Authors: John Strauchs
Jared usually liked spring. As he slowed to a trot coming out of the clearing near
his house, he stopped and listened to a strong wind moving the great trees far away on the
far side of the bay.
It was dead calm where he stood. The wind would arrive soon.
wind was immutable. You knew it was coming and you knew that there was nothing you
could do to stop it.
It was late morning. He had run six miles in 18 minutes. He usually made that run
in much less time, but it was a casual lope today. That wasn’t typical, but he had things to
do. In his early thirties, his bare skin had a glow, but he wasn’t sweating. His breathing
At six feet in height he looked ordinary.
He wasn’t ordinary in any way.
There hasn’t been anyone like him for hundreds of millenia—perhaps thousands.
Like those rare souls in the dawn of man, he was a genetic freak. He learned who he was
in his early teens. He was the
Man—the Northern Man. Lucy, who he regarded
as a very distant cousin…of sorts, was the Southern Ape—
She, or at least somene like her, lived more than 3 million years ago. Bone fragments
from Lucy were discovered by Mary Leaky and others in Ethiopia’s Afar Depression in
1974. Lucy was an extinct genus of hominid. Lucy, or, again, someone like Lucy, was a
collosal leap in human evolution. She was a genetic freak, just like Jared. Modern man
the wise man. Jared was something entirely new. He was
the intelligent man, the next great rare leap in human evolution.
The salt in the air from the ocean filled his nostrils as his pace slowed to a brisk
walk. He could feel the ancient remembrances stir in his breast. It was genetic memory.
The organic scents of the forest settled in him. Iron molecules in his body aligned themselves with the earth’s magnetic forces. It was primeval chemistry. Jared was one of the
few people on earth who understood that everything was about the chemistry. He spoke
the language of chemistry.
The path ended behind the boathouse. He floated his shrunken Boston Whaler out
of the boat house and steadily and easily rowed across the bay against the current and the
wind. Soon, Eagle’s Head was lost in the sea mist. He beached at his garage on the mainland. He climbed into his Lexus and drove off, fast. It took almost an hour to get to the
outskirts of Rockland. Time meant little to him. He parked his car and walked in. He often went to Ashley’s for lunch. It had the anonymity that he craved. Like most of Maine
north of Portland, no one would talk to you if you didn’t invite it.
If you were approached, it was surely someone from Massachusetts or New York.
He sat down in a booth and glanced at the blackboard menu. He had memorized
the menu but there was always a chance that something had changed. It hadn’t.
Jared could feel depression settling in like the morning damp.
It seeped everywhere. His Black Dog had been lingering in the shadows of his mind since last evening.
He sank deeper into the darkness the more he thought about it. Soon, it would attack. He
knew it wouldn't go away for days. The dark funk had to molt off. He hated it but he had
learned not to fight it.
Of course, there was another way.
He needed an adrenalin fix
again. Nothing else would satisfy the Black Dog.
He sat near the window thinking.
Ashley, the waitress, called across the room
from behind the counter.
He turned to her and nodded.
He always ordered the same
meal, bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a coffee. He took his coffee white and sweet in the
morning, but black and sweet the rest of the day.
Random thoughts drifted in and out.
Bismarck said that coffee should be black as Hell and sweet as sin. He knew that no one
in the restaurant would know who Bismarck was, other than perhaps that it was in the
Dakotas some place.
Jared thought about monster lobster claw sandwiches.
Old man Sevigny sometimes made him claw sandwiches smeared with butter. The claw was so big that you
couldn’t see the bread. Taking lobsters that size was illegal in Maine. Jared ignored laws
he didn’t like. So did Sevigny. There would be no claw sandwiches today. Sevigny died
There was an acknowledging nod of the head that Ashley gave people she recognized that strangers didn’t get, but that was all.
He was glad that Sevigny‘s kid wasn’t
working today. He didn’t want a conversation and he didn’t like the kid. Moments later
his food was brought over.
He opened his burger to make sure everything was there.
He filled a little paper
cup with hot barbecue sauce.
He picked up the bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce and made
the dip even hotter.
He liked to dip his fries.
It tasted like the catsup his mother made
when he was a boy. He liked capsaicin.
,” he thought. His mind was spinning again. “
Analysis is paralysis
,” he thought. He had to clear his head. He had to stop analyzing every minute of the
day. The Black Dog was waiting for him.
