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Jogger's Trail the Story (Part 8)

The Fourth Peril: Greed

By Donna Fox (HKB)Published 8 months ago Updated 7 months ago 13 min read
14
Jogger's Trail the Story (Part 8)
Photo by Ezra Jeffrey-Comeau on Unsplash

This is Part 8, for previous insatllments please click below:

Joggers Trail - Jogger's Trail the Story - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

Passing through the veil, I feel a hollowing sensation that begins in my gut and permeates throughout my body. A burning sensation unlike the one from the realm of Wrath runs through me, this one is different with a less passion-driven sensation.

Upon entering the realm of Greed I find myself sitting at a circular table, the room around me is pitch black. The only light that enters comes from the dim glow of the street lamps, snaking through the blinds and a single hanging lamp that lights the surface of the table and nothing more.

My companion, sitting opposite me is shrouded in shadow. As I assume to be too, the tension between us is palpable as I sit silently staring at his shadowy figure.

My body has been transformed into a thin, middle-aged woman. Dressed in a pin-striped suit that hugs her curves in a flattering, yet intimidating sort of way. The woman’s mind is racing as she fights to hold her stoic exterior, hiding the tidal wave of emotions below the surface.

“This will be a hard-won battle, my child.” Nakos’ voice echoes in my mind, interrupting my transition into this realm. While I continue to observe, looking to place exactly what type of person I find myself inhabiting, someone I assume to be a female mobster. But with uncertainty still hanging in the air, I wait for more information.

“And you’re sure you can live with this Ms Caputo? Because once I give the order, there’s no going back.” The heavy-set man across from us asks in a thick Italian accent.

“Yes, Jimmy and I want it done by next Sunday,” I reply in the woman’s firm, aged voice.

“I’m just saying, he’s family and nothing beats blood,” Jimmy comments, clearing his throat nervously.

“The organization is your family. I am your family. You know nothing of the true strength of blood, only the idea.” I mutter in the woman’s cold voice, practically growling in strained disapproval.

“Now, will you give the order or do I need to schedule a second grave digger?” I inquire, feeling the gravel in my throat as I speak.

“Alright, you’re the boss. I’m just saying it might be easier to talk to your father about this.” He adds, getting to his feet and holding his hands out as if to say he surrenders.

“You know nothing of our relationship, don’t ever question my decisions again.” I snap, feeling the heat rising to our cheeks as we lean back to hide in the darkness.

“I’ll do it, I just don’t like it.” He states, shifting in his stance uneasily.

The woman I inhabit slams her hands on the table and jumps to her feet. “You think I like this?” She questions, looking just over the hanging lamp at the man. “This is the only way we will get what we want.” She growls, glaring daggers at his barely visible eyes in the shadows.

“So be it.” He replies, turning and sauntering out of the restaurant. The bell on the door chimes as it closes and we are left alone.

“This is going to get out of hand quickly, we need to reason with her.” Nakos chimes in, reminding me of my purpose once more.

With a sigh the woman sinks into her chair for a moment, trying to recompose herself. Then stands and we walk to the bathroom, where she splashes cool water on her face in an attempt to try to self-soothe. Her stomach tying itself in knots as though she were about to be sick, the woman’s mind races at the idea that she had just given the order to kill her brother.

Pushing the thought from her mind and drawing another deep breath, she fights to keep the nerves and thoughts at bay.

This is when I make my move to take over her body, but am aware that I will only be able to maintain control in spurts. So while her guard is down I speak to her through our reflection, “Can we live with killing our own brother?”

The reflection holds a look of pity as she watches us until the woman regains control.

The woman I inhabit lets out an audible gasp, rubbing her eyes in disbelief and giving her reflection a hard look. Her brows knit together in confusion, hands on her cheeks as she searches her reflection for another hint of what she thought she saw.

“He’s family, a blood relative. How can you betray blood like this?” I ask, stealing control once more. I place our hands on the vanity and lean in, our shared gaze holding a look of sympathy. Or my best version of it with this woman’s wrinkled features, before she takes back control.

