04-06-2020 06:13 pdt

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The Place Between

Part Fifteen

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"Dead. What the fuck? Thanks, duchess. What does that mean when I have died over and over trying to figure this thing out? Does it indicate that I do not need to give a shit about what I am doing or the manner in which I interact with others? Do I simply tell everyone to fuck off? Or would that alienate my machine? Maybe she is here to teach me something, as well. Either that or she is just a companion that can comfort me when necessary. For some reason, I still think Julia or Julianne is behind this whole haunted scene. From the sand to the boxes to the scorpions and on to the rest. Everything. Even Jaime could have been the operation of one of those two ghostly women. I just don't know and apparently am not meant to learn all I wish, only what I need. Well, fuck me anyway. Dead the entire time. Maybe I'll flip out again, because right now my instinct is to get hammered and go on a rampage. Why not? Jaime is looking at me as if she knows I'm losing my shit over this stuff. She is not far off, that gorgeous computer.

And I had thought Julianne or Justine did all of this. Fuck.

Still no one else in the massive casino. If I were so inclined, I could probably heist some cash off the fucking tables. Heh. I don't need money in this place. With authority I snatch Jaime's warm hand and tug her in the direction of the boulevard. I have to get the fuck out of here and I see that the mysterious door that led us into the club from the train is gone. Now, there is another fucking detail... If we are walking distance from all of these south-end Paradise clubs, why the big deal about that wall in the Luxor and the train? We went a short distance -- likely underground -- and then emerged. And the club was empty. What the fuck is that all about? As we stroll through the big doors and across the moat, I gently press Jaime for an answer. She smiles with her giant eyes fading from gray to dark blue, and squeezes my hand.

'We had to get here quickly. She only had a short window, my lover.'
'Um... Ok doll.' Deep breath. Sigh.

And then the fucking positivity disappears as I realize the massive gradient between early eleven and the loss of the Raven in mid-fifteen. Massive. Fucking. Issues. The facts and correlations are shoved into my head so quickly that I falter in trying to walk toward the fucking door. I can't help it. The situation has taken a turn that I was not expecting. Jamie led me where I needed to be for this to take place, and now that it has I am weakened. Eleven was a terrible time -- Andrea and Eleanor notwithstanding, but parts of the problem -- and coming out the other side of that required a tremendous amount of effort in covering all of the shit in my head after nearly a year of being isolated from the world. Terrible feelings, fear, worthless wastes of time in every direction as I tried to turn off the issues and simply live from one day to the next, and all those hours spent staring at the ocean from on high in a futile attempt to think things through. Nothing helped, I drank all the time, and after all of those months I ended up exactly the same. There came a period years later which was surreal and dreamy, and had that time come earlier in my life I might have felt a little better about myself and being on the path I chose. Nope. None of it. I ended up worse off than in the beginning and spent most of my time covering everything neatly so no one else would see. The effort of hiding behind that huge facade took its toll over time and has left me so exhausted that the little enjoyments are not doing their job as in the past. I cannot survive this.

The unbelievably short Raven period was later. Years went by as I wallowed and kept to myself, and then She and I connected and I became changed for good. There was no going back, and the proceeding stretch nearly killed me several times. Now the correlation is illuminated and staring right back at me like the enemy. I need to remember Her, I need to hold on to the others, but those acts are not helping to ease the current situation. Jaime knows, and she looks at me with questions in her huge windows. I know the questions. I know. Realization. No, not that one. I almost died.

