Saturday 21 June 2014

'Betwixt' by Thaddeus Howze

Paolo will sit in a dimly-lit coffeehouse after work.

Dirty work often required something to wash the taste and the smell from one’s mind. Paolo Diaz was an Agent of Order and of Chaos. Two monsters which invaded his dreams as a child.

They came on the fire and smoke, burning his eyes and nose, flames set to drive his family out of their homes. As Paolo died, he railed and cursed a heaven which allowed such evil. And these two came, one a visage of soothing beauty. Cold to the touch, she lifted his chin, examined him and deemed him worthy. “He will grow strong and beautiful.” The other monster, slapped him in his child’s face and said he was broken. “Listen to the screams in his head. It is all he will ever hear in the dead of night.”

He went to work for them. As such, his work lay Between.

The smell of burning coffee soothed him. It’s bitter aroma filled his nostrils, taking him to his childhood in Colombia; before the fire, when he was happy.

Paolo hated his job. Not the work, but the people. His hands trembled with the exertion, the rough fabric gripped tightly as he held the corrupt businessman over the edge of the roof. He marveled at the strength he had been given. The man was as light as a feather but heavy was his soul, heavy with the evil that men did. He was out of balance, this businessman, Victor Dawson. His spiritual checkbook declared bankruptcy. Paulo was here to repossess his soul.

Paulo smelled the fear, the man was redolent with it. Dawson offered Paulo money, wealth, women. Paulo declined politely. He no longer needed such extravagances. Paulo was a man between; he was between here and there, thither and yon, left and right, good and evil, gifted and cursed.

Blessed now with the strength of ten men, unable to touch anyone tenderly for fear of harming them. He was promised this power would come with the capacity, a sense of rightness. As the man dropped to the pavement, his sins expunged, Paulo felt no right.

Or wrong.

He was an agent of the Balance. He was Between. He listened for the solid meaty sound. He noted the slight bounce and then the horrified screams of passersby.

Paulo stepped from the roof himself and was between here and there.

He appeared on the street, suddenly but no one noticed, he was Between their awareness of now and then. He was now. They could see him but didn’t.

His work completed, his phone received a text. “Well done, Pachjo”. He hated when they called him that. Only his mother could call him that as a child.

He already sensed the next place he was to be. His next subject in need of Balance would be in a coffeehouse five blocks from here.

He hoped he would have time for a cup. Of course he would.

Previously published in 30 Cubed SF Journal -​​

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