The Devil Walks Among You

The two women run on the treadmills next to me. Religion is their main topic, I struggle to focus on my own workout.

“He’s going to send all those perverts to jail.” The most talkative one nearly shouts over the noise of the machines. “He’s going to overturn roe v wade, and bring this country back to its Christian foundation. What this country was founded on, religion.”

I could practically hear my eyes roll. How ignorant could they be, I turn up my machine, my own breathing drowning them out until I can’t run.

“That’s what the evil one wants.” followed by how wonderful and compassionate her preacher is, and something about the pope, and praying for those who sin, sex before marriage kind of thing and something about fake news. “Their lives will catch up to them.”

I reign in every comment I want to spit at her. I shut off my machine and march across the gym to continue my workout. The TVs across the gym are all tuned to the same station, telling us that our president will not be keeping any of the promises that got him elected, and directly contradicts most of the women’s conversation. I wonder how there got to be so much hate in their religion, in their beliefs, and how it was my fault people were so terrible to each other. They’re doing it for God, not for me. Confounded I go home, to eat snacks and watch Netflix.

 

Agent 0

It was like a plague erupted, the disease spread like fire. The hunger, the hunting the innocents, something needed to be done. Nox knew something needed to be done, researchers were furiously trying to get the disease under control. With so many infected, it would be nearly an impossible task.

He listened to his cohort of government interns, giving outlandish suggestions. Mass murder, camps, isolation, prisons, evacuations, massive military involvement, letting it burn out. There was opposition for every suggestion, nothing was getting accomplished.

Nox nearly stormed out of every meeting that was held. They usually found him in the research labs arguing with the scientists. His suggestions were just as silly.

“Nox you need to leave, you’re just getting in the way of research.” They shoved him out of the labs.

He went home at night, government housing, fearing an attack. His pistol never left his hand until his door was dead bolted. They would need to take action soon, or it would become a problem for the rest of the world. As it was the other countries refused to acknowledge there was a problem, the american president had laughed himself out of his chair.

That night he decided, there would be no more debate. He marched into the Minister’s office.

“Something needs to be done before our whole country is consumed by this plague.” He met the eyes of the man sitting behind the desk. “I will do something if no one else will.”

“What do you suggest we do?” The Minister’s expression was cold as steel.

“We need to fight them.”

“Are you volunteering?”

“Yes, I will fight them alone if need be.”

The Minister folded his fingers together. “That’s what I like to hear. Assemble a team, you will be in charge of training and getting this outbreak under control. You must do this quietly, we do not want any of this reaching the public, or other governments.”

“It may be too late for that already.” Nox muttered as he walked out the door.

He had an idea for the team, but they would need to agree to join him, He couldn’t risk someone turning him down. There were a select few individuals he trusted to begin with, of those maybe one could be trusted with this task.

He stopped by the research labs, they quickly shooed him out.

“I need to talk to Dr. Solen.” He insisted, “Its urgent.”

She came outside a few minutes later. Her hands on her hips. “What do you want now.”

“I need to know how to kill these monsters.”

“You know I can’t give that information out. We’re working on a cure.”

“You’re working on a vaccine, preventive, not a cure.”

She folded her arms. “Of course we’re working on a cure.”

“Dr. Solen, I really need your help on this.” He pleaded.

“Help with mass murder? I don’t think so.”

“Its preventive, if we can get the infected under control, there might be a chance of curing them before it becomes a global problem.”

She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Nox, you know it already is a global problem. The virus lays dormant for seven days before people start showing symptoms. People have already traveled, and who knows if they were infected.”

“All the more reason to do something.”

She rubbed her forehead, “I know what you mean, I just don’t think its ethical.”

“Do you trust me?”

“About as far as I can throw you.”

He nodded, “Keep me in the loop please.”

“Fine,” She opened the door, “Anything else you want?”

He shook his head a walked away. She would never leave her research, but she would let him know anything they discovered in  the labs. He needed some field agents.

Over the next couple days he observed his cohort, determining which of them would be the most trustworthy, combat ready, and loyal. He decided on three, who he was positive would say yes.

His first recruit was a man who had completed more combat missions than anyone, he even had a metal for it. He jumped at the chance to fight the monsters. The second recruit was a little more hesitant, but she agreed. She was the best strategist of the entire office. His final recruit told him yes before he had even finished asking, he was the most loyal friend he had.

