Fallen Fates

Confessions 2
a therapy session

Excerpts from therapy sessions.

L: Okay, E. I'd like to continue from where we were before…

E: Where were we before?

L: I believe that you were talking about… oh, about your father?

E: Yeah. Him.

L: So, how did you meet your father?

E: Well, I wound up getting busted on a bum rap. A bunch of cops didn't like the gays and decided that they wanted to bust some heads.

L: …and you stepped in?

E: Damn right I did. I tried to talk them down but, they wanted to scrap… So, we scrapped. It was great actually. Whooped some homophobe ass.  heh Screw that. Those guys were innocent and just wanted to be themselves… Anyway, I wound up in jail.

L: Because of fighting the police?

E: Yeah, it was a bum rap and they knew it. Had the whole thing on the club's tapes, cops knew that it wouldn't hold up in court. They locked me up and were trying frantically to get someone to flip on me. I knew that wasn't happening so, I just relaxed in the cell. Waiting for them to give up or run out of time.

L: So how did your father get involved?

E: They throw this guy in with me. Big, blonde, covered in tattoos and a general hard ass. He was screaming at them in some weird language. Later, I found out that this guy speaks… uh… Norwegian… Anyway, he's speaking crazy. Stumbles into my cell, takes a look at me and busts out laughing.

L: He laughed at you? Why?

E: Oh, I guess he knew of me. Which is… well… infuriating.

L: Because he hadn't been there for you.

E: Yeah… I mean, where was he?

L: It's understandable to feel that way. Your father should have been there to protect you and he wasn't. I'm sorry that you had to go through that.

E: Well… yeah… fuck him.

L: So, what happened next?

E: He plops down next to me and tells me that he's my father. He lets me in on what he's been doing all those years. Fucking running drugs and guns from south America for a network of gangs here in the states? The man was building a damn army. "Sons of Norway." A gang full of racist, violent bikers convinced that my father was… well, they treated him like he was their god. I suppose… in a way, he was.

L: How did that make you feel?

E: Feel? I was fucking pissed man! He comes banging on about who I am, my place as his son and the battles ahead. I get pissed cuz I don't believe him. Honestly, I was convinced that he was crazy… I still think he's crazy. We wound up fighting there in the cell. Shit got rough. He didn't really hold back and neither did I. We wrecked that cell. Cops come in with these riot prods and the guy… the guy laughs at this shit. I wasn't laughing. Got knocked on my ass.

L: I'm sorry, did you say that he talked about "battles ahead?"

E: Uh… yeah man… some crazy shit about… uh, war and stuff.

L: He was getting tazed and didn't mind?

E: Shit man, I don't know for sure. I just… I remember him laughing.

L: Wow.

E: When I wake up, he's gone and I'm unceremoniously kicked out. No apology or nothing.

L: So… you went back to work?

E: Nope. Can't do that. It's too hot now. I'm too hot. Boss is in tears but, I can't work there. I lose my job, lose my place to stay… I lose everything that I had built up in this world.

L: Wow… What did you do?

E: I go to the apartment to get my stuff and leave and who the hell should I find?

L: Your… Your father was in the apartment?

E: Yup. He was waiting there. Offered me a place to stay. Said that I'd be taken care of. I… I had nothing man. I lost everything.

L: So… you took the job?

E: Yeah… Honestly, I had to.

L: So… wait… you're saying that this guy, your father. He shows up out of the blue when your life was going it's worst and sweeps you up into his… gang? And what, you're fine with that?

E: I mean… I'm not fine with it. What am I gonna do though? He's my father… We share a name and everything. I'm… Well, I'm stuck with him. There's no way that I could hope to take him. No… I'm stuck. Same as always.

L: I'd like to dive deeper into this "stuck" feeling.

E: It's Fate man. I'm stuck in the weave. No way out.

L: Yes, I'd like to discuss this further but we're unfortunately out of time. Will you be back next week or will there be another… hiatus?

E: I'm riding out to Mexico. Gotta speak to some Aztec bastards.

L: Aztecs?

E: Mexico, south america? You know how it is.

L: I see.

E: Okay, Later doc.

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Confessions 1
a therapy session

Exeprts from therapy sessions.

L: This is Dr. Luke Zweifelhaft. I'm here with my patient whom I will refer to as E.

L: E, why are you here today?

E: I dunno… I have a lot to think about… process. Things are… weird.

L: How so?

E: Well, I met my father. I mean, my biological father and he's… well, he's really different than I had thought.

L: You didn't grow up with your father?

E: scoffs No. No, my old man decided that he didn't need my mom or me. He skipped out when I was born.

L: Tell me more about your childhood.

E: I don't know what to say. It was shit. My mom died shortly after giving birth to me. Heart condition. Made worse by giving birth. Anyway, with no mom and no dad to be found, I became property of the state. Got bounced from foster home to foster home. Nobody really wanted me.

L: So you had no steady home?