I grab Jamie's hand and pull her toward the main entrance of the casino. And out the window is the moon glowing above the Bellagio. What the fuck am I going to do now? Simply knowing part of the reason I am so fucked up and stuck here is just not enough. I have to get out, but leaving this place also means leaving my duchess. I have become very attached to her and must decide between living in this gulag with a woman who represents every desire I have ever felt or escaping back into the real world without her. That means a host of issues will rule me once again. Hard to take. Very fucking hard. She looks at me with giant hazel eyes and an expression of sympathy. Whatever happens in my head is read by her almost immediately and the need transmits to her like lightning. We don't even need to speak. Jaime is a combination of Andrea and the goddess. Everything. All of it. No words, just understanding. My heart is warmed, yet fearful of being alone now. Any one of those three meant entire conversations without uttering a single syllable. Have I mentioned that before? Probably. I cannot stress it enough because these days my head is missing pieces due to the continuing losses. One after another after another, and whether or not each situation has been my doing or that of someone else (or possibly out of anyone's control), the resulting hole is still just as deep. I am in the ground, for all intents and purposes. Part way. The rest may come later, but for now there is enough on top of me to restrict movement, and that means I cannot even begin to pick a new direction through which to find some comfort. If I can't create the comfort myself, that is that. The aforementioned 'end of all things' will take place and in many ways will be an improvement. Fuck the other paths. I need the comfort and it is as elusive as the Raven or the reality of who I tried to become as a result of the experience. One day the illumination of a good decision may take place. Right now I do not know. I see Jaime there close to me, and begin to think that ravaging her from head to toe for hours just might be my only option right now. She is so fucking gorgeous, I just can't help but look at her with desire. She reads me like a large-print book and those eyes change to red. Oy God help me. I want her.

Gunfire. Where? Jesus fucking Harold Christ on a rubber crutch in winter.



775



The front of the Dracorum down the boulevard... There it is. Something is playing out on the roof and the dragon seems to be inflamed like never before. Lights all over the main entrance from both fire and police, lots of noise up on the roof, and what appears to be a gunfight between several people. I cannot see clearly because the fucking hotel is again very tall. I look to my left and see that Jaime is smiling and seems to be excited by the action. The fuck? Why? I ask... She is overjoyed to be on the ground with me after knowing of what has taken place up there just days earlier. Yep, that moment when I decided to destroy the dragon in a flash of flame. I assure her that no matter how many times I have perished in this world, things keep resetting themselves (more or less) and I appear somewhere close to the position across from that haunted hotel. Jaime understands but does not wish more harm to come upon me, so her long fingers grip and tug me along the sidewalk away from the scene. Hmm... Such a doll all the time.

I need to stay the fuck away from that place for the time being. And then...

'Do you know what you have to do?' Shut up.

Fuck you, Julia. My hand squeezes even more as Jaime notices. Again, she seems to know what is going on between my head and the forces at work in this purgatory. I don't know how, but she always has a sense of when my head begins to run aslant of the bliss. Julia's voice is something I can do without, but at least I can try to figure out where I might be going next. She always asked those ominous questions while I was fairly comfortable and this moment is no different. My head has been inside Jaime's clothing for a while. Maybe I am not supposed to jump her shit as much as I'd like. Or maybe not at all. I don't know, but that questioning voice needs to be addressed. If I know her at all, she will repeat very soon. Until such time as I can learn of why she has returned, my intention is to relax and discuss the exit from this world with my mechanical duchess. Staring at her is unreal. Years have passed since the last time I became reckless enough to act on my desire and that means thank Christ the woman is next to me right now. I do not like this at all. Several times I have mentioned being dramatically out of balance. Well, this is the furthest I can remember. There is no solution right now, but I keep trying. Jaime glides like a dream. Every now and then I glance at those globes moving around and she flashes a smile. God damn. Unlined, gorgeous, and all mine, for however long this can last.

The sounds of the drama playing out on top of the Dracorum are fading as we move along south toward my home away from home. Inside is a battle between continuing to try and figure out why I am being tested over and over, and the wondrous idea of simply being myself and living here as if I am on an all-expenses paid vacation. I can be stupid, if necessary, and perhaps if I become bad enough something will come along to stop me and get things in order enough to stay here. I pause the duchess for a moment to ask of her opinion, to which she takes my face and whispers that my happiness comes first. After, we can work on the issues. Wonderful. One big kiss and we continue toward the pyramid and a place I need like oxygen. Breasts bouncing, hair swirling, and that is that. I want her. I will get what I want.

