Beyond the Divide: Part 24

Mark recoiled at the sight and dropped the gun to the ground. “What the hell?”

Sonja looked from the gun to Christopher. She raised an arm and pitched forward to push Mark out of the way, then scooped the gun from the ground with her free hand. She stepped back and levelled the barrel at Mark. “Christopher? What’s going on?”

Christopher frowned. “I’m not sure.” He shrugged and turned back to the car. “Oh well, just shoot him.”

“But…”

Christopher stopped and looked back. “Shoot him already!”

Sonja licked her lips and turned her head toward Christopher. She looked into his clear eyes and saw their future, her future. It was full of darkness and pain. The beginnings of a smile grew on his face, then he twitched, and it all washed away. Christopher let out a sharp breath and fell to his knees, limp like a broken doll.

Sonja spun back to focus on Mark and firmed her stance. Her breathing was ragged and short, and her hand shook.

Mark stepped forward. “Wait, please.”

A gunshot echoed away, and then urgent voices shouted and red and blue lights reflected across the landscape. 

 

***

 

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

Beyond the Divide: Part 23

Darkness swirled behind Christopher. It twisted and pushed through the beams of the headlights and stopped in front of Mark. The darkness tightened and the shadow dog materialized.

It lunged straight for Mark, but a flash ignited in its’ face and it stumbled back. Liz stepped in front of Mark with her teeth bared and looked up with rage filled eyes. Her hands glowed like hot sparks. “This ends here.”

The dog snarled and stared Liz down. It crouched down low and swung out with its’ right arm. Its’ closed fist connected with Liz and she was lifted off of her feet. She landed flat on her back, well out of reach of Mark. Her muscles felt numb and wouldn’t respond when she tried to stand.

The dog stepped forward and grabbed at Mark. Its’ body deflated, swirled around him like a cocoon, and then disappeared inside of him. Mark blinked and his body sagged. Liz called out to him. He showed no signs of hearing her.

Christopher stepped forward. He tilted his head and looked Mark in his vacant eyes. A smile crept across Christopher’s face. He motioned from Sonja to Mark. “Give him your gun.”

Sonja looked to Christopher but quickly refocused on Mark. “What are you talking about?”

“Give him the gun. Call it… insurance. You can say he went for it and you had to shoot him.”

“You’re telling me he’s going to do it himself?”

Christopher smiled. “I’ve told you what I can do. Go on.”

Sonja hesitated. She bit at her top lip and glanced at Christopher one more time. She took a reluctant step forward, spun the gun in her hand, and presented the grip to Mark.

Mark looked up. It took him a moment to focus.

Liz propped herself up on her right arm. She flexed her left hand. Some small sensation returned. She struggled to stand. “Mark, no!”

Mark’s hand raised up and slowly reached for the gun.

Liz screamed out her concern and frustration. She flexed her hand again and the light returned. She pushed herself upright and charged toward Mark. At the last second, she leapt and wrapped her arms around his neck. She went through and past him, but came away with a contorting, dark cloud caught in her arms.

Mark stumbled and blinked. He looked down to the gun in his hand and his eyes widened.

 

***

 

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 22

Mark sat on a bus bench with a wood slat seat and a billboard for a back. He was beside a smiling realtor’s face that someone had drawn a curled moustache and soul patch on. He shifted forward with his elbows on his knees. The flash drive twisted in his hands as he flipped it open and closed. It was bright blue with a silver cover, and had a logo on the front that Mark didn’t recognize.

A cold wind pushed against his face. He squinted and looked up into what was left of the day’s light, then checked his watch. It showed ten minutes past nine. Mark pulled at his collar and sighed. The cold was one thing, but the hint of rain in the air bothered him most of all.

Mark heard tires on the gravel laneway, and then headlights swept across the parking lot and the bench where he was sitting. The car stopped a few metres away. The driver’s door opened, and a silhouette stepped out. The low rumble of the engine did not cease.

The silhouette walked forward. When it moved in the path of the headlights, Mark could see it was Detective Kohli. Her face was masked in shadows, but Mark thought that she looked tired, or nervous. It was something he could relate to.

“Hello, Mr. Odera.”

