04-01-2020 05:57 pdt

Everything is operational after the recent quiet period. Issues with the registrar had us pulling out hair in large clumps until things were resolved on their end.




The Lord of the Afterlife

Part Fourteen

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"There it is again... The fucking Dracorum, people all around, and my Goddamned slipper sitting there next to the valet desk all shiny and gorgeous. Within my frail hand is Jaime's. Holy fuck, she is right against me and smiling as if we are just fine. I am standing, after all the holy hell in that passenger car and the hundreds of very detailed memories of the first car, and surprised to be feeling as if I have survived. Wow. Once more around the world of sordid and haunting visions, yet this time with the duchess on my arm.

The voice. The fucking voice from beyond the doorway. My mind is chewing on that like an industrial shredder. I never dreamed that I would hear that voice again. Soft, smooth, and captivating. As difficult as the memory is of Her and me sitting and sharing quiet conversation, comfort is injected by the voice next to me...

'I love you baby.'

Fuck me in a wine bottle, everything flies out of my head and I am left yearning to dash back to the pyramid and isolate my face inside her clothing. Forever. As we stand on the bridge and watch that menacing dragon spew his flame to the four winds, the duchess clings like a young girl looking for approval. A few words and mushy eyes are all it takes for us to stroll south. I intend to avoid everything and simply focus upon my machine for however long I can. Down the boulevard, arm in arm, and with Jaime sending loving Morse Code into my ear. Fuck yes. She is wonderful, and I have no conception of how I could have made it through the last few days without her loving support. Sound familiar? The need to be in a woman's warm embrace in order to remain upright and operating my mind? Yep, that is what I have become. Without the support of a female companion along with physical comfort and my needs fulfilled, I would have been gone long ago. That may still happen, however, because said comfort has once again become as elusive as freedom from the routine and that daily control that I cannot exercise. Jaime will hopefully not disappear anytime soon or I will certainly lose everything. I cannot imagine being alone right now. My grip of her hand tightens as the realization sets in that I would not survive alone. At. All. Ugh.

Passing the MGM brings Lena into my heart for a moment. That long weekend was tough on every front, and made worse by my string of days without contact with home or work. I was in a space that had no room for others. The woman was unbelievably kind and generous with her time. Although I had trouble looking at her in that spandex dress, the conversation helped a bit and even carried on when I finally arrived home. The memories are not as tough now, though, because the loving duchess is right there. All mine. And the time is different, surreal, haunting in a completely new way. Julianne made it clear that I had failed up to that point. Now I don't know what to do. Until something takes place leading me in another direction, the only idea is to enjoy my machine and treat her like the lover she is.

And then Goddamned fucking forms in the city. Though traffic is very light due to what's going on, there are still those beauties here and there. Bad right now, very bad considering the circumstance I created. I do not like it, but I did it. I knew my life would revert back to the period before the goddess, however now that weeks have passed I am worse than anticipated. From bliss to painful isolation. We were out of there quickly and back alone, fortunately, so only the burned images remain. Along the clock all day were thoughts and dreams of what comes next. I have not the first damned clue. No matter the events of a given week, I still wallow in a pool of loss and despair. The little joys are shrinking and the entertainment is becoming weathered. There is always something familiar to see from a better time and that keeps my head up sometimes. The pressure? Pain? Needle? Not good. This is not an easy time, and I am certain that such a fact does not apply solely to me. I have to focus upon myself, though, as there is little I can do for others in this condition. Another early morning, coffee, something to keep my eyes occupied, and quiet. Last weekend I enjoyed the same peaceful time but two days went by faster than anything in recent memory. I could not believe it. Now, I am trying to be very conscious of the clock and the passage of time as I contemplate what should be done today. And I must be careful at each step, especially while alone. I have no desire to leave the house in this climate so I will stay holed up here for all it may be worth. This will not be easy due to the evidence already flaring in the wee hours before I rose to make coffee. And then another slight flare an hour later. Fortunately, I am buried in thoughts of the world and my place, throwing words to the screen, and thinking about how best to protect myself from those things which have the power to harm. That includes myself, but the control and relaxation are now apparent. Keep busy, distracted, somewhat comfortable, and then just roll into the evening with half a snootful for posterity. That usually brings out the negative, however I can deal with that more easily than the issue of late. I can do it, and with force. Everything will come out in the wash. During thoughts of the day and my issues trying to push me into a corner at five in the morning, there is a nagging worry about something else. Concern, if you will, over an aspect of life out of my grasp yet still very much inside me. Spidered, effective, affected. A robot? In a manner of speaking, yes. Right now I need to keep calm and stay right here while exercising said control. Let us get back to that down the line. One step at a time.