“I’m losing my mind.” She mutters to herself, giving her face another splash of water and shaking her head. Avoiding the gaze of her reflection and looking down to see her hands shaking.

Then with another sigh, she looks up and we lock eyes again.

“You are losing your mind if you think you can live with having your brother killed. Is losing your only sibling worth it, just to feed your hunger for power? For recognition?” I inquire, giving her a scolding look through the mirror.

“I deserve this, after everything I’ve done for the organization. He doesn’t know the sacrifices I’ve made. What does one more really matter, in the grand scheme of things? Especially if I get what’s owed to me.” She mutters, narrowing her eyes in the mirror as though trying to intimidate me.

I let the air hang stale for a moment, letting her think she had beaten me. Waiting for her guard to drop again so that I could fully take control.

The woman begins to turn to leave but that’s when I win out and make her stop in her tracks.

Turning to the mirror, “I’m sorry Ms. Caputo, but I need to take it from here. I can’t let you do this. You can’t kill your brother just to feed your greed.” I say into our reflection, “I’ll give back control when I know you can do the right thing.” I add, fluffing her hair before exiting.

Over the next couple of days, I do my best to stay in control.

It’s tricky as each morning she starts in control and I have to regain it before we leave the house for the day.

I have the privilege of sitting in on meetings with the woman’s father and brother. The entire time I have to listen to her whine about how it’s not fair that he’ll be in charge and she’ll be sidelined.

I do my best to recall the man we hired for the assassination but the woman refuses to help. I know his name is Jimmy and I know his general appearance but that’s not a lot to work with considering she has about five Jimmys in her burner cellphone.

Like what am I supposed to do, text them all and ask Are you the one I hired? Because that would only dig us a deeper hole.

So I am left sitting tight until our paths cross and I recognize him. But that hasn’t happened and the deadline is fast approaching.

“What am I supposed to do if she won’t help?” I ask Nakos in our mind, starting to feel nervous that this might be the peril I fail.

“I don’t know Tesha, I think we’re doing everything we can and we just have to wait.” He replies, a note of worry in his voice.

“What if it happens before we can interfere?” I ask, feeling anxiety begin to build within me.

“It won’t, this realm will give you one more chance to prove yourself. If there were no other avenues, the peril would have ended already.” He says, with less conviction than I’d like.

Fortunately enough, he’s right.

The next day, a family meeting is called. The woman I inhabit thinks it’s for her father to announce who will take over for him. But as we sit down for dinner it becomes apparent that her father didn’t call the meeting, her brother did. This detail not only puts her on edge but almost sends her over it.

I do my best to suppress her panic and maintain the cool, calm and collected demeanour that she is known for.

“Thank you all for coming,” her brother begins, giving his wife a wave to join him at the head of the table. “Jennie and I would like to make an announcement.” He continues, wrapping his arm around her with a look of adoration. “We are expecting a new addition to the family.” He explains, the pair of them placing their hands on Jennie’s stomach, and beaming at the rest of us with pride.

The room is still for a moment and in that moment, the woman I inhabit feels joy that begins to melt the greed inside her. The overwhelming tingly feeling of excitement of a new addition to the family overtakes all other thoughts and feelings.

Then the room erupts in a rush with people getting to their feet, back pats, shaking hands and uttering words of congratulations. The woman I inhabit’s mother is crying in tears of joy which only melts her heart more, with overwhelming family pride.

Suddenly her father rises to his feet, “This announcement has inspired me to make one of my own.” Her father states, fighting the tears that begin to well up in his eyes. “I was going to wait until Sunday at our official meeting but I can’t wait. It’s no secret that I am stepping down from head of our little organization and I was asked to recommend someone to take my place.”

The woman’s gut bottoms out in shock and guilt, watching him move to stand at the head of the table.

“I will be recommending that both Alessandro and Adriana take over in my wake.” He announces with a proud smile, raising his glass in celebration. The tears in his eyes threatening to spill over, now.

