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Jonathon M. Sullivan
Farmington Hills, MI 48336
SO RUNS THE WORLD AWAY
by Jonathon Sullivan
Were such things here as we do speak about?
Or have we eaten on the insane root
That takes the reason prisoner?
Act I, Scene III
The youngest witch made her first kill in a truck-stop motel just outside of Tucson.
She straddled the man on a noisy bed with yellowed sheets, pulling at the flab on his chest. He had a hairy belly, thin legs and the face of an orangutan. He smelled of motor oil and tobacco. Fifteen minutes after she took his money and coaxed him into sharing a glass of whiskey, her wriggling hips brought him to climax. As his brain flooded with monoamines and neurotransmitters, she reached beneath the pillow and retrieved her dagger.
His jaw clenched as he squeezed the dregs of his ecstasy into her, his neck extended. She swiped the atom-thin blade along the edge of his windpipe. The edge dived into his flesh without resistance, rewarding her with a hot shower of scarlet that sprayed over her breasts. As required, she then had her own orgasm.
Sweet contractions nearly blinded her. She was barely aware of his renewed thrashings, or of the two sisters who entered to complete the ritual.
The old ones came to either side of the bed, moving quickly for women of such bulk and age. One whispered into the dying man’s ear. His jerking had stopped, and his body funneled its remaining energies into gasping, agonal breaths. As her climax ebbed, the youngest witch—―for if she survived tonight’s sacrament she would finally become a Sister of the Moon—―looked down at his meaty face. He gulped air with fishlike contortions of his mouth, but when she looked only at his eyes she could imagine him listening with rapt attention to the fat old woman who whispered in his ear.
The other sister collected his life’s blood.
The youngest witch stayed put. The most important man in her life was still hard inside her. She put her hand on his chest, at the point of maximum impulse beneath the left nipple, monitoring the death-struggle of his heart.
Sister Dexter opened a small black toolbox. An electric razor hummed to life. It took her less than a minute to shear away most of his hair.
“It must be done while he still has breath,” said Sister Dexter.
“Before proteases trigger death,” said Sister Sinister. They spoke with a heavy Hispanic accent.
“Make a line from ear to ear.”
“Divide in thirds, and enter here.”
A swipe of a scalpel exposed cranium, and the drill came into play with a low whine. Outside, trucks rumbled by on the interstate. The drill met resistance, and then plunged into cortex. Sister Dexter withdrew the bit and examined the wound.
“Don’t fear to hit cortex with your drill.”
“The CSF lies deeper still.”
His heart rate was down to about thirty. Sister Sinister had gathered the necessary volume of blood in an anticoagulated urn. Now she stanched the carotid bleeding with direct pressure. But death’s patience was wearing thin. The youngest witch felt her own heart speed up.
If the ritual did not go perfectly, her two ancient benefactors would leave behind two corpses, instead of one. There would be regret, but no mercy. The Sisterhood came first.
He had grown soft within her.
With her free hand, Sister Sinister retrieved a long silastic catheter with a syringe hub at one end and a rigid trocar at the other. She passed it to Sister Dexter, who fed it into the hole she had drilled.
“When you’re through the cortex, you’ll feel a pop,” Sister Dexter said, her thick fingers advancing the catheter.
“You’re in the ventricle,” said Sinister, “and you should stop.”
A meniscus of clear cerebrospinal fluid rose in the catheter, refracting the moonlight that filtered through the curtains.
“See it rise, the CSF!”
“His heart still beats?”
“We outraced death!”
The youngest witch could not contain a loud sigh of relief. She had cleared the most capricious obstacle—-blind luck. A dying man’s heart stopped when it stopped. What remained was a test of talent, not fortune.
Sister Dexter attached a syringe to the hub and withdrew the liquid. “Within this fluid the mind leaves treasure.”
“Keys to worlds without time or measure.”
“Man makes the protein, like woman’s brain.”
“But only in love, or upon death’s pain.”
“Today’s woman can’t make enough for Calling.”
“That time is gone; our race is fallen.”
“But we, the Sisters, can treasure make.”
“With transfex, death, or sweet mandrake.”
“Ten cc’s is all you need.”
“Once you’ve gathered blood and taken seed.”
Ten cc’s of crystal-clear CSF gathered in the syringe. The right sister unscrewed the syringe and held it up to the moonlight.
The youngest witch felt his heart give forth a final beat. Perfect.