No I won't.

The temperature is rising, my feet are beginning to sweat, and the light level is increasing with every step along the sidewalk. And then one foot seems to falter... I look down and there is no concrete. And then my hand is empty. To the left again, Jaime is gone. Sand, heat. I look back toward the south and see only desert. What the fuck just happened? My world has been torn away and replaced with the beginning of this half-dream, half-nightmare. Damn it, Jaime is not there. No one is there. Just me and the vision from days earlier: The fucking deserted wasteland and low brush that is southern Nevada. Dirt, sand, and sunshine. I am suddenly thirsty, unlike last time, and I see that there are no other creatures following along this time. Holy shit. The temperature rose so quickly and the light came up so fast that I cannot easily focus. Just like being in pitch dark and a bright light is thrown into one's eyes. As I stand and absorb this new scene, my eyes adjust and I see the original vision straight ahead. Yes, the haunted place with the cool water. It is not far, so I had better get moving before I pass out. Why this had to take place I do not know, but if it brings me closer to understanding where Julia is pushing, perhaps I will be better for it. But I miss my electronic duchess like sin. I need her. Badly. The only comfort I know, and it disappeared from within my grip. Fuck you... Whomever you may be. Just... Fuck you.

This is no time to be pissed off. Think. Walk. Do it.

Off toward the resort with a hell of a thirst building. The gates are not far and appear to be elegant just like before everything went nuts. Although, upon entering the first time, things inside had been strange. My room, the people, and then that moment when I saw the blood pooling outside my door and that led to Julie and I on the sidewalk. She was dead already, I died soon after, and then we blew the shit out of that place. Well, there it is again, looming like a cloaked figure yet still something I need to explore. Here we fucking go again. This time? I am going to keep the ideas flowing inside. Just in case something strikes me as different and possibly a clue, I need to be ready. Sharp. Not drunk. Heh. But don't I wish.

The building seems to be as it was in the beginning, all inviting and beautiful. The gardens are coming into view as I approach and I can see that cool water all over the place. Oh God does that look good in the heat. Closer, clearer, and I begin to feel hope. The fact that I am alone now is frightening, though. I do not like being by myself again. I need that supportive, loving embrace that Jaime provided in abundance. Alas, I must keep going and see what may be in store this time. The situation is beginning to appear dire. Not good. If I can just answer back somehow. But that answer eludes me still.



776



And just like clockwork, the difficulty has returned to my head. Morning. Always early morning. The images fly through me and my head has to make a decision. Outside for a cigarette, back inside with the coffee, and then a few moments pass and the cycle of desire begins again. No matter what may be taking place inside me, the issue returns and pushes against my will in a battle that never ceases. I am there right now. If not for the keyboard and being forced to stay inside these last few weeks, I would be out and about in an effort to keep my head out of the dark places. I do not have that option at present and the resulting tennis match in my head is not helping. Back and forth and back and forth. As of this very second, things are fine and I am away from there, however the issue will not fold itself up and be put away like a stray piece of paper. It continues to stir in the background, effectively making the morning very difficult. I flip around on the television to get updates and information on what has been happening around the world, and then the image of a reporter working from home completely derails my thinking. She is a combination of the Raven and someone else that I know through a working relationship, appearing as a tall example of dark beauty the likes of which I have not seen grace the screen in years. I cannot help but stare and dream of where I have been and where I need to be. Nothing is easy when a woman such as she comes along out of nowhere and after years of ignoring the morning news due to disdain for the process. Now? I watch each morning out of the need to keep updated on a the manner in which the world has changed in the space of a calendar month. Every now and then I see her report on something local and my head goes around the globe in eighty seconds. The woman is stunningly beautiful and I have to stare and appreciate all of her facial features. I have to see her. I have no choice at all. Yes, this is what I have become. She is too much to avoid and I am too weak to change the channel. Fuck me, right into the fucking ground.

Maybe she is another Cherry 2000. Not funny. In my dreams, though.