E: Not at first, no. Eventually… I was eleven maybe? I got handed off to Mr. Alman – No, Pastor Alman.

L: The pastor on the television?

E: Yeah, that's the one. Only, at this time, he was just radio. Still, he broadcast his sermons every sunday. He had another show on thursdays… I guess it was for younger people? Yeah… That made me a church kid.

L: What was your relationship like with Paster Alman?

E: Lets see… The pastor believed that what went on in the house was between him and god. He did gods work outside but claimed to struggle with the devil indoors.

L: What do you mean?

E: I suppose you can't tell people, huh?

L: No, not unless you need me to. You're an adult now, E.

E: Alright. Pastor Alman may have acted like an angel up on stage but behind closed doors he was the fucking devil. He'd come home late, supposedly ministering to some young lady or whatever, and he'd drink. He'd drink until he found something that he could pin on me. I was an easy target. I was no angel either. It was… He…

L: Go on.

E: He had this thing where he would make me stand, nude in the back yard. Rita, his wife watched but never said anything. Anyway, I'd stand back there, in the cold and… well, he had horses. He had this riding crop. It had a thin loop of leather. He would whip me with that thing again and again. I suppose he did it until his arms were tired. Sometimes, he made me stay outside afterwards. Bleeding, naked, laying on the grass until he let me back in. I wanted someone to help me but, no one ever came. He said I made him do it. I had the devil in me and it was his mission to drive it out.

L: How long did this go on?

E: chuckles Went on for a couple of years. One night, he beat me and beat me but, I couldn't cry anymore. To be honest, I didn't feel the whip anymore. I kind of imagined that I was made of stone. I just stared the pastor down until he was too tired. He didn't like that at all. That night, I got a beating like I never had before. Still, I didn't cry. I didn't have it in me. See, I'd gotten big under the pastor's nose. Played football, lifted weights. The pastor was weak. I realized that if I was going to be saved, I had to do the saving. That was the last time.

L: Pastor Alman didn't hurt you anymore?

E: Nah. He would just drink and give me this look. He despised me. He hated me. I went a couple weekends without eating because the good Pastor wanted to punish me. It didn't matter, I kept a small stash and ate at school when I could. It went that way until just after graduation when I had to skip out of town myself.

L: What happened?

E: There was this girl, Gwendolyn. She lived down the street from me. We talked on the bus a lot. She was one of the few people that knew about my… relationship with the pastor. She'd notice me wince when I sat on the bus. She had a keen eye like that. She sat next to me and kept persisting until I finally told her. It took weeks. She was a persistent woman. That day we cut school and she showed me the burns. Seems that we were two peas in a screwed-up pod. Anyway, Gwen and I became close friends. We never… got any closer. I think we both wanted it that way. Anyway, night after we graduate, I sneak out to see Gwen. I had worked under the table and kept it hidden from the pastor but, I had enough money to buy an old beater car. We were going to California, college there was free. That was all the plan we really had.

L: It didn't work out?

E: Nah, life's been like that for me. When I went to see Gwendolyn, she's all messed up. The ambulance was taking her away. I didn't even go there. I didn't see her until much later. Years. I got… cold. I guess is the best way to put it. Went back to the house, grabbed the baseball bat and snuck in to see her father. I hit him again and again until I broke the bat. Then, I switched to my fists. Gwendolyn's mom came home from the hospital and called the cops while I was still beating him. I didn't want to stop. It was justice. It was righteous. Then, the cops showed up. I remember a bunch of them pulling me off of the scumbag. They hit me but, I was stone. They had to taze me. he smiles They had to taze the hell out of me.

L: Is this when you went to prison?

E: Actually, no. Pastor Alman had a trick up his sleave. He didn't want it known that his boy got sent to prison so he used some pull. He and the Judge worked out a deal for me instead. Gwendolyn's father was furious but, seems after I beat his ass, his wife and Gwen pled against him. He went to jail for a while. I, on the other hand, began a six year enlistment in the US Army. I'd have preferred the Marines but, hey… you don't always get to choose these things.

L: How was the Army?

E: Army life was actually pretty damn good. BCT – Basic combat training wasn't too hard. The physical stuff was actually pretty easy. What was hard was getting out of my own head. I couldn't stand to take orders. Still, I was stone. So I took my lumps and did as I was told. It was good actually. I had a schedule. I had regular chow. I remember pissing off the DI because the gas didn't bother me. I stood there as recited the Pledge of Allegiance, the Army Corps values, name, security number and whatever else the DI came up with. Eventually, he got irritated and just made me to PT until I felt like I had to vomit. I learned what I had to and got shipped off to the middle east. I did my time, met people and did what I had to… then I came home.

L: What was it like, when you returned?

E: It was funny, actually. I had no where to go. I wasn't going back to the Pastor's place so, I went from organized life to being homeless. The Army wanted me to reenlist but, I was done taking orders. I wanted to be in charge of my own life. Somehow, I wound up pulling Bouncer duty at the Piranha. It's a gay club on the strip. Ended up getting a deal at the pizza place across the street. They let me sleep upstairs. Things were alright.