Nothing is good.

Jaime is stunning and seems taller now. Her eyes are deep blue, huge, and looking to me for guidance... Meaning I am the maker of decisions. Jesus God, a machine all to myself. No matter how much time I spend with that gorgeous woman attached to me, I cannot help but be stunned by the actuality of her being what I dreamed for years. Nothing ever pointed me in the direction of something like this being a reality in the near or far future. Now that Jaime is with me, everything else is melting away like butter on the summer sidewalk. I am beginning to think that giving a fuck about the town, dragon, gunman, and all of the other bullshit with which I have had to deal is a fucking waste of time. I continue to be lectured by beautiful women and haunted by images of the past and the way they affect me, and for whatever reason am still stuck here. All of the days since watching the scorpions in the sand following along have shown me that my actions may not matter in the least. Julianne was very clear in telling me that I will know why this is all happening, but perhaps I once again derailed that with my head. I just don't know. So, fuck it all. Jaime is amazing beyond words. I will throw myself at her for as long as I can and enjoy whatever atmosphere we run across, and the rest be damned. Derailed. Heh.

Into the Luxor of the past once again, God love it.



691

Her features made me dizzy



'I am covered. Hidden. Sitting in a room full of people, but not there at all. They see me but they do not see me. They see what they wish. Always. Just what they wish. My actual status matters not. They will always look in my direction and see nothing of what they should.

As is typical for a Monday after a long weekend, I am pondering the idea of what may come next. The next day, week, month, year are in question. Some say I have control over much of this and I cannot disagree. However, the manner in which I exercise said control may, in fact, be out of control. Silly, perhaps, but the truth is not something from which I will shy away. There is no need. I can try to control but I may not succeed. Positive thinking has put me on my ass more than once and I will not be so reckless with it in the future. So, if I am capable of mind, we shall see the result. Otherwise, we shall bury the result. Whatever. As long as something is different.

These fucks I see in the morning are in a damned hurry. Why? Did they leave late? Leave earlier. Is a woman giving birth in the back seat? That would be an acceptable reason for such selfishness and speed. Not likely, the birthing issue, but you never know. Everyone owns their own little road. They own it and occupy it and if you or I are in the way, we get the routine. You know, following too closely, highway-beam flashing, passing without care, cutting us off... The usual behaviors which elevate them to the status of 'legends in their own minds'. That driving attitude is indicative of many personality traits which are the very reasons why our world is fucked up in so many ways. If you do not understand that last thought, you are one of them, so fuck you very much. Please, do everyone a favor and miss the next turn on the mountain. We'll forget your worthless ass soon enough.

As you have read, I am still trudging along as always and among the masses. Those masses which I have already bitched about in spades. I will refrain from continuing.

In other brain cells, the end of the weekend is not something I take lightly. The end of the cool holiday season is something which can cripple me, however. That has not taken place as of yet, but I fear a drop coming at any moment. The arrival of such is going to be bad and I am not ready nor willing to take it. I want to reverse the clock's battery and start again in November. This January shit is for the optimists. The days are getting longer (bad), the temperature is stabilizing (bad), the days off work are in short supply (bad), and the fucking clock hates me (very bad). I am not very fond of it, either, so I understand. I would not like me either.

I realize that my thoughts are all over the fucking map this morning and I do apologize for not typing in a more coherent manner, but the fact is this day just will not allow for anything so grandiose. I am afraid I just cannot do it. My mind is clogged with thoughts of many difficulties and ironing them out will take time. The days in the mountains force me to think too much. Just too damned much. Organizing all is far too difficult. I am unhappy, depressed, dry, broke, directionless. The horizon is unavailable. Una-fucking-vailable.

So... What now?'