She rose from him, and the sisters covered him with a sheet. She followed them to the other end of the room, where a sofa with a broken back sat out of moonlight’s reach, before a scarred coffee table. The sisters sat, and the sofa groaned beneath their weight.
Sister Sinister put anticoagulated blood, CSF, tequila and tobacco into a pot, and warmed the mixture to body temperature. The youngest witch stood before the coffee table. While the old ones prepared the Sacrament, she looked down at her naked body. She stood at the edge of the darkness, where moonlight could still wash over her slim form, etching her muscles into relief with velvet shadows. Her hair tumbled over her shoulders, into the small of her back and over her breasts. Blood had streamed from her chest down to her crotch, tickling her belly as it congealed into a rust-brown arabesque of thrombus.
She had never felt more beautiful.
Sister Sinister stirred the pot on the hotplate. Sister Dexter grated mandrake root and sprinkled it into the mix. Three shot glasses were produced, two of them with faded logos for a long-defunct brand of Tequila. The sisters took these; they were heirlooms. The youngest witch took the new glass. Sister Dexter doled out three servings of a thick, salty broth, rich with monoamines, neurotransmitters, and mandragarine. The youngest witch threw it back in a single swallow, and the dense liquid fell down her throat like a bulky animal diving into a burrow.
The two older sisters drank also, their movements so coordinated they could have been a single creature. They put down their glasses and stood. The couch had bowed even more deeply beneath their weight, and did not bounce back. They approached her, and all three sat in in the middle of the floor, forming an equilateral triangle.
The corpse farted.
Sister Sinister frowned. “I can’t remember if that’s a good omen or not.”
Sister Dexter shook her head. “We had this discussion once before, back in ‘06, when we tried to initiate Gabriella. It’s not an omen at all. It’s just a fart.”
Tried to, the youngest witch thought. Gabriella hadn’t passed this test. “I didn’t know dead men could fart,” she said, before she could stop herself.
“We didn’t know you were supposed to talk,” said Sister Sinister.
“You must be silent and still as a rock,” said Sister Dexter.
“You live in peril yet, dear one.”
“The test of talent has just begun.”
“What you’ve just drank from death’s own cup...”
“...is sacred danger. So don’t fuck up.”
The youngest witch nodded. It was beginning. The whiskey she’d given him had been laced with cocaine, to prevent neuronal reuptake of neurotransmitters, and saroxetine, one of the 8th-generation MAO inhibitors, to prevent degradation of those neurotransmitters at the synapse. The blood-drink contained mandragarine and other drugs. At the moment of his death, his cerebrospinal fluid had been especially rich in neuroactive amines, both standard and exotic. Now those same peptides seeped into her, along with nicotine, alcohol, raw mandrake, and other things she would not be privileged to know until she passed this evening’s initiation.
Her eyes began to see with that peculiar variety of night vision enjoyed by those who take of hallucinogens. Sitting beside her, the sisters shimmered, their shapes blurring. First hints of the foam. She looked from one face to another, drinking the profound ugliness and impossible beauty of their features. Yes, they were fat and jowly, and both had lived in excess of a century. But behind the sagging flesh, the profusion of wrinkles and the bizarre spex, her swarming brain perceived two incredible beings. Ancient, unfathomable, and powerful.
“I’m there,” she said. Her voice was a rainbow, and she was aware of every infinitesimal change in air pressure, the roiling patterns of vocal turbulence in her pharynx. A swarm of butterflies tumbled out of her throat.
As one, the two sisters leaned forward, pulled on her lower eyelids, and examined her. As one, they nodded.
“Now you’re ready, little one.”
“Pull the curtain. Let in the Sun.”
“What is and what is not we’ll see.”
Together: “Show us Macarthur Bethany.”
The youngest witch nodded and licked her lips. Tonight, she wore no timmie. Tonight, the sisters would not be there to guide through the infinite ramifications of the foam, or help her find her way back.
This was the old path. She was on her own.
She reached forward, dug her fingers into the fabric of spacetime, split it open like a curtain, and moved through the breach.
Macarthur Bethany engaged the enemy at the Maricopa County Courthouse on an ugly Friday afternoon. By the time he entered Judge Sarah Lynn Ferrell’s courtroom, Bo Sweno was already submitting papers to the bench. The courtroom was warm, poorly lit and, except for Sweno and the judge, empty. A tiny air conditioner, lodged in one of the windows, waged a noisy battle against the overpowering heat.
