by T. Gene Davis
He leaned in, intruding on her personal space in a familiar way she only allowed her mentor. Lucy felt his words as heated breath on one ear more than she heard them.
His lips and breath withdrew, leaving her questioning his intensions. They stood on an empty tube platform. No cars. Above, concrete and countless feet of dirt. Below, rails in a six-foot deep pit.
She put a hand on her stomach to settle it.
He always had reasons.
Moments passed, and a clicking began. The clicking came closer. Click, … click, … click, … like approaching cars. A new scent of sweet perfume applied too liberally made Lucy want to sneeze. The clicking approached at their backs. The obvious sound of a woman’s shoes on tiled floors, speeding to a near run.
The pit in Lucy’s stomach grew icy by stages. She distinctly felt diving onto the empty rails might save her.
The steps stopped at her side, behind her mentor. The woman in the shoes spoke.
He turned casually, as if he had not noticed the woman. He did not feign surprise at her words, just acted as if women ran up to him on empty platforms everyday, and he no long noticed it happening.
“Dolores.” He nodded. “I see you still pass your time among the living.”
Lucy turned, trying to mimic Joshua’s demeanor. She looked up and down at the source of the sweet perfume. Dolores, a round stooped woman with a thick unseasonal black velvet jacket stared into Joshua’s gaze. She never blinked or looked away, and neither did Joshua.
“Joshua. I have not seen Noland or you in years.”
Lucy new that name. Noland. Noland had mentored Joshua 40 years ago, just before his own death of old age.
“Is Noland with you?” Dolores pushed her head closer to Joshua’s eyes. Lucy felt her nose crinkle slightly. She fought the urge to step away from this lady.
“Will he be joining you?”
“Oh. I expect to join him before he joins me.”
“Hmph.” Dolores clucked, shifting her jowls.
Dolores refocused her gaze on Lucy. Lucy blinked, and took a half-step back.
“Pretty.” Dolores moved her hand as if she wanted to run the thick jeweled fingers through Lucy’s long black hair, then drew back. Dolores patted her own tangled hair that terminated in a single dread resting on her left shoulder. “I don’t take care of my hair like I should.”
Lucy remained silent.
“Do you know Noland, dear?”
“I couldn’t know him any better than I know him now.”
Lucy caught a hint of smile cross Joshua’s face. Good. She met Dolores’s gaze without blinking this time.
“I bet Noland enjoys your company. A pretty thing like you–he’s quite the ladies man.” She frowned at Lucy, opening her red eyelids even wider to emphasize her point. “You have to be careful around these mesmerists.”
Lucy tightened her lips without responding.
“I was one of his clients. Has he told you about me?”
“I was dying. Cancer. It hurt horribly.” Dolores closed her eyes, frowning again. “Horrible pain, but he always took the pain away.”
Lucy nodded, and then against her better judgement asked, “What happened to your cancer?”
“It killed me. Not Noland. The cancer.”
Lucy reminded herself to breath.
Dolores abruptly turned on Joshua.
“You will tell him to keep in touch?”
“Yes. Of course. Next opportunity.”
Dolores turned, and clicked away and up stairs, out of sight. After Lucy felt safe to talk privately, she turned to Joshua.
“She’s not really … ? You know.”
Joshua nodded. “Yes. For many decades.”
“I cannot say. I can give you another rule to remember. Never use mesmerism on someone who is about to die. If the mesmerism is strong enough, they stay mesmerized after death, and can’t wake up or stop responding to your commands.”
“She seemed awake enough.”
“Seemed is correct.”
Noland made the mistake, and could not wake the dead woman or break the connection. He ended up contacting his mentor who explained how to command Dolores to act like she was awake and alive at all times. She does the best she can.
“Why not tell her Noland is dead?”
“I’ve been told to never let the dead know that their masters are gone. I don’t question some laws I’ve been given.”
The idea here is based off an old Edgar Allan Poe story. I just finished reading the complete stories of Edgar Allan Poe and wanted to do a tribute to his works.