Things are as they were... In the past and glowing with Egyptian beauty. I love it. With the gazelle-goddess on my arm, I stroll straight to the registration desk as if I own the hotel. The gorgeous attendant passes me two key cards and we head for the inclinator. Damn it all, I do not care what happens outside the little world of her and me. I need it so badly after days of fear and pain, and after years of memories and longing. The desire is hitting the high notes as we roll into the spa suite and straight to the plush bedding. Flop, embrace, bliss. Jaime is so caring and affectionate that I am still caught off-guard by her mannerisms and big, red eyes. Holy fuck is the woman ever gorgeous. As we lay there and whisper to each other of how nice the feeling of the room has become, I see those eyes darkening and in need of power. Without a word, I walk her tall self to the sofa and plug her in. One little kiss later and Jaime is out. Back to the bed to gather my thoughts. Perhaps dinner later in the restaurant of our choosing, a few drinks, or whatever may come along. I need to ravage her and direct all of my passion where it has to be, but for right now some analysis is on tap before I can wake her and dive. I am a bit tired from the walking but nothing bad. In my head is everything which has transpired for days. Not easy, but at least I have the duchess. Looking over at her stirs me like nothing else... Long legs from her mid-thigh skirt to the heels, tapers, curves, those breasts defying gravity and pushing upward like mountains I need to climb, and her face, all smooth and inviting, sitting there like the sum of all beauty. And she loves me. A machine? Who fucking cares? I feel it in my sensitive heart. Damn.

Ghosts are here, both outside my door and in my head from early yesterday morning. I dreamed of being in the living room with a man in a western hat -- someone not necessarily threatening, but still intimidating -- and I had the sinking feeling that something was outside the door awaiting my view. I asked the man if I was allowed to take a peek and he stepped aside with a gesture communicating approval. I stood on my toes and peered through the stained glass to see what appeared to be zombies all over my driveway and into the street. Spread out, staring in different directions, and seemingly focused upon one standing on the porch. He was glaring back at me through the window and moving slowly, as if to indicate that the door was about to be opened. He reached for the lever as I spun the deadbolt and I backed off. I could look upon his face no more. Too frightening, yet somehow not. I did not understand and turned my attention back to the man in the hat. He did not blink at all and seemed intent upon telling me something I may have not wished to hear. In my head was a plan formulating. The safe was one room away and housed the iron which could have dispatched him and made a mess. The more I thought about it and considered methods for escaping his attention long enough to dash and grab it, the more I was concerned that no matter my speed he would intervene in the worst way. The man then turned his eyes to the floor in a thoughtful gesture. I began to feel an opportunity and a distraction that might allow me to do what I needed for peace of mind. Seconds passed before he very clearly stated that I must stay still because he has eyes in the back of his head. Huh? And just as my mind processed what seemed a figure of speech, he turned halfway around to look out the window and I was face-to-face with a pair of eyes part way up from his neck. Holy shit did that ever throw me. Again I heard the door handle rotate as the chief zombie made a second attempt at gaining entrance. Before I could go further in mind of options, I woke up. And that is that. No learning, no understanding, just monsters and intimidation that I really do not need at this point in life. Whatever the cause or meaning, fuck you.

I need a fucking drink. Now.



744

A machine or another dream?



'This is more difficult than I had originally calculated. Each morning on the weekend -- early morning, that is -- my body presses me into a small space as the desire and memories flood my head and leave me sans relief. This is tough. I knew the situation was going to be troubling at the outset but now I am worse. Desperation yesterday morning nearly drove me in a direction which can be dangerous. I quickly squashed it and ended up doing work around the house and drinking a bit before I could calm. The booze usually helps to take it away and the mid morning was no different. I made it through the day without falling off that damaging cliff and relenting to the need. Issue four is pretty fucking tall sometimes and all of my effort is required to keep it at arm's length. This morning? Worse. I had to dash outside into the cold and have a cigarette before allowing myself to drop and give in. I made it again, but still the hour is early enough that I must stay away from anything which may flare it. Nerves, pressure, pain... All of it adds together and forces me to consider other options. As I said, that is dangerous and could end in disaster. I cannot have that right now. There is enough to deal with. So far I have kept it away but eventually the physical problems will dictate my actions. And then I will fall off an emotional cliff just like every occasion. Emptiness, sadness, loss, need. My brain is working overtime to stay in operation. This is fucking tough, even for a person with my patience and will. The past has left me this way, along with years of dealing with a life of loss. How I made it this far is a fucking mystery.