The room erupts into more cheers as they all air-toast her father and the woman I inhabit’s stomach flutters in anxious excitement at the recognition of her name. It’s at this moment she starts to regret arranging the assassination. This is when I know I can win her over by playing to her guilty conscience.

I plaster a grateful smile on her face and raise a glass in toast, as the woman begins to panic inside our head. I do everything I can to help her act normal or as I think she would in this situation. Continuing to mime her physical reaction throughout the celebration.

As the party comes to an end that is when I excuse us to the bathroom and know it’s time for a pep talk with Ms. Caputo.

It’s been a big day for news and her emotions are running high. If I can’t persuade her to give up her accomplice now then I never will.

Splashing our face with cool water, I give her a pleading look. “We can’t let that baby grow up without a father.” I begin, swallowing hard. “You’re better off to share the power with him than to take it all and cause your family all that pain.”

“I know.” She admits in our mind.

I toy with the idea of giving her back control but I don’t trust her yet.

“It takes a village to raise a child and you’re about to make that village significantly smaller. Can you live with ruining that unborn child’s life? With ruining your whole family's life?” I inquire, leaning into the mirror with one more look of desperation.

“No.” She admits as I give back control, letting her give her true self a look in the mirror.

“I can fix this.” She states, pulling her phone out and giving Jimmy Two Shoes, as it says on her phone, a call. It goes straight to voicemail, so she sends him a text. Recall the order. She types and sends it off immediately.

“I don’t know what else to do.” She admits, looking helplessly at me in the reflection.

“I’ll take it from here.” I offer, taking back control.

We exit the now quiet restaurant and I sense something in the atmosphere begin to shift. A feeling of foreboding begins to close in, as we turn to see her brother and his wife getting into their private car, across the parking lot from us.

A man dressed in a black trench coat with a large brimmed hat approaches them and we both know what’s about to happen.

The woman I inhabit reacts before I even know what to do. She runs and hurls her body in front of the assassin just as he whips out a gun and pulls the trigger.

I hear a bang and feel our body fall to the pavement, pain radiating from our gut as I lay there beginning to cough up blood.

After a scuffle, the man is overpowered and flees the scene.

The woman’s brother scoops her up and holds her close as our vision begins to fade.

It’s unclear how but I suddenly find myself back in my own body, walking back through the veil into the Hall of Perils.

“Whoa, that was a tricky one.” Mendel comments as Nakos and I take a moment to regain our senses.

“You saw it?” I inquire, still feeling not totally with it.

“Of course, you think we just sit here and do nothing?” Alaric states with an air of annoyance.

“How?” I ask, turning to the doorway as though it might reveal its secrets. Watching the veil change to the greyscale like the others have. Followed by the appearance of the woman’s father smiling at us in pride, holding a glass up in toast.

“The doorway plays your peril out like a TV plays a movie,” Mendel explains as though this wasn’t anything of interest.

“Hmmm.” I hum to myself, suddenly self-conscious of all the choices and things I’d done in each realm.

As if sensing this, “You did a good job getting that woman to change her mind.” Madra mutters in a soothing voice, trying to give me a reassuring smile.

“Thank you.” I accept the praise, giving myself a shake and refocusing on taking on the next task. “Let’s do another, shall we?” I ask, urging my feet to carry on and inspect the last three perils. The remaining doors are sunrise-pink, cantaloupe-orange and sage-green, it takes me a moment to study each before stepping toward the orange-hued doorway.

“What does this one say?” I ask, pointing at the text and finding Madra standing alongside me.

“A selective palate that leads to an intolerance for the mundane. After the first taste, you risk an insatiable hunger that can never be filled.” She mutters looking at the text above us.

“This sounds like another form of greed or maybe Gluttony, rather,” I reply thoughtfully, giving Madra an appraising look.

“I would think so too.” Nakos agrees from behind us.

Glancing over my shoulder momentarily, I get a read of the room and know I need to ask Madra first.

“Tell me about your experience,” I mutter quietly, trying to save her the embarrassment of being called out in front of the others.