“Hi,” Mark said.

“Do you have the flash drive?”

“Yeah, of course.” Mark held up the drive by the key ring.

Detective Kohli held out her hand.

Mark stood and stepped toward her. “I hope this will do some good.” He set the flash drive in the detective’s hand.

“Thank you, Mr. Odera. It will do more good than you know.”

Mark looked over to the second car door when it opened. Another silhouette walked out into the light. Christopher had his hands in his pants pockets, and a wide smile on his face. Mark turned toward Detective Kohli and froze. She had her pistol sighted between his eyes.

Christopher raised the flat of his hand. “Wait,” he pointed toward Mark, “I have an idea.”

 

***

 

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 20

A smile spread across Sonja’s face. “Perfect. I will text you the details.” She locked eyes with Christopher. “Thank you, Mr. Odera.”

Christopher leaned forward with one elbow on the table. “Tell me that’s exactly what I hope it is.”

Sonja reached out and ran the tips of her fingers down Christopher’s face. “Then let me make all of your dreams come true.” She closed her eyes and leaned in for a kiss.

 

***

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

Beyond the Divide: Part 19

“Hi, Detective Kohli? This is Mark Odera.” Mark scratched at his ear. “Listen, I found something. A flash drive. It was in Liz’s stuff. You know, we went through a few things, and… Anyway, I don’t understand most of it, but it looks like it will prove that Liz didn’t do the things she’s accused of. I think it was her boss,” Mark picked up a business card from the table, “Christopher Marston. I was hoping we could meet today, so I can hand it over.”

Mark chewed on a fingernail. “Okay.” He flipped his notepad open to a clean page and clicked the end of his pen. “Sure, I can make nine work.”

“Sounds good. Thanks.” Mark held his phone out and disconnected the call. He stared at it for a moment and bit at his bottom lip. He pushed Christopher’s card out of the way and picked up another. He entered the numbers into his phone and pressed the call button. Mark pushed out a deep breath and then stared at the world outside of his living room window.

 

***

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 18

Christopher sat in the wrought iron bistro chair with his back straight, and his legs crossed. The lines of his fitted, grey suit were crisp. One polished leather loafer bounced ever so slightly. He faced out to the sidewalk but did not appear to pay much attention to the people walking back and forth. Even if he had, it would have been impossible to tell through the dark lenses of his sunglasses.

Christopher didn’t turn when the seat on the other side of the table pulled out and the person he was waiting for sat down. Instead he lifted his mug from the table and took a sip.

“Mr. Marston.”

“My dear Sonja, why the formality?”

“You shouldn’t have gone to the funeral.”

Christopher turned his head further away. “It’s not a big deal. I just wanted to see how they would react.”

“If they knew anything at all you could have ruined it all right then and there.”

“It’s fine.”

Sonja sighed and rolled her large, hazel eyes. She looked away and tucked a stray wisp of light brown hair behind her ear. 

Christopher smiled. “It was… exhilarating. Being that close to them. Looking in their eyes.”

“It was stupid.”

“Whatever.”

They both stared straight ahead. Christopher kept one hand on the mug. Sonja crossed her arms and tapped at her bicep with a short cut fingernail.

“Have you booked the tickets?” Sonja said.

“Of course. I told you.”

“You keep saying that, but I haven’t seen the proof.”

“Would you like me to wave them around and present them to you with fanfare or a string quartet?”

“Of course not.”

“Then don’t worry. We leave tomorrow night.”

“Good.”

“What about the gun?” Christopher said.

Sonja’s face lost all expression. She looked to the eyes of each person walking by. “What about it?”

“Did they find it?”

“Yes. Two days ago.”

“And the prints?”

“Only hers.”

Christopher smiled. “Excellent.”

“Don’t be too proud of yourself, we’re not done with this yet.”

Sonja leaned forward and pulled her buzzing phone from her pocket. She glanced at the number, and then answered the call. “Detective Kohli speaking.”

 

***

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

Beyond the Divide: Part 17

Mark sat at his kitchen table with the binder closed in front of him. His phone was beside it to the right. The screen was dark.