He told the Minister about his selections, the Minster was pleased. “You have a lot to do.”

 

One hour

They sent me one hour into the future. I volunteered, hoping to witness something amazing. I stepped out of the machine, everyone was gone.

I walked over to the desk where there was a note.

“Thank you for your participation.”

I walked outside everyone was gone. I checked a clock, it was only one hour. The date on the calendar were the same.I ran back to the lab hoping to find some clue as to where everyone had gone. I tore through every drawer looking, maybe something had malfunctioned, maybe I was dead, just something.

I turned over the note. “Suck it bitch, see ya in forty years.”

I thumped my head against the wall. I guess this is what happens when you have a messy breakup with a coworker, who is probably the most brilliant person on the planet.

I went home, expecting the jubilant puppy I just got to bound up and greet me, but only silence. I found a note on the fridge on the back of a picture of her flicking me off while my loyal pooch licked her face. “Suck it again!”

“Son of a bitch!”

Ice Queen

She touched her finger to the window pane. The summer heat shimmied just on the other side, as the frost formed around her.

A tiny snow flake drifted down from the sky, melting on the hot concrete. In this heat, a single snow flake was all she could do. She had wanted power and now she had it, but it wasn’t the kind she was expecting. The deal she made felt sour.

Ice formed on her walls in her brooding. Inside she had more control, fewer variables. The air conditioner turned off. A crystal formed on her palm. She set it down on the night stand next to her bed, with the others.

She went to the kitchen, made herself lunch before trying again. Every day it got colder, so so it should be just a matter of time before she had any control. She sighed, the cold crackled around her.

She grabbed her bag, the water bottle in it freezing with a snap. She shouldered her bag and got into her car, she drove to work, the second shift at the grocery store. She stocked, and stayed mostly in the back.

In the huge dusty storage area she played with her powers, frosting boxes of fruit, and making tiny flurries dance down the rows of storage shelves. When she had to enter the public domain she tied to avoid the customers. Her boss spotted her.

“We need you on register three.” He ordered marking things down on a clip board, “Dia didn’t show again.”

She dutifully marched herself up to the front of the store and signed into the register before flicking on the light. The line formed instantly. She did her job, surreptitiously doling out justice, refreezing melting fudge pops for the worthy, and freezing the milk and eggs of those who displeased her.

“This is not what I had in mind.” She muttered under her breath as she scanned items.

“Did you say something?”

She looked up from the belt, he was cute, he was young but had white hair, curious. Her brain felt like it was underwater, “No nothing.”

She passed him his change. She stared at him, he didn’t flinch when her fingers brushed his hand. Blinking, she stumbled through the store mandated goodbye. She swore he looked back at her and smiled. The grouchy old lady next in line banged her cane on the counter.

“Some of us aren’t getting any younger here.” The lady shouted much to the lines amusement.

Blushing furiously she got back to work. The lady snatched the receipt away from her so fast it gave her a paper cut, she was glad she froze the old lady’s sour cream. The store closed at eleven, but her shift didn’t end until midnight. She cleaned and restocked with the rest of the staff until their official third shift arrived to relieve them for inventory.

Finally done, she went to her car and rested her head on the steering wheel. The leather was still warm from the sun.Her windows started to fog, condensation from outside gathering and freezing. She sighed a cloudy breath and tried to refocus so she could get home. The raindrops splattered on the ice melting it.

She drove home in the rain.

In the morning she tired to freeze the puddles until it was time to go to work. Her sadness crept into the cold of the store room. The flurries of yesterday turned into ice, slick ice. Her coworkers blamed it on the air conditioning.

“How can you stay back here, its like zero degrees.” One of her coworkers opened the shipping doors.

She shrugged. “Its not that bad.”

“They’re going to start calling you the ice queen if you keep this up.”

“Better than ice fingers, frigid bitch.” She rested her head in her hands, “Or singing ice ice baby.”

“You should report them to the manager if they do that.”

“Could be worse.”

“That doesn’t make it okay. Lets step outside and warm up a little?”

She surrendered and followed her coworker outside. The heat was suffocating.

“We should go back inside, I wouldn’t want to get in trouble.” She went back through the shipping door and started restocking the bread.