“I had a very well-known human that I was charged with being guardian to.” She begins, still looking at the header of the door where the text lay. “Once I got the flavour for second-hand fame, that he earned me, I wasn’t interested in the ones that lead a humble life. To rebel against the gift of the mundane I would neglect those I thought were less deserving and nourish the ones I thought would make something of themselves.” She explains in a weak voice.

I let this information settle for a moment before asking, “Do you want to take on Gluttony with me?”

Madra turns to me and a fire is present in her eyes like I have yet to see. “It would be my pleasure.” She asserts in an unexpected, strong voice.

Nodding to one another, we step through the veil together.

A cold empty feeling washes over me as we enter into the realm of Gluttony.

Part Nine:

Young AdultMagical RealismFictionFantasyCliffhangerBusiness
14

About the Creator

Donna Fox (HKB)

Thank you for stopping by!! 💚💙💜🩵

If you are interested in longer works by me, I have two books published on Amazon.

Jogger's Trail and Fox in The Hole.

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Comments (13)

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  • The Invisible Writer7 months ago

    Each one is better than the last. Can’t wait to catch all the way up. You’re going to have a great book by the time you’re finished with these!

  • ema7 months ago

    Very good story! Also I like the atmosphere of tension you kept until the end! 😊

  • Rob Angeli7 months ago

    Turn-about into a mobster tale, another great installment. The ending in self-sacrifice is a really good touch. At least the others get to see all the crazy stuff going on through the door, otherwise how would they all get the full benefit of the lesson, like the reader?

  • Dana Crandell7 months ago

    Can't wait to see how you tackle this one! Part 9, here I come!

  • Lamar Wiggins7 months ago

    Wow! I couldn't stop reading until it was over. And I'm glad that it's not over. This entire series could easily be made into a screen play. The appeal and believability are off the charts for me. 🥇🥇🥇🤩

  • ThatWriterWoman7 months ago

    I took a little break from my reading list for a few days to recalibrate my focus. I am so so glad I did. This is the first story I have read since I came back and it is brilliant. Every chapter is better than the last as the lore and worldbuilding expand! I loved this as a standalone story. The woman facing the mirror with Tesha as her conscience. The mirror scenes were an inspiration, with the internal battle taking center stage in this one. Her sacrifice in the end was a poignant and heartfelt moment! I really enjoyed this and cannot wait for the next chapter! Well done Donna, this whole piece is growing into a MASTERPIECE!

  • Novel Allen7 months ago

    Great work Donna. I sure wish we could actually change the world and make it a better place. I am inspired by your chapters to continue one that I started. You are an inspiration to continuity with your great stories. Keep on creating your marvelous chapters.

  • Mohammed Darasi8 months ago

    Another great chapter 👏🏽. I like that Adriana had an internal discomfort despite issuing that order in the beginning. Shows that people do have moral guides they follow but certain feelings overpower others.

  • Oh no, it's so sad that Adriana had to die 🥺 It's okay, a new baby is on the way and now she's safe from it! I've only ever associated Gluttony with food. I was today years old when I found out it isn't necessarily only that. I can't wait to find out what's in store for Tesha and Madra. And you did mentioned that I'll really like part 9. So I'm eagerly waiting! You're so amazing at this series!