He ran a hand over the cover of the binder. It was shiny and smooth where it hadn’t been doodled on. It smelled of plastic like those little dolls that Liz used to play with. Mark let out a deep breath and pulled the zipper along the edges. The spine creaked when he drew the cover open.

It was filled with lined paper that had yellowed at the edges. Mark flipped through but it was all from when Liz was a kid, mostly quick sketches and notes about boys she liked. Some girls too, he noticed for the first time. At the back was a plastic folder with three pockets. In one was a woven bracelet and three pennies. The second was empty. The third had been coloured over with pencil crayon. It bulged in the middle. Mark lifted the flap and fished around inside. He took out a flash drive and held it in the flat of his hand.

Mark watched it for a moment, unsure what to do. He looked across the room, closed his fingers around it, then stood and walked to the living room.

Mark sat down on the couch. With his free hand he lifted his laptop from the side table and set it down on his knees. He pushed the lid open and stuck the flash drive into one of the USB ports. When the computer woke up and the window opened, he slid his finger along the track pad and clicked on the only file folder. Mark scrolled through and opened each file and picture. With the audio files he only listened to the first few seconds. He was not sure what they meant but got the feeling it wasn’t good. After he had opened all of the files, Mark closed the lid of his laptop and stared at the wall.

 

***

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

Beyond the Divide: Part 16

Liz stood with her hands at her side. She wanted the comfort of sticking them in her pockets, but they were sewed shut. “If I had known I was going to be stuck in these pants forever I would have worn something more reasonable.” Liz said.

Evie looked up to Liz. “Pardon?”

Liz shook her head and held her hands in front of her. “Nothing.”

Evie nodded and looked back to the apartment building in front of them. “Are you ready?”

“I think so. I’m not sure which is hers though.”

“Close your eyes.”

“What? Why?”

“Go on.”

Liz frowned and looked sidelong at Evie, then she faced forward and closed her eyes.

“Anything?” Evie said.

“I don’t know what I’m waiting for.”

“Say her name.”

Liz adjusted her stance and made a face like she was uncomfortable. “Gloria.”

“Her whole name.”

“Gloria Dworetsky.”

The darkness behind Liz’s eyelids changed and a pinpoint of light hovered up and to her right. She opened her eyes. “Third floor. One in from the corner.”

“Excellent.” Evie held out a hand. “Lead the way.”

Liz nodded her head and the light changed.

Liz and Evie stood facing a plain wooden door with tarnished brass numbers and two deadbolts. A strip of police tape was hanging from the door frame. The wall paper surrounding the door was plain and beige. The carpet was anything but. The multicolour pattern was so intricate that it hurt Liz’s eyes to look at.

“Should we knock?” Liz said.

Evie scrunched her face and pondered for a moment. “Why?”

“I don’t know. Maybe there’s rules I don’t know about. Plus, something feels… wrong.”

Evie nodded. “When you enter, you need to be careful.”

“What do you mean?”

“Protect yourself. You don’t want anything following you when you go.”

“How do I do that?”

“Imagine yourself in a giant bubble. Take three deep breaths and spin around seven times.” Evie tilted her head. “Oh, and don’t forget to say the magic words.”

“Really?”

Evie smiled. “No. Not really. Keep it all at arm’s length. You will feel it.”

Liz nodded. She gave Evie one last glance, then walked through the door.

The room was smaller than Liz had expected. It may have seemed small because it was full of antique furniture and had huge abstract canvases on every wall. The carpet was a light colour but had a large, blotchy stain in the middle of the living room. Liz scanned the room and settled her focus on the back corner of the main room. A woman was crouched down behind the large swiss-cheese leaves of a tropical plant in a wide, blue ceramic pot. She wore ivory, silk pyjamas and her hair was up in a bun. Her feet were flat on the ground but she was tucked in on herself, with her arms wrapped around her legs and her face down on her knees.

Liz stepped forward. “Gloria?”

The woman twitched but did not respond.

“Gloria. It’s me, Liz.”

The woman rocked forward on the balls of her feet and looked up just enough to see who was standing in front of her.

“Gloria, it’s okay, you can come out.”

Gloria lowered her eyes and spoke in a hushed voice. “No.”

Liz knelt down. “I promise.”

