Authors: Sadie King
The Coming of Bright
Spine Books ● New York
Copyright 2013 by Sadie King.
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Note: Due to its intense subject matter and explicit content, this work of fiction is intended for an adult audience.
For Eros, the one who binds.
And for Thanatos, the one who defines.
The real erotic relationship [is] shrouded in darkness.
Beneath my eyes opens—a book; I see to the bottom; the heart—I see to the depths.
“No offense, but what the hell are you doing?”
Zora stopped cold and jerked her head to the left. Her eyes zoomed with surprise and indignation at the sheer boldness of the question from a stranger sitting next to her in a law school lecture hall. On the second day of class no less. A fellow student perhaps, but a stranger nevertheless, apparently a rude and cheeky one.
Her left hand did not budge one quarter-inch from the end of the cloth measuring tape that stretched in front of her, the tip of her thumbnail right at the “0.” Nor did her left hand relax from holding up the spool, half of the “9” emerging from the slot like a snake from a crack between rocks.
“Um, excuse me Sherlock, what does it look like? I’m measuring out my section of the desk. That OK with you?”
She reddened at the tone of her own voice, surprised at how much she was feeding off the stranger’s audacity. Normally prim and polite was her MO.
The stranger’s hand loomed out of nowhere directly in front of her, hovered above the measuring spool that said “Clover Japan” beneath her frozen middle finger. She couldn’t see the sliver of “9” any more— that was liable to push her from mild irritation to outright anger. His beginning to chortle certainly didn’t help matters.
“Yeahsure, yeahsure. I said no offense, didn’t I? Maybe we didn’t get off very well. Jack.”
She lightly, quickly shook his hand, but then to her amazement—no, horror—it dropped right in front of her, slightly to the left of where it had been hanging. Completely blocking the tape all the way from “6” to “8.” Almost without thinking—out of an instinctual response, really, to the invasion of her personal space, to say nothing of the attempted desecration of her measuring tape—she picked up his hand, moved it hastily and firmly over to his section of the desk, and let it drop. At that his face became one giant smirk.
“Jack, look, I’m Zora. If you must know, I like things centered. In the middle, not too much left or right, top or bottom. Got it? Any other way bothers me. I don’t really trust my perception of distance. Ergo the tape measure. Go ahead, make a wise-ass remark like everybody else.”
“Zora, Zora, Zora. I like that name. Not blunt like Jack. Not bland. Something you’d say meditating, a chant, a mind calmer. I’m afraid I’m plumb out of wise-ass remarks. Used up my last one for the day a couple hours ago, something about lawyers and assholes, everybody’s sickened by ’em but people need ’em for all the shit in the world. And to think I want to become one.”
For some reason Jack saying her name like that, meditatively, chanting it, eased Zora out of her annoyance. She wanted to have a little fun with him now, turn the tables playfully on someone who could have been her tormentor, someone who seemed instead to have a sympathetic streak behind his facade of bluster.
“Which one? A lawyer or asshole? Which one you want to become Jack?”
He played along, opened his mouth to answer.
“I guess I can’t really be one without the—”
The room hushed. Jack winked at Zora in silence, turned his attention to the front of the room. She missed his wink, her attention already diverted toward hastily measuring out the desk in front of her. Centering her notepad, left and right, top and bottom.
Right on the dot, 10 AM, there was Professor Ras. Entering through the doors down front, the only doors in the entire hall, Victor Ras, Judge Ras as he preferred to be called both inside and outside the federal appellate court he served on, wearing white slacks and a black dress shirt, punctuated by a white tie. He wasn’t wearing the silver blazer he had worn to the first class, interwoven with gold threads, the one that must have cost a fortune on Savile Row. He clearly had a hankering for ostrich: both his shoes and briefcase were leathered in it.
He had a statuesque bearing even as he walked, perfectly rigid, with a fluidity that matched the currents of his thoughts. The furthest thing imaginable from robotic or mechanical.
Judge Ras was a wunderkind, a star, of the federal appellate system—just two years before, he had become Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals at the unprecedented age of 37. He had also turned full professor at 25, the youngest person so honored in the history of Founders School of Law, Madison Springs University, Madison Springs, Texas.
He even had an endowed chair at FLS: the Lyndon Baines Johnson Professor of Law. Yes, that LBJ, the one who said
with such fucking Southern fervor, drawling it out like it was some kind of alien godforsaken place, a god
place—which of course to his way of thinking it was.
He relished the “o,” propelling it around the room as he reached the lectern. Everything he did, every mannerism of speech and movement, walked a fine line between the graceful and the overbearing. His briefcase popped, out came some papers—ah, the dreaded seating chart—and for a moment, before setting it down on the lectern next to the briefcase, he held in his right hand his trademark instrument of judicial truth—an antique ivory gavel.
Where he had gotten that yellowing gavel nobody knew for certain, though it was a favorite source of rumor and innuendo at the school. He had remarked once in an interview with the
that it had been made in pre-Revolutionary France. And thus a sordid and not entirely implausible tale arose that the gavel had belonged to one of the judges appointed by Louis XVI, that it had changed hands into the Jacobin crowd shortly before the judge got the guillotine shave.