The draw has been in my head for a long time, along with imagery and references to the past. At some point, and perhaps many years ago, a situation took place (I cannot totally recall now) which changed me in a way that I do not understand. A part of life which others seemed to be enjoying and exploring had been absent in mine. Reading, dreaming... Nothing helped me to understand, and after quite some time I began to think that I had been flawed or damaged in some way (other than the fucking obvious) and such a state kept me away from that which I had been missing constantly. I tried, failed, tried again, and finally withdrew and moved away from others with a deep disdain cemented inside that would not allow me to try further. I essentially gave up on the whole fucking thing for a very long time until meeting the right person and finding the ability to communicate about it and even go a bit further. I still remember when that took place and was told that I was different, however not at all in a bad way. Normal? I do not know what that is. Typical? I fucking hope not. Average? Hmm... Perhaps. I do not enjoy labels, but they are going to be applied regardless of my feelings. The simple fact is that I have gone back in that past direction in a very bad way and when combined with physical issues, well, I might not survive. Do I care? Somewhat. Do others? I will not ask anything of anyone again.'

Jaime is warm despite being out and off. Damn.

Lying here without her to bounce thoughts, I have to think that doing everything I can to remain comfortable may indeed put me just where Julianne stated: Forever. Can I stay here? What will happen? More shooting? More flame? I don't know. This has been only days, which makes the thought of my groundhog remark earlier not seem so far-fetched. I might truly be able to stay in this backward place for good and keep Jaime with me for support and love. Maybe? Hmm... I honestly doubt that days could roll by without any trouble. I have been chased too many times to think that some fucking lesson would eventually come along and force me to run away. Or a Goddamned situation in a railroad car would cut my heart in half again. People here just keep going on and on about all of my mistakes, yet when I was alone with each of those women they were loving and caring to no end. Sex, shopping, dining, drinking, for fuck's sake... Why were they all so fucking sweet and willing to please me in every way and then the big fucking classroom with me being shot over and over and then the voice from beyond? I don't get it at all, and cannot believe that staying here and trying to lay low like any other vacation is going to last very long before someone comes along out of the blue and kills me. Whatever. For right now, I need the duchess all over me and I need to wait until some sort of realization comes along to help me reason out of this shit. To the sofa, wrapped around Jaime's long, slender legs, and comfortable as I wait for her to come back to life.

I can see Jaime's big eyes behind those lids. Like a dream I could not have imagined ever in my fucking life, the woman is amazing to see. Someone out there read my thoughts for the last twenty years and constructed her to match every detail over which I have agonized and sought for a very long time. I still cannot believe that she is right there and all mine. When those huge windows look at me, I am reminded of the goddess and her doe eyes peering right through my being as if she was like Jaime... Devoted, loving, strong, yet soft and delicate. Unreal. And her legs were the same. All those lines, right fucking there. Ugh, off that subject right now or I'll go through the slanted window again. Back to Jaime and her never-ending thrall upon my senses. I cannot avoid staring at her form. She looks like a three-dimensional model of the thousands of images I have amassed for years in search of a way to understand the why. Still, I am at a loss. Looking at her lying there all gorgeous and soft? Nothing aside from desire and emotion. So beautiful, head to toe. Now I want her again after staring and dreaming of everything which has taken place and all of the love the duchess has shown me.

Life within this world is both wonderful and frightening, as from one moment to the next I do not know if something is going to show up and slam me again. I really need Jaime and I have to press her for that way out. Maybe something good will finally happen. Waiting while staring is not easy, however she is all mine and I do not have to worry about anything negative taking place when she comes back to life. This whole world is still strange, though. Years of dreaming have left me a pretty fucked up individual, and when combined with a few things missing which cripple me every few days, having that machine at my disposal is a dream come true. A fucking dream, like Juliette and Ashley combined, and with the fucking soul of Andrea thrown in for good measure. Add the sensitivity and understanding of the goddess? Well, you know. Too much, too stunning, and too willing to do as I please. Jaime is something else.