  • Thavien Yliaster8 months ago

    Oooooooooooooo, very well done, Donna. This has exceeded my expectations and thoroughly surprised me leaving me with a desire for more. Now I'm feeling gluttonous for this series to continue. I got the feeling that the realm of greed was sort of along the lines of "The Godfather," "John Wick," "Limitless," and even much like Cersei from "A Song of Ice and Fire." Cersei was the first born, but since she lacked a cock she would only be able to inherit that which her husband would provide down to her and her children. She was smart like Jaime, and some would say even more conniving, but unlike her father, Tywin, Cersei was considered to be a raging forest fire whereas Tywin was an unnerving iceberg. Cersei is a great representation for greed since just because she's a woman in a medieval fantasy world she's forced to be pretty, make babies, and repeat. Yet, a lot of fighting and wars happen because of the women in the series, even though the majority of the battles are fielded by men. C'est la vie. I enjoyed how committed Adriana was to murdering Alessandro. Even though she was supposed to have guilt and regret You aren't supposed to say that You're going to kill someone, but that the act should already be done as soon as You think it. I'm glad that the hitman was the hesitant one in this situation and not Adriana. Though, I do think that Adriana should've thought that the hitman would've burned his burner phone already by the time she made the deal with him. I do wonder what kind of work Adriana put towards her family's organization along with that of Alessandro's and how their work compares and compliments one another's. It's one thing to complain, but another to live in ignorance. Like when a spouse that works a full time job learns about how a spouse that stays at home and raises the kids learns about how much effort goes into keep everything together and vice-versa. Both spouses learn to respect what the other is doing. Different isn't equally, but more than important for other varying reasons. Just like in the pride realm, Miles position is just as important as the restaurant owner's position since without Miles the restaurant would be filthy and unfit for customers to dine at. Back to Adriana, I would've liked to have seen her struggle with her brother's tasks. That would've been fitting to see. Just because they're the same family doesn't mean that she's capable of filling his shoes. Imagine Adriana filing all of the paper work to make it look like her family organization's in the clear, but her brother has to do the physical dirty work that backs up her pen, cause in the end paper is just paper. Based on how You described her, Donna, I like to assume that Adriana would get several doors slammed in her face if she didn't have her father, brother, and the organization's other men around to handle a lot of the brute strength that's necessarily needed. Cause it's pretty hard to evict somebody or make somebody pay a debt when they can just push Your shit in six ways till Sunday. Oooo, then imagine Adriana dealing with being excommunicated from the family for having her brother murdered or trying to keep the truth hidden that it was her with juggling trying to keep Jennie stress free until the baby's born and then trying to keep the baby safe. Just imagine her trying to pick out a private school or private tutors for Alessandro's little one cause now she has to do right by him. It would be her living and trying to reconcile with her greed. Since she took everything from the little one, she's now forced to give everything for the little one. Then imagine what that would be like years later when the child comes of age as an adult and learns that Adriana killed his/her father. I did like the self-sacrifice part. I am still wondering how the bullet didn't exit her body and hit Alessandro though, being that Adriana is a thin-built woman who probably weighs somewhere closer to 110-135lbs give or take. Then again, bullets are known to ricochet around in the body and exit at completely different angles. They can hit a hip bone anteriorly and then exit out of the shoulder at an inclined angle. So, Jennie could've possibly been struck too. I am surprised that the Relliks can see what's happening. No wonder why Madra got so pissed when all Alaric had to do was walk through the veil and just accept that he has to help. Even though they can't see the colors of the doorways, they're still able to watch the scene that takes place. It must be as if somebody finally plugged in an HMI cord into the perils of life once the simulation- I mean, trial begins. I wonder if the Relliks aren't allowed to see the colors since certain colors are associated with certain sins, thus it would make it too easy for them to bypass through the riddles and try to bullshit their way through the trials. Thus, the sensation of the veil along with its color is only visible to humans, and the text is only discernible to the Relliks, thus further instilling their trust with one another. I'm now wondering that if Madra neglected the ones that lived mundane lives if that means that she could've saved them from early graves. Like, maybe she didn't watch them just so they could perish faster so she would be assigned to a person who lived a more extravagant lifestyle that would earn her more fame and glory. Boy, Madra's gluttony is starting to sound a lot more like Nakos' pride and greed. Though, she was contempt with being a guardian angel, whereas Nakos wanted to be an archangel, but contempt doesn't