L: If you don't mind me asking, are you homosexual?

E: laughs Nah but, a couple of guys sure wanted me to be. Kept telling me it was my loss. No. I wasn't gay but, they didn't really care. It felt good. Some nights were a little over the top… you know? But, overall, those guys were great.

L: What happened then?

E: Then… well, then I met my father… he-

L: Actually, E I'm sorry. We're out of time. Can we pick this up next week? Thursday?

E: Yeah. Sure.

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Susan and Dimitri hit the road

Susan awoke to Dimitri banging on the "daughters." He was kicking the one with black hair over and over again while yelling something about having his authentication in his steel toed boots. The other "daughters" looked like they were passively watching but, she realized that they were deactivated. One had it's arm ripped off at the socket and the others looked like they too were in similarly dire states.

She stood up and rubbed her head. It was cold. Colder than it had any right being. The landscape was wrong as well. Everything seemed wrong somehow. She looked over at the tent holding the equipment to see that someone had opened up all the crates. Whomever had done this was thorough as even the smaller crates were opened up and the gear inside was strewn about. At first, she thought that Dimitri had done it since he was currently taking his frustrations out on the Daughter unit named Tabitha but, she dismissed that idea.

"Dimitri, stop beating on the child. We're not in Nebraska."

Dimitri shoved Tabitha one last time so that she fell over. Then he sat down on the grass, breathing heavily.

"Do you know where we are," Susan asked.

"No. But every piece of equipment is ruined and the tools are missing."

"Okay," Susan rubbed her temples slowly "What do you last remember?"

"I was engaging the deviant when someone jumped me."

"Yeah… he… well, he fell out of a tree."

"Another deviant?"

Susan nodded slowly, "Yes, I think so."

"So… two of them?"

"No, "she corrected him "four individuals total. We have to assume that they were all deviants. Furthermore… at least one of them is a pretty intense manipulator of space. They managed to 'port us and all of our gear…"

"The deviant with the card hat… the one pretending to be a park ranger. He was impressive."

"What?"

"I'm saying… something about him… I can't get it out of my head… His voice?"

Susan's lips pursed into a tight line. It occurred to her that Dimitri may have been compromised.

"Dimitri, he was a deviant and may be a full on reality warper… he told me to pray to him. He thinks that he's a god."

Dimitri was silent for a bit and slowly smiled, "Well… he's got style at least."

Three hours later, Susan and Dimitri walked into a small diner along highway 97. She told Dimitri to get cleaned up while she made contact with a field office. The kind lady confirmed that they were in Alaska and the date. Susan ordered a slice of pecan pie and asked to use the phone. While waiting for the pie, Susan dialed a number that led to a cleaning company in Boston. She left a brief message about needing he whole wardrobe cleaned and the number for the diner. She then moved to a booth near the window and watched the lonesome highway until Dimitri returned.

"In my hometown, there is a story" Dimitri said after sitting in silence for a little while, "Once, there was king who had become very sick. He decided to take a long walk in the woods to think but soon became lost. Ill and lost, he wandered aimlessly into the night. Eventually, he came to a small hut deep in the dark part of the woods. The king walked into the hut and came upon a strange, ugly old woman. The king was sick and lost but, he was no idiot. 'Baba Yaga' says the king, 'I am very ill and lost in your woods. I need your help.' Baba Yaga smiled at the smart king who knew her name and told him to follow the path of thorns in the morning but, send back his youngest son. The king did as he was asked but was terribly saddened. What would Baba Yaga do with his youngest son?"

"Is there a point to this," Susan asked?

"I'll skip to the end… The youngest son willingly goes to Baba Yaga's hut in disguise. She sees through the disguise right away but is so entertained by the boy's lies that she lets him live for another day. For 10 years, the boy entertains Baba Yaga. She teaches him about the woods and magic and all manner of strange secrets. Then on the last day, the boy – now a man – dresses as a king. Baba Yaga helps him outwit his two older brothers and become the new king."

"Isn't Baba Yaga a cruel and horrible monster in the forest… like the boogieman for Russians?"

"Yes."

"So… Why did the boy work with Baba Yaga? Why didn't he try to kill her?"

"Because sometimes, what looks like a monster may be more helpful than your own brothers."

They sat in silence for a while.

Coffee came and went.

Eventually, a van marked 'Waldo's Clown Service' came to pick them up. Once inside the van, Susan looked at Dimitri for a long while.

"Dimitri, do you remember Koschei the deathless? Friend to Baba Yaga?"

Dimitri looked confused for a moment, then smiled. "You do not believe in Baba Yaga… only Koschei?"

Susan nodded slowly as Agent Richenboch used the taser on Dimitri.

"There is only Koschei, the deathless and the darkness of the woods."

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Trouble will find you

Puke was taking his sweet time on the keyboard.