Had the Jacobins not been so fond of shaving their enemies, one could almost imagine the poor judge’s head bashed in with the thing, flecks of liberated brain glistening on carved elephant tusk. Dante-style justice with a French twist.
Its new owner, who shaved impeccably by the way, with very little blood involved, used it as an accessory to his firmness. When roused enough by his own words in the course of lecturing to students, or listening to a particularly inspiring or dispiriting response to one of his Socratic inquisitions, the Judge would gather the sum of his feelings into a bang of the gavel against the lectern. Rounded impressions abounded on the lectern’s surface like a pockmarked landscape. Mahogany doesn’t withstand the assault of ivory with much grace.
The Judge faced the class, his tone friendly and approachable but filled with power and knowledge of power.
“Let me introduce someone I really should have introduced last time. Or actually have him introduce himself. Mr. Carson? Stand why don’t you.”
Zora bumped her notebook off center, purely out of surprise, shifted it back again without even having to remind herself. Her idiosyncrasies were her most cherished habits. And Jack Carson, as he stood, was significantly taller than she had realized. His loose, casual, almost sprawling way of sitting, she decided.
“Hi everybody, I’m Jack. Your Crim Law TA. I’m actually a 3L right now, took this course first year too. Oh man, that was a riot, let me tell you.”
A rumble of mirth spread around the room, mingled with some open laughter, and Zora thought she saw the beginning of a simper on the Judge’s face. Fading quickly into sternness.
“Anyway, I’ll be conducting review sessions with you all, proctoring and grading practice exams, stuff like that. My office hours are on the syllabus. Thanks.”
He sprawled back down, back to Zora’s level. She glared at him for not being more forthcoming earlier, then reversed herself and winked. If she was going to be sitting next to the TA the entire semester, she’d better do her best to establish some rapport with the guy.
“Thank you, Mr. Carson. Jack will be a most valuable asset to this class, and I encourage all of you to take as much advantage of him as you can.”
Another ripple of laughter, with a definite feminine tone to it. Hell yes, the TA was worth taking advantage of. Zora joined in this time despite herself, her laugh a kind of muffled nasal explosion. Under the right circumstances, Zora was certainly not above taking advantage of someone like Jack.
“Now let’s get down to business. Time to talk about why we’re here.”
Without even looking at the seating chart, without needing to: “Ms. Bright.” It was a question in the form of a statement, telling not asking.
The shock of a million volts hit Zora. She had known in the abstract about the law school Q-and-A, the inevitably one-sided match with the professor, but the gravity of her name on the Judge’s lips, echoing around the room, shook her.
And then more silence, seconds evolving into unbearable seconds. Was she supposed to speak?
“Ms. Bright, tell me—tell us—why we’re here.”
His eyes, cerulean, glowing, iridescent, met hers. She glanced straight down, momentarily panicked, she withered, centering her vision against the center of the notebook in the dead center of her table space.
Speaking to her notebook in a less-than-human voice, an intimidated imitation of herself,
“Uh, study criminal law, become lawyers. Learn from you. Come to be like you.”
She knew ingratiation couldn’t hurt.
“Did you know lawyers are guardians, Ms. Bright?”
He seemed to pass right over her words, giving them the merest, most glancing blow of acknowledgment as he moved on.
“Guardians of a certain kind of order. And what kind of order would that be?”
“The order of right and wrong.”
Where that kind of certainty came from she did not know exactly, somewhere moral. She spoke with a firmness that could almost rival the fire and resolution of the Judge.
And yet it was his turn for mirth, a smile breaking forth from his closed lips.
“Ah class, we have an idealist in our midst. What a treat. No, Ms. Bright, they are the guardians of the order of the strong and the weak. And why do I say that?”
What the fuck?
Zora thought, her mind starting to twist with chagrin, a turn for the profane.
Am I supposed to be a mind-reader now, on top of a dupe for the professor’s petty little classroom games?
She found the professor’s words, their self-indulgence and arrogance, to be as loathsome as they were tiresome. But she dared not show any disobedience, dared not provoke his power over her future, power to be used at will and abused by whim.
She glanced at Jack, who just pursed his lips and faintly shrugged as if to say, “Been there, done that.”
“Because you’re not an idealist?”
A gasp or two from around the room. Not at all symmetrical, far from balanced. Questioning the questioner was not how the Socratic game was played, no matter how effective the tactic. Especially not when it involved the Judge. The Socratic method—like the Judge’s vision of the law itself—was a preserver and divider of the strong and the weak.
At that moment the Judge did what Zora thought him, presumed him to be, incapable of. Erupted into laughter. He had the sort of teeth, artificially perfect and surreally opalescent, that dentists use in promotional materials to entice new patients. Teeth that looked as though they’d been manufactured in a dental factory somewhere, by workers wearing dust-proof plastic suits.
At the same time, his laugh had something almost primordial, almost simian, about it—the physical features of his face, his naked incisors, expressed a snarl, even as he radiated humor.