“No,” Gloria said, louder this time. “The dog will come back to get me.”

“He won’t, Gloria. I’m here… I’m here to protect you.”

Gloria made a small, whimpering sound.

“You mentioned the dog. Does that mean you remember? Do you remember what happened?”

Gloria talked into her knees. “He said I knew something, but I didn’t. I really didn’t.”

“Who’s ‘he’, Gloria? Was it Christopher?”

“I didn’t know anything, but he said I did, and he sent the dog.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

Gloria lifted her head. Her eyes were hard and tight. “This is your fault.”

Liz shook her head. “No, they blamed it on me, but I swear I had nothing to do with it. Just like you.”

Gloria unwrapped her hands and set them on the floor. Her neck was cut across her larynx. Blood soaked down the front of her shirt, it glistened in the dim light. “This is your fault!”

Liz felt pressure pushing against her and trying to wrap itself around her. She closed her eyes and pushed back.

Gloria screamed. “This is your fault!”

Liz opened her eyes to see Gloria crawling toward her. Her head had almost been severed. It was at an odd angle and resting off to one side. Liz stood and jumped back. “Jesus!”

Gloria screamed again, a piercing shriek that shook the walls. “This is your fault!”

Liz balled up her fists. Warmth built until it was almost unbearable. She looked down and they were glowing. She shouted and held them out toward Gloria. Pure light filled the room. When it faded, Gloria was back behind the leaves, glaring.

Liz took two steps back and then looked to the door from the corner of her eye. When she looked ahead, Gloria was gone.

 

***

Image by Kaleigh Kanary

 

 

Beyond the Divide: Part 15

Mark sat with his hands on his lap. He looked around the bright apartment. It was like something out of a design magazine. Clean and modern, with the right amount of kitsch.

Poppy came into the room, set a mug down in front of Mark, and another at her own spot at the table. She sat down and wrapped her hands around the mug. “She really didn’t talk about us?”

“Maybe, I mean, she didn’t come right out and say anything. Or I didn’t pay attention.” Mark sat up straight. “Not that she would have been trying to hide anything, I’m sure. I hope it wasn’t because she thought I would have a problem with it. She was just Liz, you know? Things were the way they were. It wasn’t something to make a big deal of.”

Poppy smiled and her chin quivered. “Yeah, you’re right.”

“Plus, as sad as it is to say, we haven’t talked a lot lately. I’ve been busy with work, and…”

Poppy reached out and set her hand over Mark’s. “Don’t you dare blame yourself for the distance. She could have done better too.”

“Yeah, well, we both could have I guess.”

“You’re not alone. Everyone struggles with it.”

“Does that make it better?”

Poppy shrugged. “No, but sometimes it’s easier when you know you’re not alone.”

“I suppose so.” Mark took a sip from the mug. The coffee was strong but had just the right amount of sweetness. “Things were, I don’t know, good with you guys?”

Poppy smiled. “They couldn’t have been better. She really was amazing. We had even talked about getting married. One day, anyway.”

“Wow, I had no idea things were that serious. I mean…”

Poppy held a hand up. “It’s okay, Mark, really.”

Mark frowned and watched his hands. “That kind of connection, it’s special. I’m sorry things turned out the way they have.”

Poppy wiped away a tear at the corner of her eye. “Me too.”

“This is a stupid question, but you knew her better than me, I guess. What they’re saying, about the money, and the…”

“It’s not true. None of it. The Liz I knew could never be capable of the things they’re saying,” Poppy said.

“Good. I mean, me neither. It’s just that I see the things they’re saying on the news, and I get confused.”

Poppy nodded.

“Sorry, we don’t need to talk about it.”

“It’s okay.”

They sat in silence for a time, staring at the table and sipping their coffees.    

“Listen,” Mark said. “I know this is a weird question, but did Liz have an old binder with a bunch of flowers and doodles on it? She had it since we were kids. I… I thought about it the other day. I’m not sure why.”

Poppy twisted her lips and looked up at the ceiling. “Yeah, I think it’s upstairs. Did you want to see it?”

Mark stammered at first. “Yeah. If I could, that would be great.”

 

***

Image by Kaleigh Kanary