Avengaline Thomas  had known Puke for five years. He'd played drums with the band for two of those years. In all that time, she never actually learned his real name. Puke was Puke. She secretly assumed that he has a name like Trevor or Mark. Something that was completely boring and plain. So, when she met him at the Mindless Self Indulgence afterparty in Brooklyn, she called him exactly what she saw him doing.

Puke was a bit of a hacker. Not some Hollywood hacker where green symbols fly by and he plays some version of Tetris where the shapes are "code words" and you line them up in order to "get in" to the system. This was real life. We had just finished dumpster diving behind the police station and lucked out on some hastily written passwords. Now, Puke was trying to use the passwords to elevate his access from the front desk that we got to something that gave him access to national databases.

Avengaline handed him another beer and flopped down on the busted couch. The apartment that they were using was in a building that had been abandoned long ago by the landlord. It was frequented by punks, drug addicts and other undesirables. A local gang had decided to add it to their turf but the punks formed up and defended the place like some kind of fortress ruin. Eventually, a peace settled down where the punks stayed out of the gang's businesses and the gang left the punks the building.

A punk nicknamed professor had set up the building to steal power from the grid. Internet access was beamed in from the local McDonald's. The only bad thing about the place was the water. It was undrinkable and smelled like old socks. When the subway train rolled by, it would disrupt the power sometimes and the lights would dim slightly. To Avengaline, it was home.

It was only three days ago that Avengaline had shown Puke the video of the strange man in the suit talking to some rural police officer. Puke was the one that noticed the the video had to have been recorded by someone. The video was posted to this guy Ace Watson's Youtube page. Most of the videos had Ace doing street magic or performing before a nightclub crowd. Nothing groundbreaking but, there was something different about this video.

There were so many mysteries.

Why was the man in the suit's face blurred? What was the whole thing about criminals being transferred even talking about? The mystery of where the whole thing took place was easily solved.

Check the badge and uniform, look around for similar uniforms, look up the badge number, badda-bing you've got your piggie. This should have been where the answers started up but, instead things got weird. The town had this creepy 50s vibe where it seemed like nobody ever moved in or out of the town. Census records show that the town had no Black, Latino or Asian people in it at all. Furthermore, crime records of the place were nonexistent. The place was frozen in time.

Until the video.

Literally, the records of the place start the moment the video was posted. A couple people indicted for tax evasion, a brutal murder and a home invasion all happen that same day. The next day, the metal processing plant closes it's doors due to "profitability" and most of the town looses their jobs. It's like the video reminded the rest of the world that this place even existed.

So, Avengaline decided to show Puke. He unscrambled most of the face pretty quickly. Apparently, they used an app to scramble the faces but the app used a non-random pattern so if they took a little longer, they could see His face. Instead, Avengaline got an idea.

"Puke, what if we use the voice? Can we search on that? We have a good enough sample."

Puke called her a genius and got to work. The voice sample was cut and strung together and then run through a search engine to narrow it down. Now, with access to the national databases, they were putting a name to the voice.

"Anoki Spring"

Small time con artist and general grifter. Apparently, he'd been connected to various schemes that led to the rich losing their money and the funds being directed to charities.

Avengaline smiled and a song was already writing itself in her head.

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The shadow government and you
Excerpt for Michael Jone's talk radio show, "The Truth"

Alright folks.

The last caller may seem like a nutjob. For all we know that last caller may have been a nutjob but, they aren't necessarily wrong. Ever since the 1940s, the government has been gearing up a liberal program to "re-educate" the population. They do it in several ways.

One of them is population control. That's why you get your "Roe V. Wades" and your planned parenthood baby killing factories. It's all about population control to them. If the population gets too large, especially outside of the cities where they can keep the populace dumb with flouride in the water, they institute policies that result in death. Think about it people, if the numbers of good Americans who actually give a damn about this country can be kept low, the liberal elites get the edge. Heck, you know hollywood helps them!

Another way is darker. They have these groups. You've heard the rumors, black suits they all look the same. These groups are probably part of a secret, black NSA department that makes those who stir up too much trouble, "disappear." I've had my own run ins with them, let me tell you that it's not for fun that I carry a '45. They can't just make me go away though, they have to actually break me down. They need to make you not believe in me. That's how they do it. That's how they operate.

Sometimes, they pose as science-types and act like they're doing some kind of study. You've got to learn to see through it all. These people aren't even people! They're clones! Wake up, people!

Caller you're on the line.

Long time listener, first time caller. I just wanted to say that you don't even know how right you are. It's funny-

Oh I know how right I am, I've been doing this for-

I don't have much time before they trace this, I want you to know that we are cheering for you. They try to drag us into the light but they can't-

Alright, alright. I can see that we got another nutjob. What is it with these people? This is a serious show! We are the voice of the voiceless here and these people act like it's a game. Listen, we're going to go to a break but, before I go, I want you to remember to watch out for that… that… for [[The Agency]]. Those people are bad news. Take it from me. Just, take it from me.