What would that boy think of the man? He cleared his mind. He wasn't going to
think. He wasn’t going to let it happen again, or at least not that way. Not that it mattered
all that much.
Carefully, he organized his table. Each part of his meal had a special place on the
table. Eating the meal had a fixed sequence. He didn't think of it as a ritual. As far as he
was concerned, it was merely the right way to process the eating of lunch.
Jared took a large bite out of the cheeseburger.
His mind was always churning.
He couldn’t stop it although he tried to constantly.
The meat he was eating had been
grazing in some pasture not so long ago and he was now consuming what had been vibrant living flesh. Death is never a painless process.
He thought about the arrogance of
vegetarians. All humans eat things that had been living in order to survive. It was natural
The superciliousness of human plant eaters was contemptible.
and plants are living things. Who is to say that one form of life is less important? Because
humans are animals, Jared supposed it was understandable that forms of life that were
different, that are not animals, would be dismissed as being unimportant. Plants are alive
and possess the same secret of life.
Plants are sentient living organisms in their own
manner. That plants feel and, perhaps, communicate is of consequence. That humans are
unable and uninterested in empathizing or understanding their world is supreme arrogance. Theirs is a world of pure chemistry. Purer than ours.
He thought about what he was eating.
Jared felt no guilt when consuming either
plant or animal. It was the natural order of things. Humans had cutting canines as well as
grinding molars. People are eaters of flesh and vegetation. Humans are also the eaters of
the young and the foods intended for infants, but rarely consider that.
eggs, seeds, nuts, milk, veal, and suckling pigs. There was no sin in that but to claim that
vegetarianism was the right path because it didn’t depend on inflicting pain and cruelty
for sustenance, was ignorant and reflected human conceit.
Jared took another bite and pulled back the curtain next to his table. Someone was
watching him. He felt him.
It may be another nameless man, but the danger wasn’t imminent. Jared ignored him and finished his meal.
The watcher could barely see Jared through the dirty window. It was exhausting
to watch his quarry without looking directly at him or thinking about him. Not thinking
about him was particularly difficult and tiring. The sun glare made it worse. Smolenskiy
could walk into the café and before anyone would even notice that he entered, he could
shoot him in the head. It would happen so casually and so quickly, his prey would be defenseless. Smolenskiy’s Slavic appearance was not common, but it was a virtual certainty
that descriptions to the police and the resulting sketch artist renderings of him would be
worthless. It would be simple and it would be over.
Obviously, the bureaucrats in the
Kremlin, or whatever they named it this week, could not understand anything simple. He
especially disliked taking orders from Sami Zhidov. Smolenskiy didn’t like Jews and
Sami was a Jew of the worst kind.
He despised fat people.
He hated Bulgarians.
was all these things.
His orders were strict. Under no circumstances was he to eliminate the Latvian in
a public area. He must use the sniper rifle when the quarry was alone or virtually alone.
Smolenskiy lived for the moment his bullet strikes the rabbit--as he preferred to call the
prey--at hundreds of meters.
He enjoyed seeing the hit through his high-powered scope
and the fear in the rabbit’s eyes as the realization he was dying came home. For the moment, he had to watch and he had to wait. He could derive some gratification in making a
killing act last a long time. It could be satisfying to a psychopath. The predation brought
its own pleasures.
An attractive young woman pulled into the parking lot.
her. She was a student at M.I.T. She had been one of his students. He couldn’t remember her name but he was certain he knew her. Was this a complication? Perhaps! Someone was here who could recognize him. He decided to wait for a better time and a better
place for the kill.
The sinking late noon sun still glared through the smoky glass panes.
looking out the window through the glare. He knew that he was being watched. It felt a
little ominous, but he didn’t sense any imminent danger. Then again, perhaps it was nothing.
When he was out in the general population, he often felt the menacing thoughts
people harbored about one thing or another. It was a sad and pathetic world.
He preferred to watch a beautiful, young woman walking outside. He focused on
her. She was interesting. The white shorts were perfect. She wasn’t wearing a bra, just a
thin blue blouse. He liked the way she moved. They were just fatty deposits on her body,
but they were delightful fatty deposits.
,” he said to himself. Why was he questioning it?
Analysis is paralysis
,” he thought again.
