Tame and Turbulent
It's the only place I can be both an angel and demon
"Another one," his voice hoarse and exhausted. His stomach churned, and he couldn't swallow no matter how hard he tried.
The camera flashed, showing the paled-out blue-skin of the body lying on the ground.
"Death by drowning."She clicked the camera again, moving to the other side of the victim. "Where's the water?" Her shoe crunched down on the dried-out dead leaves that lay near the dead woman. In truth, the victim was more a girl on the cusp of becoming a woman.
"In her lungs, right?"
She lowered the camera. "This is victim number four in a matter of days. Where…is…the…water? I don't see a lake or river nearby."
He almost didn't say it and checked on the stars and beyond in the black sky before he whispered, "don't you smell the salt?" He inhaled deeply, closing his eyes in remembrance.
"The ocean?" She said and stopped taking photos.
He shuddered at the word and nodded. A chill shivered through him; he pulled up the collar on his suit coat to keep the October dampness off his bones and anything else.
"But Jack – we're 1400 miles from any ocean," she shook her head.
He'd stayed away, as far away as he could, repenting.
She moved towards him, her eyes searching his, "Are you okay?"
His mind stumbled on a deep dark memory. One he had decided to lock away forever and hoped would never surface again.
The ocean waves rushed forward crashing down and trickled toward Jack's feet. Part of his usual routine, watching, listening, appreciating the most powerful and peaceful place on earth.
He inhaled deeply and parted the waves, as easily as pulling petals off a flower. With each step forward his feet sank in the soft sand. Further and further, he walked onto the ocean floor. Listening to the water rush up on either side of him. When he was so inclined, he would reach down and collect the treasures of the oceans. The shells of the creatures who also called this place home. All the while knowing they were following him.
The overcast sky showed dark black clouds and lighting streaks. A mirror of the turbulent sea he'd just parted.
How he loved the ocean – the tameness and brutality that could ensue at any moment. The tide's powerful ebb and flow, the way it reflected the moon and sun, like a glimmer of diamonds. Constantly flowing, always there.
His white feathered wings spread out from his back. There width as long as his tall body, brushing the water's cool surface on either side of him.
They were drawn to him, like magnets. Why they followed, he wasn’t sure, but they appeared as if called. His theory – they were drawn to the ocean as much as he was. His little companions on a lovely ocean walk.
He heard them giggling. Turning towards the sound his wing collided into the watered wall. About a handful walked behind him, picking up the seashells. Placing them in their makeshift baskets upon their shirts. Lovely human girls, how they smiled, turned in circles, and reached their hands out to the walls of the water surrounding them – entranced.
He continued forward on his path allowing the girls to follow as they wished. The loneliness ebbed slightly when they were near as if they were the children of his beloved ocean. Soon enough, he'd send them on their way, wiping away their memory of this beautiful day. Of course they would return, and they’d relish this moment again. A routine he’d come to depend on and cherish.
For some time now, he allowed this routine to form some semblance to a family. Although it would never take the place of what he once remembered.
Jack dropped his seashells and ceased breathing. He was stuck fast to the sand, his feet sinking down, unable to move. He no longer heard the waves crash or knew if the girls were laughing or screaming.
Was he looking at a ghost? It couldn’t be. "Zann," he whispered. It had been eons since he'd seen him and that wasn’t long enough.
"Miss me?" Zann threw a seashell up in the air.
"That's a stupid –
Jack was interrupted by a forceful punch to the stomach. Folding in half, his eyes popped wide with strain, and his chest did not rebound to take in a breath. The last thing he saw was Zann's big boot coming for him, his head exploding from the inside out into a black void of nothing.
Jack felt the sand under all of him and woke up nauseous and dizzy. He was vaguely aware of the sun skirting over the horizon, the seagulls flapping across the orange glow. Back and forth. To stop the spinning he closed his eyes.
When he was able, Jake opened his eyes. The waves lapped up the shoreline and pulled back whatever was in its way. His vision was unfocused briefly, blurry – were there large rocks by the ocean's edge?
He sat upright, blinked and saw the statues erect in the sand, frozen in place. His girls.
"Why?" He grunted on an exhale. "Let them go now. Haven’t you done enough?"
"You must understand, old friend. Tap into your other side," Zann said, pointing to Jack's horns.