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Arden, Nevada Part 4
Out with a bang

The crowd fell silent as the man continued his story. He was building up to something, everyone could tell. What it was, they didn't know. If they had, maybe things may have turned out differently. The lighting seemed dim and cast strange shadows about the room, making it seem as if there were so many more people there than there really were. They slinked about as he stalked through the center of the audience. They stretched long and seemed to grow edges as he smiled from the stage while giving his performance.

A performance that would be etched into the minds of the audience, forever.

Mark Yearling had had enough of the entire thing. He'd gone from skeptical to amazed and now was beginning to feel a cold chill up his spine. The man had taken a darker turn. He began talking about an "Age of heroes" and "an end to the chains holding us down." All it required was belief, he said. Belief and sacrifice. This was when Mark knew that he had to leave this place. He was scared for Victoria. This man was obviously dangerous and the word "sacrifice" kept echoing in Mark's head. He had a headache. He had enough.

He stood, holding Victoria's hand and began walking toward the exit when the strangely smooth voice of the man called out to him.

"Don't be afraid, brother" he said.

"I just want to leave" Mark said, mustering as much defiance as he could.

"Come to the front, let me see you" the man said, smiling in a way that showed too many teeth.

"I said, that I'm going to leave. We're going to leave and you aren't going to stop me" Mark insisted.

"Alright, I'm not done yet but, alright. You can leave. If… "he paused for effect.

"No, we're leaving" Mark said as he walked to the exit.

"If you come to me, willingly… I'll let you rudely leave."

Something struck Mark at that time. A sharp and sickening thought. This… man can stop me from leaving. The doors are blocked he thought to himself, horrified. Mark had never been in such a position of weakness before. He was a smart man, he served in the military, he believed in facts. As sickening as it was, the most important fact in this situation is that he was trapped. He couldn't protect Victoria from someone who could carry enormous pillars. How could he stand up against someone who commanded the weather itself?

That was when Mark turned to look at the man.

That was when he realized that this man… wasn't a man at all.

He was something else. Something that looked and spoke like a man but bent reality to his will. This thing didn't listen to facts. This was a thing out of stories. This was a thing that did not belong. Mark turned slowly, his mind reeling from the realization that he was at the mercy of some kind of monster. He released Victoria's hand. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew that Victoria was yelling something. She was yelling at Mark. She yelled at the audience to do something. She didn't understand. Maybe, she never would. He stood in front of the strange man and though Mark stood a few inches taller than him, Mark felt like he was a child looking up at an adult. The man had a predatory look on his face. The smile never faltering as he addressed the audience.

"So, that lady there says that your name is Mark. A fitting, biblical name for someone. Did you know that the book of Mark is one of the few books that doesn't actually talk about the birth of Jesus?"

"Yeah.." said Mark, in a hoarse voice.

"Though Mark is often called 'dull,' it is actually the earliest of the books of the New Testament. In a real way, Mark paved the way for the others. His story gave birth to the stories of the other disciples. You could say that his story was the beginning. The most important of all."

"We just want to go home," Mark said.

"Mark, I want you to kneel and say my name."

"What? I… I don't know your name," said Mark, panic obvious in his voice.

"I will whisper it to you and then you will turn to our gathered brothers and sisters and you will proclaim me. You will be the first to tell my story."

"I don't understand…" was all that Mark could think to say to this.

"Miracles come in threes, Mark. I've performed two. I must perform a third. It's important. Don't you think it's important?"

"I… sure… it's important… We just-"

"I'm glad that you agree. I will tell you my name now and you will proclaim it to everyone here," the man said, smiling.

With that, the man took a step forward and whispered in Mark's ear. Mark's eyes opened wide in shock and confusion. "I… you want me to say that? You can't be serious?" But the man merely nodded as the smile turned into a snarl. He walked to the stage and closed his eyes, hands behind his back.

Mark turned around and his eyes scanned the audience. There was a mixture of awe and fear. They wouldn't help him. No one would. Mark looked at Victoria and knew that something terrible was going to happen to him. In a real way, it already had. If what he said was true, the man completely eroded away the foundations of everything that Mark thought that he knew. He mouthed the words, it will be okay… I love you to her.

He knelt down.

One knee and then the other.

"This is Thor," he said and though his voice was barely a whisper, it seemed to resonate with power throughout the whole tent.

There was a blinding light followed by a rumbling that seemed to go on forever.

Then, there was chaos and screaming. The audience tripped over each other and trampled one another in a mad attempt to escape. They threw themselves at the door and it burst open. Somehow, Victoria managed to avoid getting caught in the mob. She was almost lifted off her feet by the panic filled crowd. Outside, they scattered like roaches in the light. Dashing into their cars, tires screeching into the cold night.