He liked sex. It was one of the very few things he had in common with everyone
. Why couldn’t he stop analyzing it? It was the language of
chemistry in his body, a language he spoke so fluently. Trees talked to other trees by releasing a scent that a caterpillar invasion was coming.
The trees receiving the message
would release new toxins in their sap to ward off the attack. Every thought in every person’s mind was spoken in a chemical language.
Every vision was chemistry. Chemistry
was a silent language that people didn’t know was all around them and within them. He
understood this language. He was eloquent. As importantly, he also understood the language of pheromones.
He had the typical dark blonde hair of most Latvians and a rugged look that some
women found intersting. He thought about women often, however, even though he didn’t
usually act on his impulses. He was about to focus on her as she climbed into her silver
Land Rover, but suddenly something flitted in front of him.
Out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed a very old black woman walking into
She was old enough to have gotten that brittle look.
She was tiny.
black dress draped her small body. Limp yellowed white lace framed her dark skin. She
was dressed for church. She must have come from church. He had never seen her at Ashley’s before. He remembered everyone.
There were no churches in this neighborhood. For that matter, a Negro was relatively rare anywhere in Maine.
There were some Ethiopian refugees in the larger cities,
like Portland, but she certainly wasn’t Ethiopian. Where did she come from?
she get here? Could she have walked here without breaking?
And then, Jared began to
understand her. She was Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
He hummed the song in his
mind. The song was about LSD. That was chemistry that Jared liked immensely.
She was short, perhaps 4 feet and five inches. She couldn't have weighed more
than 90 pounds.
Was less than 90 pounds possible?
She was so frail and light that she
almost seemed to float.
She was invisible.
She had no weight, no substance.
searched for her shadow.
Was she even there? As she moved she never touched anything. She barely touched the floor with tiny steps. She made no noise. She was as silent
as butterfly wings.
She drifted to one table and a moment later to another. A small zephyr must have
caught her as she finally settled down in the midst of a group of young children that had
been exiled by their mothers, seated away, but in plain sight.
Don't old people hate young children? Kids make too much noise and do annoying things
But this little black women sat impalpably in their midst. The neatly folded waxed
brown paper bag that she held tightly seemed as heavily creased as her. It looked as if it
had been used many times. It almost was a part of her.
She slowly unfolded it and took
out a small plastic dish of something.
She also had a carton of milk, but she hadn't purchased anything from the restaurant.
Jared glanced at Ashley, but the waitress didn’t
seem to notice.
Who was she?
It was automatic, like his heart beat. He imagined her soft wispy thoughts.
The little old woman was alone. Her husband had many died years ago. Had she
outlived everyone, including her own children?
There had been many children. He
guessed that she was close to a hundred. Perhaps she was over a hundred.
Could she be
even older? He couldn’t make any sense of it.
Who was she?”
She was so quiet, so polite, and so transparent, that few people ever noticed her.
She lived alone in her fragile world.
What loneliness that must be
,” he thought.
Why did she come here from so far away? How far had she come? Did she want
to be close to children?
Her eyes were foggy with cataracts.
Even though they couldn't
see her and she couldn't see them that well, she could sense them and she could hear
She could smell their youth much as she had the scent of old age.
She was alive
with the children.
Although she was between two worlds, not quite in one and almost
ready to leave the other, she looked forward to these moments in her silent, gentle purgatory.
She would wait for heaven every evening and be resolute every morning when it
hadn’t arrived, knowing that like the strong wind in the forest that you can hear at a great
distance, sooner or later it must come. It was a knowing!
She really had no expression.
She neither smiled nor frowned.
could sense the joy she felt being close to children. That they were all white children was
unimportant. It wasn’t even a thought. She was alive in their animation. She breathed
their youth in.
She couldn't really see the children through that gray film that had invaded her eyes--probably long ago. Perhaps she heard them and smelled them and felt
them around her, and for an instant--a very, very brief instant--her own children were
back with her.
Her memories passed before his eyes.
There was a time that she could
remember her children well, but it wasn't so clear anymore.
She had grown as accustomed to her cataracts as she had to her clouded memory. Perhaps that was a grace, a gift
that life bestows on the very old. He longed for such a gift.
And now, she was young
again in a bright flowered dress.
long time ago, she was a child.
Knowledge is the enemy of faith.
She had been young and beautiful once, and a long,
She was loved.
She didn’t want to know too much.