Through the gates, toward the entrance, and there is the big revolving door inviting me inside. Yes. Finally, some cool air and a measure of comfort. A large measure, to be sure. As I cruise toward the registration desk, I see the restaurant where Jennifer stood with that bag, the big bar where I was shot point blank, and the long hallway leading to restaurants and lounges. There in the distance is the stunning attendant behind the desk and everything appears to be normal. No line, few others, and lots of wide, open space. I step up and she speaks as smoothly and beautifully as before. Right out of the gate I decide to throw a hook and she smiles, hands me a room key card while sliding the mating card into her bulging shirt pocket. A touch of my cheek and she states that dinner in my room would be lovely. And more... A wink, a brush of her button seam, and pressure inside me. Damn it. Now I need a fucking drink. Time? Seven this evening. Expect a visitor. Holy fuck, I made yet another date with a goddess and am not surprised in the least. Of course, I need to learn and not just indulge, but the idea of arms around me cannot be avoided. I just need it too much. And then movement behind me... Julia, with her lovely black hair and eyes full of concern.

'What are you doing, mister?'
'I need it. Something, anything.'
'I know you do. May we talk before you descend into the Vegas mindset for the thousandth time?'
'Okay.'

Julia takes my hand and pulls me toward the bar. Yep, that same fucking bar that I know all too well. Along the walk, I see there are again just a handful of people in the resort. Hmm. Much like the first visit, except everything is as it should be. Just a resort, no crazy or backward stuff going on. Much better. Into the lounge and straight to the plush barstools as is my custom. I still miss Jaime and the feeling is like someone removed part of my being. At least Julia is being pleasant instead of demanding. Thank the maker.

Scotch, conversation, and then a smidgen of clarity. Only a touch, but enough to hold my interest. Julia is still being ambiguous about everything which is beginning to make me lose patience. I understood the Raven's words very clearly, having remembered our conversations from the past. Her intention was always my well-being, whereas Julia's is not easily followed. I press her for the meaning of such differing versions of Vegas, the symbolism of seeing women from my past represented by scorpions, and everything leading up to a crippling, frightening scene playing out in the passenger car. At this point I am fucking sick and tired of being forced to face such fears in a Goddamned railroad car. I do not see the point of scaring me in order to deliver a message. Julia does not respond clearly -- for the second time -- and I am about to tell her to fuck off for good. I can take little more of the haphazard discomfort and the hole inside me caused by some force or decision which has taken Jaime away from me. In short? Fuck all of it and everyone. Her reaction to my tirade is to sit calmly and glare while still appearing as if she truly cares. That is only going to make my anger flare.

'Give me back my machine.'
'That is not up to me, my dear.'
'My ass. Fuck you. I'm done.'
'You're not trying.'
'Fucking right about that.'

Up and away from the bar with Julia left to her own agenda. I am so fucking irritated that I feel like destroying the fucking resort again. Maybe I can wander around outside and locate that boxcar full of explosives. Heh. Nope, I see through the window that there is nothing of the sort. Only desert. Well, I am going to the steakhouse bar and get plastered. Fuck her, anyway. Time to be my own person. As I round the big corner and view the restaurant entrances, I spy Jennifer sitting alone. Huh? I approach, she turns...

'Come here, mister angry pants.'

Gawd that is cute. The woman is again dressed beautifully and perched like a fucking model. Long legs begin to take away my sense when she grabs my hand and offers a touch of wisdom.

'You ripped away from her pretty quickly. Are you ok?'
'I have had it up to here with mysteries.'
'I know. Be patient just a bit longer.' And a soft kiss as her hand slides something into mine.

Gone.