She hoped every tap on her shoulder would be that guy, but it never was. Weeks passed, she started to make it snow a couple of flakes before they melted. Months passed and she was in her glory, the leaves dropped off the trees and the temperatures plummeted. The first snow fluffy she turned into a full scale blizzard.

Feeling unstoppable she marched out of her house, she cleared snow with flick of her wrist. Icicles dangled  from every house, the trees were coated in ice, the three feet of snow completed the picture.

“A world of ice.” She smiled.

“Is it everything you wanted?”

She spun the voice, it had to be him. His snow white hair nearly blended in with the landscape.

“What?”

“Your power.” He gestured around. “The snow.”

“How do you know it was me?”

“Because I didn’t make three feet of snow the first of November.”

She looked at the snowy ground.

“I’m Jack, and you need to control yourself.”

Admonished, her shoulders fell. “I just wanted to be comfortable, happy.”

“Just be careful.” He turned and walked away.

She ran to catch up to him. “Jack wait, you were at the supermarket.”

“Man’s gotta eat.” He stopped walking. “Now I don’t want to have to come back here.”

“Why not?”

“I have better things to do than babysit you.” He said then disappeared in a swirl of snow.

She sulked back to her house. The store was closed until the snow got cleared, she sat in her living room playing with the snow drifts. Her house was cold as an ice box.

It took them four days to finally make the roads passable. The store opened, and she went to work, the dry heat from the furnace making her sweat. Everyone was complaining about the snow. There were hardly any customers, and most of the day was moving around boxes in storage room to make room for new shipments.

The next flurry she couldn’t stop herself and again a full blizzard.

A note floated in her window on blue paper. “Please stop” was all that was written on it.

“Why?” She screeched out her window. The snow deadened the sound.

It rained the next day, she turned it into a sheet of glass. No one dared travel.

Another note arrived. “What are you doing?”

“I just want your attention.” She wrote, then erased, changing it to, “Being powerful.”

He showed up at her door the next day. “Do you think this is a game?”

She shook her head, “Do you?”

“I don’t want to fight, I just can’t stay for very long, there are other things I have to take care of. You are taking up a disproportional amount of my time, with nonsense.” He put both hands on her shoulders, she looked into his ice blue eyes. “No more nonsense.”

She nodded, she could hear her heartbeat in her ears.”No more nonsense.”

He turned to walk away and she nailed him in the back with a snow ball. He turned and ran up the walk, slipping and sliding on the ice. “I just told you no nonsense.”

“Maybe I wanted you to come back.”

“Are you five?” His face was getting a little flushed.

She put her hands on her hips and tried to look womanly, “Obviously not.”

“Really?”

“I’m like twenty, I’ve got a job and everything.”

“Well good job for you, I’m the king of winter and you’re throwing snow balls at me. I’ve got bigger problems to deal with, you need to let me deal with them. Then I can deal with you.”

She crossed her arms. “Why should I believe you?”

“Because I’m the king of winter!”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Fine then don’t, just behave yourself.”

She tried to make a pile of snow from a tree fall on him as he walked away, he deflected it. Furious she marked back into her house and slammed the door.

“I’ll just have to take over this ice monarchy.” She muttered as her windows frosted over.

She practiced every day to get better, she could make it snow for days now. Jack had showed up twice to reprimand her. It wasn’t December and they were having record breaking snowfall.

Jack didn’t show up until the new year had started. He looked disheveled, broken. He pushed his white hair out of his face. His ice blue eyes were sad, brimming with tears.

“What happened?” She stopped smiling.

“You win.” He muttered.

“Win what?”

“Are you really this dense?” He shouted. “Do you have any idea how any of this works?”

“No, no one would tell me what was happening, yourself included.”

He rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Well she was supposed to explain it to you when you got your powers how everything worked.”

“No one did, I did try to ask.”

He made a noise at her. “Well here’s what happened. My father died, I got his powers. On her death bead mu mother granted several women powers, and failed to explain anything to any of them You are the strongest, so we are getting married at the start of spring. I have arrangements to make. Goodbye.”

“What if I don’t want to marry you?”

“You don’t have a choice anymore.” He left.

He didn’t return till spring. She had believed it had all been some kind of nightmare.Then the ceremony started. She was practically marched down the aisle by a guard She was briefed on her duties as Ice Queen, nothing sounded unreasonable.

“Maybe this won’t be so bad.” She muttered looking around her new home. “I might actually like it here.”