Jack instinctively felt his horns protruding out of the top of his head and shuddered. They were rough and textured with bumps and ridges and he was likely to get a splinter if he kept it up. He flexed his white wings out and flapped them once, "I have two halves, remember? And I've forsaken both."
Zann looked Jack up and down and drew his mouth tightly together, like he’d tasted something unpleasing. Although Zann had the same horns, they were much longer piercing through his temples; his left ear bore the scars of a horrific burn.
Jack let go and remembered how Zann found himself with the disfigurement.
It was Jack who burned Zann’s flesh. He could see the ear afire, see Zann’s head as he pushed it further and further into the red and blue flames. The head splitting screams that were forced out of Zann’s overstretched mouth weren’t enough punishment. Before Jack could finish the job and kill Zann properly, Jack was waylaid and drug away – staring at his dead mate. So much blood, laying still like maybe she was sleeping upon the blackened ground of the underworld. Jack had wanted to reach out and stroke her blond hair out of her face and away from the blood.
Zann rubbed the ear as if he’d been reminiscing too.
"So I've heard, is that why you're hiding on this disgusting plane?" Zann stood in a smooth motion. Dusting off his hands on his black leather pants and brushing off his leather jacket like he had a swarm of bees after him. "It's time you come home, to the depths of the underworld once again."
"Never. I've chosen my way in life." His wings now closed in on themselves. Sickness grew in his stomach, and his breath was shallow. “Now, let them go.”
"Leave earth, come with me, and I will spare them."
"I don't belong anywhere, not heaven, not hell." He willed his strength to return, and he stood much taller than Zann.
"Your blood runs black."
"Yes, and white."
"Why are you here?"
"It's the only place I can be both an angel and demon. No more pretending to be one or the other.
"How dreadfully boring." Zann pulled up his collar and walked over to one of the girls, where the salty water lapped at her still feet. Her mouth pulled back in a scream. Ready to strike, Zann held his knife and played with it. Manipulating and twirling it in his hand.
Jack was in front of Zann, shielding her before Zann could get any closer. "Stop, right there."
Zann pushed the knife up in front of Jack's chin.
"Take my life instead," Jack pushed his chin down on the knife, and warmth trickled down his neck.
Zann backed up slightly, decreasing the blade's penetration. "Oh, that won't do. You see, we need your little water trick downstairs. Times change, things change." his upper lip curled. "The underground waterways, you remember them, don't you? Turns out they don't lead down but up to the holy heavens. Who would've thought?"
All at once, he could only smell the salt, feel the sand between his toes, and the sun shining on his face warming his skin. He took in the sun-slicked glimmer on the rolling waters. His humble home was wicked in its ability to crush and calm his senses – much like his two parts.
“I won’t do it.”
“That’s what your mate said too, right before I slit her throat.”
Jack roared into the sky and knew he had to take everyone with him before Zann took it all from him again. Jack bit down on Zann’s good ear and pulled, taking out a huge chunk of cartilage with his teeth. Zann screamed and head-butted Jack.
Jack didn’t pause from the hit, he spit out the hunk of ear, tasting blood and sweat. "If it's underground waters you're interested in, I can help you with that."
Jack willed the ocean to swallow them whole and his teeth chattered from the shock of cold. Zann's long hair floated up and off his skull and around his horns.
Jack struggled and clawed at the demon, pulling him tight to his body, watching Zann struggle to untangle his arms. Zann's knife hand strained and pulled free and drilled into Jacks's shoulder. The force hurt worse than the penetration and stained the waters red and black from the blood. It was all Jack could see. He willed the ocean waters to push Zann further down to the ocean floor entwining, encasing him beneath the sand.
To have his enemy buried beneath all that he treasured repulsed him.
Jack pushed down on the floor and shot up to the surface. He glided forward on a wave's momentum, landing on the shore, scanning, looking for his girls.
He clawed at the sand, digging, searching until the gritty sand bit the skin under his fingernails. Black and red leaked down from his shoulder and mixed with the sand, "No, no, no, no," He cried. “The ocean,” he whispered over the din of the waves. This was all his fault. He yelled at the waters in front of him knowing he’d sacrificed them.
Turning to the ocean, with shaking hands, he parted the sea again, and numbness seeped into his body as if he no longer had one. The water carried them out to sea. His girls were on the bottom of the ocean, bloated and blue. No air in their lungs. No more happiness, no more life.