Thor looked at the hole in the roof of the tent. The edges of the hole still smoldering. Tiny bits of amber light against the charred black of the burned fabric. Through the hole, Thor saw the night sky. It had cleared and the stars were perfectly visible. "The people here will tell their story. Most won't be believed but, some will. The evidence that we leave here will be cataloged and inspected. The authorities will search for a reasonable answer for what happened here today but, they won't find any. So, the story will grow. My story will grow," Thor said to no one in particular.

"Thus the Age of Heroes was reborn," said Thor, smiling.

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Arden, Nevada Part 3
With different eyes

Martha Allenson was a believer.

She believed in UFOs because she'd seen them flying over the desert late at night. She knew lots of people who had seen the strange cigar shaped or saucer shaped things floating oddly in the sky. She believed in ghosts because when her brother died of a heroin overdose, he came to her that night to say goodbye. Besides, so many people have their own stories about ghosts since ancient times. Who is she to deny the existence of something that so many people agree on?

So it was with a wide open mind that she came to the revival. She wanted to see something amazing and have something new to believe in. She had difficulty with religion. God was a tricky prospect. She wasn't sure what exactly kept her away from god but, there was something that just didn't work. The flyer promised something more. It promised to teach the "secrets of the gods." So, it was with that in mind that she came to the revival.

The story that he started with was interesting. It explained so much about the world. Ghosts, gods and maybe even UFOs were all created by human power. Maybe, he was saying that we built the UFOs but she doubted that. The way that he said that we "spoke reality into being" seemed to entail that he really believed that we willed everything into being. Then he did something truly amazing.

He made it rain.

She actually cried when it happened. Tears of genuine joy because her whole life, she has wanted to believe in something real and now there was something amazing right in front of her. She wiped her tears and listened with rapt attention.

"In the past, we had the age of heroes. All of the myths and adventures of the ancient heroes is based on real stories. The age of heroes was real. It could be real again but, we have to work for it. We have to believe. We have to tell our tales. You have to spread what you've learned tonight. What you've seen."

"Ernie, I need you to begin." He looked back at the audience, "I want you all to trust me. I want you to believe in me."

A large man walked over to the main support holding up the tent. There was something shiny in his hand. There was a brief gasp as the audience realized that it was an axe. Immediately, he began swinging the axe at the support for the tent. Over and over again. The audience was in complete confusion. Some stood up in shock. Some started to try to leave only to see that the doors were blocked. They were all trapped.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

The axe swung over and over again until a sickening cracking noise broke out across the silence. The support beam began to fall. Suddenly, everything became eerily silent. The man was holding the support in his hands. He held the entire tent up in his hands. It weighed more than he should have been able to carry. He held the support while a different assistant dug a new hole then he dropped the support into the hole. At the end, the audience clapped and cheered in amazement.

Martha Allenson was a believer. She had looked right at the impossible and saw a world of possibility open up before her.

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Arden, Nevada Part 2
Make it reign

She is going to be Mrs. Yearling soon!

I'm so excited, I can almost burst. She doesn't know that I've already picked out the ring and tomorrow, after dinner, I'm going to propose. She's going to be so happy. She has been exceedingly patient with me through the new business, through the move and all the crap that comes with it all. She was right there beside me that night that I broke down because the receipts all came back wrong. I remember how we worked long into the night recalculating all the money in to make certain that it matched the money out as closely as possible.

She had to work the next day and when we were done, she gave me a weak smile and said that we won again. Lately, I feel like I've been doing nothing but winning. I've got so much in my life to be grateful for and so much more on the way.

Maybe we'll have a family?

I held her arm in mine as we slowly walked into the tent set aside for this "revival." It sounded like no revival I've ever heard of. The flyer mentioned "gods" and talked about raising people up. It sounded like serious hogwash. Potentially entertaining hogwash but, hogwash nonetheless.

We tried to sit towards the back but, some biker looking guy motioned for us to move forward. Sit close to the front, he says. It's an old trick but, a good one. If we sit towards the front, we feel more pulled in and have a much harder time walking out. It's smart but, this isn't my first time. I lead Victoria to a seat about midway and off to the side. That way, when we want to walk out, we're off to the periphery of people's vision. No one will really notice.

We sit down and this music starts. It's this odd cacophany or modern instruments and clumsily played old instruments. I think I hear a mouth harp or something. It's a little weird but, seriously… I am hooked. I look around and notice that the place is almost empty. It's a big place so the space seems weird. There is humming or chanting of some kind. The stage, a barely raised wooden affair, is filled with a bunch of burly, biker-looking men and some rough looking women too.

I smile to myself, thinking that maybe they all met in prison. I am about to lean over and tell this to Victoria when this young guy, big but lean with a shock of red hair cut short, walks down the middle of the tent. He has a way of just commanding attention. A born showman and I prepare myself for the show. He steps to the front of the stage and the audience doesn't exactly know how to react. They're all looking at this guy, wondering what is going to happen now.

His voice is measured and carries excellently in the tent. He starts with a story.