Enough of the beauty. That is not helping anything.

The fact remains that no matter how comfortable I may be with the duchess and the run of the place, I need to work on ending it... Getting the fuck out of here once and for all. I need to press her for information, period. Thinking of meeting that woman at the Nile a little ways back reminds me that I am thirsty. Room service? Nope... Time to get the fuck out for a while. Jaime is still less that fifty percent so I have some time to consider options and relax at the bar. Out the door and stopped almost as quickly as the idea hit my brain. What the fuck is that to the north? I cannot turn left out of the room to head for my usual inclinator because it is gone. The pyramid seems to be cut off on the north side by nearly half and I am left seeing a massive wall from the thirty-fourth floor to the attraction level, completely shutting off the other side of the hotel. What the fuck? Where did that wall come from? Immediately I need to investigate, but first I dash back inside to get a number on how long my duchess will be unavailable. Two hours, give or take. One kiss on her warm forehead and I am out the door again. Right, toward the inclinator on the southwest corner, and along the path with that huge wall looming like a figure watching me step by step. Reaching the casino floor forces me to see that what I viewed from above is true... The resort is now half of what it was. Just past the cashier and I see my favorite little bar across the room and not far from where Jaime and I first spoke. Jesus, something this dramatic is going to throw off my ability to reason a way out of this fake Vegas. Perhaps I can ask the bartender and learn of whether or not the wall and building have been as such or if a big change took place while inside the room. To the bar and a badly-needed scotch.

And the bartender has no idea of anything. Maybe she is another Cherry 2000. Heh.



745

Heroin, needle and vein



I feel invisible, yet they have to know I am here. If the last several days have shown me anything, it is the fact that no matter where I go or what I may do, someone is aware. I am not so blind to think that this place was created solely for my education or something along those lines, but the evidence thus far has been overwhelming. I cannot help but believe -- at least partially -- that Julianne sent me here in a dream or something, the others came out of my psyche, and the lessons are more difficult than anything I have experienced in life. On the other hand, this could be all there is left for me. The bartender comes by with a big smile and makeup out of a fashion show and asks of my comfort. Oh, I'm fine other than worrying about being shot or burned to death. Other than those trivialities, I am just peachy. Another smile, and she turns away causing much hair to swing across in front of me. Wow, everyone is beautiful. One hour to Jaime and I do not want to be tipsy. I need to think. I will press her for some answers this time. Something has to change, and soon. And the voice.

Cappuccino. Nice and warm.

Time has passed and Jaime's awakening time is near. Out of the bar and up to the room with that huge wall looming and making me wonder what else might change. Can I be ready? Not really, I just keep rolling with whatever takes place and doing my best to remain aware of the changes. I keep thinking of Julianne's words and the fact that she told me all of it was my doing. Kind of unpleasant, but she knows more than I. Well, the more I consider those hours in the passenger car and the voice out of nowhere which brought me to tears, the more I really need to think. That is not easy after all the events transpired and the times I have been pushed. I guess I have no choice other than to continue to try and figure this out. As I stroll through the door, I see that she is already up and about, looking stunning as always. When Jaime sees me enter, she dashes with a smile and latches on for a big hug. God damn, woman or not, she is wonderful. I am pulled to the sofa and she plops next to me holding both of my hands.

'We are going to leave this place, lover.'
'Please.'
'Shower and change. I will wait and plan our route, ok?'
'Ok babe.'

I fucking knew she had a plan but did not wish to press her for information. Just as I made the decision to ask of our circumstances while at the bar, Jaime must have known and adjusted her manner accordingly. That woman knows everything. I shower and dress, leave the bath to find the duchess in yet another gorgeous outfit. Black Andrea pants, sleeveless silk, bra straps peeking, breasts bulging, heels pushing her above my eyes. Jesus fuck. I have to keep my head together and out of her fucking thong. She may be a machine, but there is no way to tell from the outside. We are going to need to leave the room quickly before I swallow that gazelle in one piece.

Out the door again, and there is the wall blocking half of my favorite hotel. Damn.