777



Damn it. Why does everyone have to just vanish like that? I realize that I am supposed to figure things out by way of the clues, scenes, and words from all of these women, but honestly I cannot find the point outside being told I have failed over and over. I still don't get it. And why does everyone respond so quickly to offers of sex or some other indulgence? This is just me, not some famous person that has been splayed all over town on billboards. The attendant showed interest, Alexandra and Julie responded to me, Julia jumped me more than once -- although that was on the other train -- and Jamie's coworkers all seemed to be responsive to my forward words. I've had good luck finding companionship in the past, but this situation has been kind of Monty Haul-ish. Jesus, I could probably hit on any random woman out in the casino and go straight to wherever I wish. Ridiculous. On the other hand, I suppose if I am to be stuck here in the place between one world and the other, I might as well be comfortable part of the time. Well, that was Jamie the duchess and missing her feels like a surgical procedure removed my heart. I really need her and have become very fond of that wonderful woman throughout a short period of time. I just fucking need her.

A key card in my hand. Now I have two. Huh?

No more Jennifer, either. That little exchange of words did not take long. And then she disappeared, but the fact that she told me to be patient a bit longer makes me think either something is going to come along, or I will be exposed to a situation that may change things here. Or maybe there will be an exit. A clue, please. In the meantime I have calmed a touch and do not feel the need to get plastered out of spite. A drink or three will help, so onward to the steakhouse. And now there is not one person in the massive corridor leading through restaurant row. Where did everyone go? Will there be a fucking bartender? Self-serve in a Vegas casino? I fucking doubt it. Entering the lounge and waiting area from the hallway is like walking into a newly-constructed business... All beautiful and finished, ready for action, but no one there. And I mean no one. Spinning in place for a moment shows me that all the lights are on but no one is home, literally. Every entrance is lit, operating, but the people are fucking gone. Wow. So, considering the sheer number of cameras in these huge resorts, I decide to stroll where I wish and grab a drink. In the real world, I would be snatched up in a second and lectured before being set straight or asked to leave. To the bar... And nothing. No sound, no lights, no nothing. Silence, other than my glass filling with ice. Well, at least I can drink and sit for a little while without distraction. That is a measure of good. Back to the barstool with a nice glass of scotch and a head full of questions. Let me work on this. Patience.

Jaime said she knew a way out, but the subject has not come up again for quite some time. Upon hearing that, and after the little ride to the Venetian, I am not so inclined to believe anything coming out of a woman's mouth if her name begins with a 'J'. I wish that was funny. Unfortunately, I may not be able to trust Jaime telling me that she loves me. On the other hand, I do not believe that she would steer me wrong. Call it an instinct. Nor do I think that she would let real harm come to me. But then on the third hand, perhaps she is here to prop me up until some massive lesson comes along to either test me or destroy my ambition again. The last situation left me pissed off and unwilling to bend. Just like a therapist's office, I gave up and turned on the 'pain in the ass' type of behavior after which others become frustrated by my stubbornness. Well, I don't know if that is a good idea, but am certain something will eventually come along to give me a clue as to what is next. I shall see soon enough. Being without Jaime is not easy because she is so very kind and loving, but I can sit here and work things out under that piped-in music. Quiet, calm, alone. Just think. A way out. The car? Nope. I tried that already when there were freeways and ended up turning around because the roads went nowhere. Killing myself? Again... No way. I just end up appearing on that fucking bridge across from the hotel, or perhaps back out in the sand. I do not see other options. The only possibility is my making a decision or realizing some change within that needs to take place for this to end. I do not know, but one thing is clear: I cannot patronize and placate those women because they see right through my bullshit. Add the Raven to that chorus of wisdom and lying will not get me anywhere. There must be something else. But what? Does all of this have to do with my issues of desire and the obsession? Am I supposed to change the way I think? Time for a test...

Out the door and into the hall. No one. Hmm. I need to run into someone in order to test my theory. If I am the king of the fucking world in here, I should be able to do anything, right? Does that make sense? Maybe. I need to see other people, but have no idea of where I might find them. The place is fucking deserted. The huge pathway that leads from the main casino through restaurant row and toward the convention center would normally be pretty busy all day and most of the night. Right now there is no one. Just me. Hmm. Back to the bar to grab a refill and then a stroll to somewhere else. The casino has been tread over and over by yours truly, however that walk typically ended at the bar where I met Jessica and Alexandra. Perhaps I need to go further to the north and see what is there. More casino, I would presume, but having avoided that end of the resort due to other things going on, I must at least learn. Onward.