"Once upon a time…," he smiles as he says this, getting a few people to chuckle softly.

"Once upon a time, there was nothing but emptiness. In this emptiness were born men… and women too. In those days, we were capable of anything. But, some felt that it was too dangerous. They conspired together to limit us. To chain us to the dirt!" That last line he delivers with such power that his voice echoes a bit. I wonder, is it normal for his voice to be so powerful? Shouldn't he be using a microphone or something?

"So, in the darkness they hatched a plan." He continues, "They created rules to bind us. Split us apart into weaker versions of ourselves and blinded our eyes to the absolute truth. The world you know is a damned lie! Your job, your taxes, your bank account; it's all empty. It's all part of the cage that they built for you. See, I've learned that in the first age of man, we were more than gods. We were beyond everything. We spoke reality into being with our words. We shaped the cosmos with our fingers. You," he looks at a bewildered older lady "and I were one and yet we were more powerful than anything you could imagine."

Ah, I think to myself, this is some kind of gnostic sect. They claim that the demiurge tricked the theurge into going mad and splitting itself. It makes sense in that they tend to think of reality as a sort of lie as well. I'm fascinated. I've never seen real gnostics before. I've hear about it and read about it but, nobody really believes that craziness… right? I guess, I'm wrong.

"So it goes for the first age of man. We had many more ages, of course. Each time we would reset the stars, remake the earth and we would be stripped of even more power. But, brothers and sisters, they cannot take it all. You see, within you is the same power that we all once held together. All it takes is a little bit of focus and willpower."

Victoria is starting to get nervous but, I'm enthralled… I know that there's going to be a catch and a sales pitch but, when? So, I do a horrible thing. I ignore her feelings. I hold her hand and squeeze it and then I smile at her. She isn't happy with me.

"My brothers and sisters, I stand before you tonight to tell you that I have walked with gods." This brings a murmer to the crowd. Is he losing them? "I wield their power and I can prove it to you. I will prove it now."

He points over at a young man, asks him to stand and say his name. I didn't catch it because they weren't using a mic. "What was the weather like when you walked in here today?" That's easy. We'd been in a drought for the past week. It was hot and dry and tiring. "A drought you say? Let me see what I can do about that."

He walks off the stage and closes his eyes.

My breath catches in my throat when I hear the first tapping on the roof of the tent. Quickly, the tapping becomes a steady noise and parts of the tent begin to drip down. Excited murmuring breaks out over the crowd as they can't believe their ears and even their eyes.

It was raining!

At this point, Victoria was ready to go. I quietly begged her to stay. I had to know how he knew that there was going to be rain! I couldn't leave now, I had to see what was next! I had come expecting the ramblings of another group of crazies and now I get the crazy rambling and magic tricks? This was too much! Victoria however, is much to polite. She didn't want to make a scene and so I just persisted until she sat down with this stone look on her face. I'm sure that we'll laugh about it later but, right now she was beyond furious.

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Transcript: Arden, Nevada Police
Three miracles and a murder

Officer Tilden: Okay, it's about 3:20 am. We are at headquarters here in Arden. I'm Officer Joseph Tilden. Would you please state your name, ma'am?

Witness: Yeah…yeah. My name is Victoria Browning.

Tilden: I'm going to get to it. I want to hear what happened last night.

Witness: He…They killed him, They killed Mark. He's dead. I- I don't know-

Tilden: Take it slow. Just start at the top. Start at the beginning. Start from the meeting. OK?

Witness: Y-yeah. I'm sorry. I-just.

Tilden: It's okay. Whenever you're ready.

Witness: I uh. We started seeing this flyer. We actually first saw it last week. Posted on the wall. I don't go in for that kind of thing so, I just ignored it.

Tilden: What kind of thing? Describe the flyer.

Witness: I was… it was like, photocopied, you know? Or maybe printed cheap. It was for some kind of revival. I mean, the wording was kind of like those evangelical type pamphlets. This was different though, I remember that it said "gods." Like, there was more than one? They were having a meeting and it was open to anyone. I mean, anyone who saw the flyer, I guess.

Tilden: Go on, you're doing fine.

Witness: I pointed out that it said "gods." It's my fault Mark got interested. He's into UFOs and conspiracies and all that stuff. No like, believes it… he just likes collecting stories, I guess. He laughs and says that we should go. It'll be fun, he said… he was smiling about it. We're both not religious. I mean, I don't know about god or whatever but… I don't really need to be praying and whatnot, right?

[brief silence as Mrs. Browning drinks a sip of water]

Witness: Anyway, I shrug it off and tell him that we have no business getting mixed up in mumbo-jumbo. He laughs but, I knew that he kept thinking about it. Sometimes, he gets fixated on things.

Tilden: Do you know why he might have fixated on the meeting?

Witness: I don't know… He grew up catholic before he walked away from all that and moved here. His family, up in Boulder… they're… weird about it. Like, they take all that stuff so seriously. Stuff that I didn't know was in the bible. Like, demons and monsters and whatnot.