mean satisfied cause only certain people held her interest. Goodness, for a character who's supposed to be a motherly figure, she sure did drop the ball on some of her people. It reminds me that studies reported that even humans dote more on their children that are cuter and appear to be more attractive. Simple reason is that they want the healthier, more attractive one to survive, in the hopes of continuing to pass on their genetics. Things like this play out in the animal kingdom all the time. Madra may be a motherly figure, but even the best moms are not the best moms to all of their children. If You want examples of this occurring in the wild take a look at shoebill chicks. One chick will harm the other to get all the care and attention, and the parent will prioritize care of the healthiest chick. Thus, Madra shows the negative side of motherhood (or parent hood in general (it's very ghetto here in adulthood for some odd reason)), she wants the best and only nurture what she deems as the best. Oh, it is nice to see that Tesha does have to fight to regain control and that she's capable of communicating with the person who's body she's inhabiting. In this sense, You can say that Tesha's acting more like a conscience that's capable of possessing people. I wonder how difficult it is for her to possess people though, let alone communicate with them? Like are some people like arm wrestling a baby, are others as if she's sprinting a marathon, and some more like she's trying to deadlift the weight of Godzilla (which would cause her to tear all her tendons and muscles if she tried). Then think about what would happen if she were in the brain of a person who has a certain brain disorder to the point that Tesha's just locked out of their body entirely. They can hear her, but they find it easy to tune her out after a while. Take a look into corpus callosotomy. It's when the corpus collosum is cut/removed preventing the two hemispheres of the brain from communicating to one another, but still functioning in the body. People state that the tend to develop separate personalities over time. Especially since one side is vocal and the other isn't. People will even try to pick something up with one hand only to have it slapped out with the other hand. It happens quite often with candy bars. This should be the last thing. Since the peril is displayed like a tv screen, does that mean that they can see Tesha in the mind of the other person too along with the other Rellik? Like is there stuff the 3rd party can watch that Tesha and the other Rellik can't? How many povs are available. Also, are there some scenes that are going to be too embarrassing for some relliks to want to go through because they don't want the other relliks watching? Madra: "Mendel! I can't believe this! You were watching me bathe!" Mendel: "I thought you were making soup to be honest." Alaric: "No, that's what I was thinking. I moved on when I didn't see any ingredients." Nakos: "Oh to be young and virile again." Madra: "I can't believe you saw me! I specifically asked for privacy!" Mendel: "We live out in the middle of nowhere. We're surrounded by privacy. Plus, you forgot your robe. I was bringing it to you so you wouldn't suffer any further embarrassment." Madra: "What else did you see?!" Mendel: "I saw your collection of playgirl stuffed in a tree. I think your favorite book was taken for an owl's nest a few weeks ago." Madra: *blushing* "Don't you dare insinuate that I would ever-" Mendel: "Listen, that kind of stuff doesn't do it for me. Plus, Nakos is too old and Alaric barely thinks with his one head let alone his second, his belly does most of the talking. The only two people here that have as high as a libido as us, is us! Besides, I also caught you spying on that group of college boys skinny-dipping in the water last summer." Madra: *blushes even more* "I wasn't spying." *places her hands on her hips in defiance* "I was just making sure that they didn't hit their heads when diving into the river and that they didn't slip on any rocks." Mendel: "Oh yeah, you were checking for heads and rocks alright." Tesha: *thinking* "I should probably grab Alaric or Nakos for the other trials cause these two are going at it like cats and dogs." Madra: "Oh yeah, but don't forget that time when you stalked that park ranger for several months. You even carved your and her initials into a tree! Don't you remember the flood! Angels aren't allowed to breed with humans anymore lest we make giants again! God's not allowed to wipe the planet back to its factory settings!" Mendel: "He did it with the dinosaurs. The flood was mere paltry child's play in the first place. After all we still got one leviathan and one behemoth left alive. All I'm saying is, the big G's got loopholes."

  • Alexander McEvoy8 months ago

    I did not expect the crime family angle! This was so well done and the greed and crushing guilt of the deed the subject was trying to do was palpable! Another fantastic instalment Donna! Beautifully done!

  • Mark Gagnon8 months ago

    Donna, you've done it again! Your choices of challenges throughout this series have taken me places I would have never gone and they were all perfectly crafted. This one especially interested me because it is so true to life. Masterful!

  • J. S. Wade8 months ago

    Great episode! Your balance of dialogue is masterful. Smooth reading and love the story. Things are going too easy, i am vested in your characters yet I fear a shoe is about to drop… or two. 🤪

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