'Do you know what you have to do?' Damn it.

I have to keep my head up with Julia's voice resonating. At least while walking around I can stop in anywhere and refill my drink. Heh. Drunk soon. Fuck it. I don't care.



778



There is another big hallway with what seems to be a food court (ugh) and some kiosks selling souvenirs. Ok, what else? Further, and I see sets of doors that lead to the parking garage, more slot machines, and a large archway (and I mean fucking huge) similar to the entrance to the Forum Shops at Caesars. What? A mall? No way. I must check that out. Well now, there is a sight to be seen... An entire shopping center inside the resort and completely empty. Lights on, stores open, but no one around. Wow. Where did everyone go? I wanted to conduct an experiment of sorts but I need others. Women, preferably, so I can research just how far this situation can be pushed. Well, I guess not. No voices, no nothing. Completely alone in every way. God damn could I ever use Jaime's company right now. Anyone, really. This hotel seems to be growing as I explore. I do not understand why it looked so much smaller from the outside, but then again I am not meant to understand everything in this world. Fuck me, it just keeps going. Onward through what seems to be a shopping area dotted with small restaurants here and there, and then a crossing with arms of the mall stretching outward to the four compass points, yet two are shorter. Hmm... Maybe I can see what the outside looks like right now. Along the path toward what would seem an end to the building that is parallel to the big revolving door by the lobby, and I see the stores all sitting there shiny and bright and awaiting customers. Wow. No one at all, still. I could walk into any of them and make off with whatever I wish. Heh. Eventually I reach a huge set of windows and see that the outside is unavailable. There is a facade hiding the real view of the outside world and it looks convincing enough from a distance to be decorative. Back the other way. Maybe there is something toward the opposite end of the mall. Maybe.

And... Nothing aside from more faux windows. Damn it. Time for a refill.

As I round the corner and pass the big crossing, something off to the left catches my eye. What am I seeing? Is that a tapestry where the entrance was? Are things changing again? The landscape perhaps? Heading toward what was the casino (and Jesus does this remind me of the real Caesars) I see that it is no longer connected as when I ventured the other way. That was not long ago. Now all I see is a huge medieval-looking image on a giant fabric covering the missing archway. Wow. I turn right to head back into the mall and most of it is now missing. What the fuck is going on in this place? I see another, smaller arch with black doors as the building seems to be shrinking each time I reposition my gaze. And there it goes again... The wing leading east is now closed off with no stores. Back to the left and that fucking wing is gone, too. Left again shows me that the wall where I entered has moved to directly next to me. Each time I look in a different direction something is changing. And then everything stops as I stop moving. I am now standing in a square space not much larger than a hotel room, with one set of doors directly ahead. From all those options I have been reduced to one way. Just one possibility now, and I didn't even get a fucking refill. That is just wrong. Oh well, I guess the doors await. Here I go...

Blackness. The only light is coming through the door frames. I suppose someone or something wants me to go through them. Hmm. I do not like this. All I wanted was another fucking drink.

They open as I approach, inward, slowly, to reveal a corridor lit dimly from the edges, and points of light coming from the ceiling at intervals along its length. Wow, this is different, and I cannot help but be intrigued and nervous at the same time. A few steps show me that each of the light pairs along the way is illuminating two enormous, framed paintings. They must be several feet wide and twice as tall. Pair after pair as I see the lighting fade into the distance. I have no idea how long this room is, but there is no end in sight. All of a sudden my head hurts. Stop. Worry. Discomfort. And there it is... Just like in the snow, I cannot remain standing. My body feels as if it is coming apart and I have no motor control. Slump, bend, flop. On the carpet, cool and still. What the fuck do I do now?

Nausea. Sweat on my forehead.

Sleep."



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