Judge Ferrell took Sweno’s papers, glancing at Bethany as he came through the door. Sweno followed her gaze and turned. Bethany’s adversary was a tall man, late thirties, with buzz-cut yellow hair and narrow features. When he saw Bethany his pale eyebrows made a W in the middle of his forehead.
“Well,” he said.
“Hey, Bo. Surprised to see me?”
“Welcome, Mac,” Ferrell said. “Not like you to be late.” The judge looked like an aged Bette Davis. Bethany had always thought the young Sarah Ferrell must have been a stunner.
He claimed a narrow table up front, across from Sweno. “Well, your Honor, I might have missed the party altogether.”
“That really wouldn’t be like you.”
Bethany set down his umbrella and briefcase. The thunderstorm had so far failed to rally itself, but Bethany was drenched anyway, sweating from the implacable Arizona heat. He took off his jacket and loosened his tie. His shirt clung to him.
“Fortunately, Your Honor, I keep a close watch on the docket. Just in case somebody like Mr. Sweno here tries to pull an end run.”
Sweno shrugged. “Not an end run. It’s a perfectly routine filing.” Sweno spoke impeccable English, but with a Scandinavian lilt.
Bethany removed a folder from his briefcase. “Routine? How come you’re standing before a judge?”
“You know perfectly well,” Sweno said. “As a foreign firm, we’re required by your blinkered security statutes to—―“
“Watch it there, Counselor.” Those Bette Davis orbs gave warning.
“You’re required to file before a magistrate,” Bethany finished. “You’re also required to notify the respondent.”
Ferrell gave Sweno a frown. “You haven’t?”
“Your Honor, Mr. Bethany, as Counsel for SysScot, has received notice of this action.”
“Not as of five minutes ago, I hadn’t.”
“I have a record of transmittal.”
Bethany pursed his lips and pulled out his Te, a slim Japanese palmtop. “Ah. Your honor, I stand corrected. Mr. Sweno’s claim was served to me, via Judicial Net. Fifteen minutes ago.”
Sweno shrugged. “We show service six days ago. There may be a snag in the Judicial Net.”
Ferrell shook her head. “Excuse me? A snag? If I find out you’re playing games, Mr. Sweno...”
“I’ve met all the provisions of the statute, Your Honor.”
“Maybe. Mr. Bethany here gets no special consideration from me, but I know he’s not sloppy and I know he’s not crooked. I’ve half a mind to give him the weekend, to review your claim.”
“If he wants the time, that is his right, of course,” Sweno said.
“Unnecessary, Your Honor.” Bethany heard no yielding in Sweno’s voice. He’d thought to catch SysScot completely off guard. Failing that, he still thought he had the upper hand.
Let’s disavow him of that notion.
“Your Honor,” Bethany said, “I think I can cut this entire exercise short. I believe Mr. Sweno just handed you a claim of property against SysScot, with supporting papers. If I may digress very briefly, you should know that Mr. Sweno’s employer, Fortune International, a Norwegian investment firm, recently attempted to buy a majority holding in SysScot. The offer was turned down by our Chairman, Duncan Scot. Mr. Sweno filed suit, arguing that the individual members of the Board did not need Mr. Scot’s approval to sell their shares to Fortune.”
“Yes, I heard about that case. Judge Kelly.”
“Correct, Your Honor. You may also know that Judge Kelly ruled against him.” Bethany took a moment to see if his dig had any effect. Sweno said nothing, pretending to examine an imperfection in the oak paneling of the bench, smiling.
He thinks he’s got us. Overconfident prick.
“Your Honor, examination of Mr. Sweno’s supporting papers will demonstrate that in the six months since their failed takeover of SysScot—―a privately held company, mind you—―Fortune has been quietly buying up most of SysScot’s creditors and lessors. This campaign culminated last week in the purchase of Briar Heath Real Estate, owners of the property on which SysScot’s physical plant is located, at 2221 Saguaro Avenue, Phoenix.”
“I see.” Ferrell nodded. “They couldn’t buy your company, so—―”
“So they bought the company that leases our building, the company that leases our supercomputers, and several of the companies that lease our manufacturing equipment. They recently purchased majority holding in our largest creditor, London Capital. They also purchased—―”
“I think I get the picture.” Ferrell turned to examine Sweno. His smile had evaporated during Bethany’s presentation.
Учебное пособие no speak English Часть I состоит из 5 рассказов современных американских писателей