By BayesCabral 10 Comments
Sweet Silver Rain: A Bayes Cabral Short. Part1/1
The storm had socked in for the better part of a week and was even now bringing on an early dark.
Rain didn't bother Bayes. He was one of those people who liked the sound of it. In his mind, there was nothing better to fall asleep to than a steady rain on the window. Bayes didn't know if it was something to do with the rain itself, or if it was just about the noise it made. A rhythm to set your heart to while you let your mind slip away to nothing after a long day. Something so the night wasn't so quiet, so unbroken.
Or of course it could be the anticipation of the ending to it, the crescendo. The sun will come out tomorrow and a mist will rise and the whole world will take on that hush that only comes after a good, soaking, rain. The light will gleam off of a puddle, off a sodden spiderweb, off the laden needles of a gnarled pine and the air will smell of soft, green earth and pitch. Bird songs will fill the forest, set to the soft percussion of their wings as they go about their early morning work. It would be cool, damp, but with a promise of warmth to come from the sun's amber rays.
Rain is certainly a poet's plaything and it's no hard task to imagine such a setting, to sleep with the dream of the earth slaked and silent after a night of much needed rain.
Or it could be something else entirely, neither the rain itself nor the sound it made, but something as old and human as the thought that it's cold and terrible outside and I'm warm and safe in here. Nothing cements this idea like the pounding of the rain on stone and the arching, crashing energy of the storm outside. Let the storm drum out its fury and the thunder thrum across the heavens, for my walls will hold strong against the dark of night, the cunning of beast, man, or monster, and the violence of the sky itself. Do your worst, because I am safe in here.
Maybe it was just magic.
But even the magic of rain fades away when you've been standing in it with only the sun-bleached, wind-torn awning of a little corner store between you and it for the past three hours. Here on a rainy soon-to-be Saturday night in Chicago's center there was no gleaming pools of crystal rain, no natural smells or silent beauty, only oil-hued, foamy puddles and traffic fumes mixed with the incessant patter of rain on old canvas. Behind him the store proclaimed itself open in flashing blue and across the street, "Tobacco" flickered in neon red.
Bayes lit another cigarette, his last. He didn't think he had long to wait now.
He was right.
She was slipping out the door of the apartment building now, a bass-y track thumping behind her from somewhere upstairs. Bayes didn't think it was hers, she didn't seem the type.
She was tall, and well coated against the rain, but with the hood left down so you could see her long, raven hair. She wore sensible, black leggings tucked into pointed boots. A pair of white, glass earrings spun by her neck as she walked. Her skirt didn't extend past her coat, but Bayes guessed that it would be red. She wasn't pretty—that wasn't the word for her.
But there was a weight about her, an air of hardship despite the image she struck. Her boots were creased and cracked about the heel, the sleeves of her navy blue jacket a hair too short, her long ring-less fingers too rough, worked too hard for too little pay, for too long. The same story told so many times, plain to the searching, for anyone who dared look and see the stress marring otherwise so perfect a beauty.
There was something else about her as well, something deeper, that only Bayes could sense. The thing that had drawn him here, to her. Bayes put out his cigarette and stepped off the curb, following her. It wasn't hard to catch up, she was walking slowly, going nowhere in particular.
“Excuse me,” he said, and she turned and shot him with her green eyes.
“I don't want to buy anything,” she said.
“And I'm not selling. It's just I'm new here and it's Saturday night. You're clearly dressed for somewhere fun.”
“You have to know someone to get in.” She turned away from him.
“I know you,” Bayes answered.
“No, you don't,” she growled, and began to walk.
Bayes let her take a few steps, then, “He's got his hooks in you, witch, I can sense them.” She stopped short and Bayes knew her face would be a mixture of shock and fear. “I can make him go away,” he called.
“No, you can't.”
“Yes I can. At least come hear me out. This may be a chance you never get again, and I'm not asking for anything in return other than a minute of your time. Come if you will, no sense in getting too wet.”
Without a word, the girl followed Bayes the little way back to his awning and together they stood under it so they could talk out of the rain.
“How do you know about him? Are you going to shoot him? People have tried.” She stammered the words.
