

“I appreciate that, but you’re just distracting me at this point.”

“Good. I would alert the authorities if I could.”

Thank You for small miracles. But now I just want to tear that smug grin off his face. I stop myself from yelling and choke out a loud whisper: “What is your problem?”

“You are digging yourself into dangerous territory,” he says as if that explained anything.

“Oh, is that what you’re worried about? Pfff. He’s just a demon king.” I start laying out the letters I need in the order I want to use them.

“That came from your head!” he shouts. I’m still thankful no one can hear him anymore.

His face is lit by the dirty white glow of the sign, but I look through it into the sky and ask, “Why did I ever help You?”

“You wanted to get rid of me,” he reminds me.

“I really did.” Still do. “I swear to you, this is for his own good.”

“Lucius, I might not have much, but I have a clue bat.” For a dead man, he’s incredible at keeping up with language. Off kilter, in an endearing way; like a child or an ernest immigrant. Actually, he’s kinda both. Right now, he’s not going for cute or endearing. He’s going for more angry and threatening: “You don’t know the first thing about whether it’s good or not.”

“Never stopped me before,” I say trying to get a letter to stay in place.

“That is what I’ve been telling you,” he says more easily.

I put the plastic sheet back over the sign. The black letters over dirty white strips of light read:

CHRIST o ER ROSE
ANOINTED ONE

“It barely says anything,” Gregor criticizes.

“Those are all the letters I could find. This is your problem with my idea now?” He is such a nag sometimes.

“‘O’er’? That’s not fashionable, is it?”

Just ignore him.

I snap my fingers and say, “Wake up, Sign.”

She wakes up.

Groggily, she sputters, “Is it over?”

“Yes, we’re all through. Thank you, so much. Now, if anyone asks, you were asleep, right?” She agreed to keep mum before I put her under, but it’s always a good idea to make sure there aren’t any regrets. Deals are strange fifth dimensional objects. Can’t tell the shape without looking at all the sides.

“My bricks are sealed,” she says just before a yawn. “Don’t you love irony?”

I’m not sticking around to find out what the hell she’s talking about. “It’s a classic,” I say with a grin. “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow. Have a good night.”

I wave and walk away quickly. Gregor follows in his huff.

“I am submitting a request now to tell you, ‘I told you it was so,’ in the future,” he says, dripping with imagined victory. Roman humor, bureaucratic and smug.

Just keep walking.

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