Tilden: So, how did you end up going to the "revival?"

Witness: We went out and… well- he sort of just convinced me. It was a joke of sorts. I mean, we didn't think to take it seriously or anything. He just sort of asked. He has this way… I wish I hadn't listened this time… maybe he'd- he'd still be…

[sobbing]

Tilden: Lets take a short break and give you some time? I'll bring you some more water, OK?

[End of part 1]

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The Meeting
Monday, July 10, 2017

          The wonderful thing about wearing earbuds in public is that nobody bothers trying to talk to you. It's a bit more socially acceptable than wearing a sign that says, "Not today." I glance up at my fellow subway passengers. Everybody's making themselves busy. Reading newspapers, checking phones, chatting with friends, or staring intently at a fixed point in the car. We slow to a stop at the next station. It's probably 9:30 by now. The Elysium Hotel is an eight minute walk from here. I'm expected to be there at 10 o'clock according to… well… that's not important. The point is, I'm not going to be late. When I finally walk up to the hotel, I shove my earbuds into my pocket. The place is not at all what I expected. The whole block on it's own is pretty run down, but looks like ruins compared to this place. The building towers above its neighbors and is obviously well taken care of. Even the awning holds it's scarlet color and the concrete surrounding the building has kept its new, bright look. I take one last breath of summer morning air before stepping inside. I'm immediately hit with a blast of AC. The lobby's breathtaking. I pause to take it in. A huge chandelier hangs from the ceiling with smaller ones illuminating portions of the room the larger one left bare. Chairs are gathered in several clusters throughout the room, most of which are occupied. I find a seat near the back of the lobby without anybody too close to it. I can't help but run my fingers over the soft red velvet while I survey the room. Even though the lobby's size is amazing, it's surprisingly quiet given the number of people in it. Judging by the body guards standing by, I'd guess a few minor celebrities are here as well. I'm reminded of the people on the train by how busy everybody is making themselves. It feels almost ominous how- Somebody stops in front of me cutting my thoughts short.

          "Claire?" I look up to see a familiar face. Anoki Spring. We worked together for a while on the force. That was until he figured he could do it better by himself and left. 

         "Annie? What are you doing here?" He quickly looks around before sitting next to me. He leans in almost as though to make sure nobody else hears.

          "A little birdy told me about this place." He widens his eyes a bit, as if willing me to understand. I just look at him, waiting for him to offer up more information, when somebody walks into the lobby. We both immediately turn to look. This is what makes me notice that the whole time I've been here, nobody has entered or exited the lobby. We watch as a man makes his way over to the hotel receptionist. His shoes make soft tapping sounds with each step on the marble floor. He looks vaguely familiar, but I can't place why.

          Annie leans in again to whisper, "Is that Theo Oren?"

          That's when I realize why he looks familiar. Oren was a key witness in the Rube Goldberg murders, a series of murders in which the victim was killed in an elaborate trap, hence the name. He stops at the mahogany desk. The hotel receptionist turns to him. We're too far away to make out what they're saying and the receptionist is wearing a dark hood that hides his face, making it impossible to guess. The man reaches under his desk and pulls out a large book, flipping it open and pointing at a page. Oren takes out a pen and writes something. The man hands him a card and with that, Oren turns and leaves down a hallway just as quickly as he came. I lean back in my seat and share a puzzled look with Annie. Normally, Annie's the last person I'd look to for support, but I'm in way over my head. Annie opens his mouth to say something when he's interrupted by the doors bursting open. Another person enters, shattering the quiet and this time he doesn't look familiar. I glance at Annie for confirmation, but the scowl on his face tells me he knows him. I turn my attention back on the man as he parades his way through the lobby. His sneakers squeak harshly against the floor. He's almost comically narcissistic. He makes his way through the still lobby as though he's making his way through a crowd of adoring fans. Greeting everybody in his path and laughing loudly at nothing as he continues to strut his way over to the hotel secretary. He leans on the desk. The man tosses his hair to the side and declares something I can't quite make out. The secretary reaches under his desk and pulls out the same book from earlier. He flips it open and points to something, just as he had before. It looks like the other man tries to do a magic trick with a pen. I look to Annie for some sort of explanation. 

          He rolls his eyes and mumbles, "Meet Ace Watson."

          We look back at Ace just in time to see the man hand him a card the looks similar to the one he handed to Oren. He keeps talking, his voice echoing through the lobby and big, dramatic hand gestures match his tone. After another round of loud laughter, Ace saunters his way down the hallway after Oren and out of sight. Annie lets out a sigh and concentrates on his hands. His eyebrows furrow as he tries to piece together some sort of connection between us, Oren, Ace, and whatever sent him here. I've seen this look on his face a thousand different times, always on the most challenging cases. I'm not sure why, but the memory annoys me.

          "I'll see you later, Annie," I mumble. I stand up and start walking toward the front desk.

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