Jaime's stride is forcing me to step with purpose as I try to keep up. Where we are going is a mystery and I can only hope that the destination is not a fucking train. I need more of that business like I need another gun at my head. She pulls us toward the Hacienda exit and I have no idea what is next. Around the corner, and there is something radically different from my experience. The back of the hotel is gone and has been replaced by a giant warehouse-looking structure without windows. Oy, what the fuck happened? It was just there a short time ago when I first spoke to Jaime at the back of house. Well, whatever. Onward around to where the pool once was and straight toward a nondescript doorway without a handle or lock. Huh? The door slowly opens out as we approach, leaving me to realize that everything is under the control of the duchess. I have to follow along and probably avoid questions. We move swiftly through a long hallway, down an incredibly long escalator (and I do not see another going in the opposite direction... One way?), and then into a large room resembling the underground train stations in many cities. Wow... This is so different than the last several days spent in and around the same areas that I am finding myself a bit happy to see something out of the ordinary. I've had about enough of the Dracorum, being shot, chased, burned, and filled with the need to walk off roofs. This could be out, or it could be further in. Either way, I do have a woman who cares deeply on my arm. God bless that machine for loving me. We stop at the rails (which are incredibly clean) and wait for something. Jaime latches on and I love it to no end.

'I love you baby.'
'And I you, my sweet.'

Jesus gawd damn fuck shit. She is amazing and I am finding myself without much of the worry that I have carried for days. I am somewhat relaxed, and though the feelings are dependent upon Jaime's knowledge and direction, I still cannot avoid some comfort in knowing things may be changing. I do not know where we are headed and I don't fucking care. If it is away from dragons, trains, and guns, I will be just fine. Wrapping myself around her slender beauty for seconds feels wonderful, and then the sound of air moving from an opening to my right. Something is approaching.

A train, but unlike anything I have ever seen. It looks like a vessel from a sci-fi movie or something. The nose is flat -- much like the angle of a typical locomotive snow plow -- but very smooth and sharp. The train is beautiful, colorful and very quiet. I can hear more air movement than mechanical sounds. Very cool. It glides to a gentle stop and the nearest doors part to allow us to enter a plush space. I am reminded of the caboose and its deep comfort after those days in the cold. This is similar, with old-fashioned appointments all around and what appears to be a bathroom in the back corner. There are no typical train seats lined up, but only chairs along each side below the windows. Inside the space, still holding on to my duchess, and feeling even more relaxed at seeing our mode of travel. Still, I don't know where we are going. Part of me does not care. To a chair, Jaime on my lap (I thought she would be heavier. Heh), and her arms around me as she softly rests her head on my shoulder. Doors closed, lights dimmed, and we begin to move with absolutely no feeling of wheels underneath. Fucking cool.

Cruising along all over each other, seeing lights glide by in the darkness, and realizing that this has become vastly different from my known routine in the gulag. A massive change, a machine on my arm, and a head spinning with both possibilities and concern. The former is taking over. And Jaime is the only thing in this place keeping me going.



779

How did this become the universe?



Judging by the velocity of the streaks and points of light, I would say we are traveling fucking fast. To where, I do not know, but we may arrive there quickly. Jaime drops a kiss to my hand while thoughts of moving are slowed as we begin to smoothly ease off the speed. Slower, more light, slower, through an opening and into another fairly large room. What the fuck is this? Did we move into the future somehow? Jaime is not speaking much other than lovie-dovie goo goo ga ga words being whispered as she twirls my hair, so I am at a loss. The situation is certainly strange, but I am pretty open-minded after all this shit. The worry is still at a minimum. Stop. Doors. It looks like the same room we just left moments earlier except smaller. There is a single door straight ahead -- again with no hardware -- and that seems to be our way to whatever is next. Her long legs compose a symphony of exotic beauty as she tows me along and I see the door give way automatically just as the last. On the other side? The fucking Venetian casino. Fuck me in a spacesuit, too many memories. I pause and begin to double over as thoughts of the past flood me and remove my ability to remain upright. I cannot help it... There is way too much to bear right now. Just too fucking much. Jaime sits and holds on, one hand around my face as she showers me with loving attention. Whispers of sorry, be strong, other uplifting words with her massaging fingers all over my back and neck. I'll make it, she says, because I've made it this far. Ugh, why the Venetian? Have I not done enough? Andrea. Fuck. Ellie. All of it. The difficulty peaks, I begin to breathe easier, and the loving machine holds on tight. A little at a time, I am eventually able to gather myself enough to stand and think a bit. I didn't need to see this fucking resort. It's like a haunted house full of parts of myself and imagery everywhere representing those fateful trips on high and in the arms of so many loving women. Damn it. And then the voice...