“Surely you've held enough power to know that I'm not ordinary,” Bayes said.
“He'll just come back,” she said, not hearing him.
“If I deal with him, he won't come back.”
The passion he let into his voice stopped her, and she stared a moment, her mouth half open as if to speak. But she didn't.
“You think this is too good to be true, that no one can come along and make your problems go away. And you're right. I can't make it all go away, I can only stop the downward spiral.” She still didn't speak and he went on. “It started small, didn't it? He offered you some power, and you took it. Maybe your hearing got better, or hands got faster, maybe you could remember everything you read, something like that?” She nodded, but still didn't speak.
“And in return you did him a favor, nothing too big, nothing to worry about. You knocked someone's coffee out of their hand and ran away, you stole an old lady's purse, you did some tiny act of evil that was so small a price to pay that you couldn't pass it up. Even then you knew where it could lead, and you cut your losses then and there, vowed to do no more.”
“But then the power wore off, didn't it? And you'd gotten used to how quick you'd gotten, or how sharp you were and now that you were normal again everything seemed as if it was in slow motion, like a pipe dream. So you went back. After all, another small thing won't hurt, right? It's just such a cheap price to pay. But then it piles up and up and soon you're not doing it for the power anymore, you're just trying to get out from underneath it, the weight. The road's paved by good intentions, they say.”
“By the time you realize your mistake, it's too late,” she whispered.
“It's human to err, but these monsters don't give you a second chance. That's the thing with his kind, they don't let you learn from mistakes, don't give you time. But it's not too late. Sure, it reaches a point where it is, when you finally take a look at yourself and all the bad things you've done—little things, all little, but oh so many—and think, I must really be evil and I deserve all that comes to me. That's when he's got you, when the hooks, so gently placed, draw tight. When you abandon hope. But you're not there yet, I can tell. You're in debt to a demon, but you're not one yourself.”
“They used to burn people like me,” she said. “Sometimes I wish they still did.”
“There are better ways to deal with this, that's why we stopped.”
“You can really fix this?”
“I can't fill in the hole you dug yourself, but I can stop you from digging.”
“Did he send you? Is this a trick?”
“Does it matter? If this is a trick, you will just end up in the same place you would have if I had never shown up. You know that, you've gone over it in your mind a thousand times trying to fall asleep.”
“What do you want me to do?” she said, and Bayes had a hard time not letting his relief show. He hadn't been anywhere near as sure of her, of what she'd do as he had let on.
“Just show me how to get there. Just walk, nothing more. We don't have to speak, just put one foot in front of the other.”
And he saw in her, then, as she stood there, the red “Tobacco” painting her face as she fought a battle that was soon to be his. Bayes said nothing to her, if she was to master her fear, to master herself, she had to be the one to do it, the whole of it, otherwise it would be for nothing. He waited, listening to her breathe and the steady cadence of the rain. Finally, slowly, she lifted her arms and put up her hood, and then began to walk.
She led him along the street, through some lonely little alley, and then another, and another, the click of her heels on the pavement like a march to war. She stopped at an unassuming steel door with the word “EXIT”stuck on it, the E flaking off. It didn't look like much to be the home of a demon, a monster crawled up from the Low Place to make chaos in any way it could. The same weight that Bayes felt in the girl was raw here, a stench in the air.
Maybe she could see it in him, how much that weight affected him, or maybe she was just sharp, but she asked, “If you can sense him, my debt to him, why did you need me to lead you to him?”
“I didn't. But you will always remember that you did. One foot in front of the other. You're not free, you have a long road ahead of you. But the weight is lifted.”
“There are others,” she said, letting the words hang there.
“Then I suggest you find them, and help them.”
And then Bayes pushed open the door and let it close behind him.
The girl stood outside and watched, and nothing happened for a time, no sound other than far-off traffic. Then light forced itself out of the building from every crack, chink, and window. It wasn't red like fire, or golden like the sun, but white like the purest star in the night sky. Then a tremor came, as if a train was passing nearby, but not too close. It shook the ground, sent ripples through rain-drenched ground, and sent pigeons from their roosts. And then it was done. Bayes came through the door once again, nodded once to the girl, and then walked off into the rain.