'Do you remember my influence upon your life?'

Oh God, I know. I know the voice, the cute inflections, the softness, the beauty. I know who is speaking to me now. Jaime stands silent as I look around in search of the source. There are no people but everything is lit up and singing as if the resort is full. What the fuck do I think now? The voice repeated, the path we treaded to get here is a complete mystery, and Jaime has thus far not revealed anything except a futuristic train and an apparent underground network which seems to connect some of the large resorts. Wait a minute... The Luxor has appeared as it did upon first opening in the mid nineties, still looked that way when we left, but now we are standing in the middle of the Venetian which did not exist back then. Are we also traveling through time? What the fuck? I have to know. I grab Jaime's lovely hand and tow her at breakneck speed to the nearest bar. Yep, the one where I sat and awaited meeting Ellie more than once. Ugh, the memories of that kitten. To the barstools, no one working, and I sit her down for some questioning.

'Why are we here?'
'There is someone who wishes to speak with you, my love.'

Jaime kisses me on the cheek and strolls off like a runway model. My insides are twisting into the world's most complex pretzel as I see her disappear around the corner near where we came in. Now there is no one, just me sitting at an empty bar. Quiet, slight air moving, and the sound of my own heart pounding away as I try to stay upright in light of what I believe is coming soon to a barstool next to me. Damn it, I was hoping that the duchess would stay close. I need her support, especially now. The situation is beginning to frighten me. My head begins to get defensive. Maybe I can pop around behind the bar and grab a cocktail? Heh. Fuck it, I will. One foot touches the floor and I freeze at the next sound...

'Hello lover.'

I spin around to see the black hair of my dreams. Black lock. Blalock. Her. The Raven, and She is not smiling in the least. My eyes are about to fly out of their sockets at the sight of seeing that face again and after so many years of being empty of soul. My brain cannot process fast enough the idea of Her standing before me looking as She did five years earlier outside one of our favorite hiding places. And then a slight smile and one hand toward my cheek. I am going to fucking die inside if this is reality, although I do know that the passing days and strange events mean nothing is real and others show up here only as a lesson to me, whatever the fuck that might be. I still do not know. She smoothly glides Her hand along my skin before uttering one more word. My breathing is haphazard as I try to compose myself enough to hold a conversation with a woman I never imagined would be standing before me again in this life. Her other hand then takes mine, I see Her big eyes drop a bit, and then the words come forth.

'You told me you would care for yourself, dear.'
'Yes.'
'And you are not.'
'I have been trying, but the road is not easy.'
'Try harder. Do not make me return.'
'Yes, my dear.'
'I love you.'

Flash. Gone. And now I am broken like never before as I once again had a fucking dream right in front of me and then saw it torn away like an appendage. I feel horrible, I let Her down, sat on my hands, did nothing to help myself, wallowed over and over and bitched about the world. She told me... Told me many times of Her feelings and my need to respect Her wishes. She told me often and directly. And I have done nothing. The only thought saving me from disappointing Her right now is the fact that I have not run away since losing Her. That is all. Other than staying put through the difficulties, I have no defense. She knows that and loves me anyway. No more words for a while as I try to remember the sight of that face, and the fear is setting in that She has been watching over me for years. Years. Fucking hell, anyway. Why? Jaime is there again, just on the other side of the bar, and with a horrible expression and the black eyes from hell. Ugh, what now? She moves to me and grabs my hands while perching herself upon a stool. Huge eyes, soft skin, and inside me is a wrecked pile of memories and haphazard imagery which is sending me down a very bad path. I am feeling more reckless and less willing to rise now. I do not know what to do. Jamie speaks.

'She is the one who created all of this for you.'
'Huh?'
'You've been dead since arriving in the desert, babe.'

What?"



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