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The Merlin Factor. Chapter Eight.
Topic Started: Dec 17 2015, 01:21 AM (86 Views)
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The Merlin Factor. Chapter Eight.

Night Flight.


South of the North Pacific High, 1990.


The little rear cabin climbed and plunged, rolling to and fro, rocking me, violently, to sleep. The weather was worse, but there being nothing to do about it, I abandoned myself to its fury, drifting down, warm and tired, into the velvet realms of night. The trimaran climbed a mighty, foaming wave, hesitated at its peak, and as the rushing ocean roller fell away beneath, it dropped, so fast that the safe little bubble of my soul stayed where it was, suspended over the dark, racing tumult. Disconnected. Free and wild. Eager to go wherever disconnected souls go when there is no purpose in staying locked inside an idling body.

I was flying again. For I often flew, in my dreams. Climbing up into the starry heavens, into the still, limitless realms of flight. I flew. On my way to that special place. Excited anticipation trembled and sparked inside me. A rendezvous. I turned and became aware of Jacques Merlin who was suddenly there, speeding along beside me. There was a thin, high-pitched silence, free of spoken words. And yet we spoke.

"Where do you go, mon vieux?" Jacques.
"To the place of pleasure. Will you join me?"
"The woman? This one you call `Auntie'?"
I nodded. Intent. Who else?
"I will come. You do not mind?"
I shook my head. No. Of course not.
"Ah. You love 'er, do you not?"
"We love each other. It is more than love. Sharper than love. Sometimes it is painful. You will see."
"She will not mind zat I accompany you?"
"No. I do not think so. Although I have never taken anyone to her before."
Had I? I did not think I had...
"You do this often, Dave?"
"Johnny. My name is Johnny. And yes. This is where I go most often, when I fly."
"Johnny." He tried the sound of it, accustoming himself to its texture. He smiled. "Johnny. Ah, but of course..."
The ocean gave way to land and we dipped down, soaring along darkened streets, over yawning black holes and dull, red embers. A ruined place. But filled still with bright and vibrant life. Unbeaten. Stubborn. Proud...

We circled the boat, canted high and dry in a dew-covered field, a wide-eyed owl atop its mast. The parachute lay saturated in the dew, lifeless and flat. Kilo was visible at one of the plexiglass windows, unconcernedly licking her paws. Everything was in order.
I dropped down, slowing, flaring, with Jacques close behind. We took his little dory and rowed the last few hundred yards through trees and over fences. The building. Centered in its rural park. Rounded flint and red clay tile. The door. Her door. And the shiny brass mermaid for visitors. Knocking. Waiting. Expectant. The click-clack of approaching heels. Her heels. High and needle-sharp. Feminine. Dangerous...

"Johnny! How very nice to see you, dear." That voice. So mature and comforting. "And you've brought a friend!"
Jacques stepped forwards, bowing solemnly. "Jacques Merlin, Madame. At your service."
"Merlin!" She started, momentarily, seeming to recognize Jacques, but with a quick glance back at me, recovered her composure. Her Woman's charm...
She wore black, tight-stretched leather, her face pale against its contrast. Long, heavy earrings swung at her ears and her bosom reached out to overcome...
"Do come in, my dears. I've been hoping you would come."

She led the way into her high-ceilinged living room. A fire crackled and flared in a wide, stone hearth. "Shall we begin, or would you, perhaps, like a cup of tea first?" With a questioning glance at Jacques, I declined tea for the both of us. I was impatient now, aroused...

She sat down on a low couch, smoothing the wrinkles from her skirt, arranging it so there was the briefest glimpse of silken stocking-top. I knelt before her, caressing her tall, tall boots, drinking in the severe but graceful curve of her tightly arched insteps, admiring the height of her thin, pointed heels. Her warm, gloved hands stroked my hair as she soothed me, whispering gentle, motherly words, before starting to undress me, slowly, intimately, removing my blue uniform a button at a time. She paused, inviting Jacques to sit beside her.
"I thank you, Madame, but decline your kind offair. I am content to rest 'ere as a mere observer. If you do not object?"
That soft, vibrant laugh. "Certainly you may observe, Monsieur Merlin. Please make yourself at home."

She returned her attention to me, pulling me up to her face, gazing into my eyes before closing her soft lips over mine and lingering there for minutes. Her hands closed around my private parts, guiding the hard, anxious column inside a stretchy, rubber envelope, smoothing, securing. My breath grew ragged and broken. Pulsing, red light shone inside my most secret places, illuminating even the darkest corners. No stone left unturned. Bared to her closest scrutiny. She examined every part. From the bold and obvious, down to the most minute nuance. Her strength held me tight. Bent me to her design, placing me just so. I lay there, floating, face down over her leather-scented lap, gazing at her silken thighs, at her leathered calves, willing it to begin...

An age later, she helped me to my feet, tottering and weak. Her eyes were less alive now, sooty shadows beneath. She trembled slightly as she allowed me to kiss the fragrant leather of her warm, gloved hand. Jacques was curled up, fast asleep on the carpet, cat-like, luxuriating in the mere fact of being. I shook him gently awake and together we bowed to her, backing away, slowly, worshipfully, towards the door.
"Do come again," she smiled. "Do come back soon. Good-bye, my dears. Have a safe flight..."

*****

Speeding, once more, over the darkened earth, Jacques asked me about it.
"This is your love?"
"It is. My one true love. My life."
"You are sure?" I felt a stab of resentment. "Of course I'm sure."
"She is very 'andsome, of course. You 'ave chosen well."
"She is everything. She knows me completely."
"You like to call 'er `Auntie'?"
"We like it. It seems a fitting name."
"Do you know 'oo she is, Johnny?"
"Does it matter?"
"It is important to know. Yes."
"Do you know, Jacques?"

He chuckled. His special, bubbling chuckle.
"She is a Woman to be reckoned wiz. She is Power! Ze great Maman of all. Every man long to 'ave one. She is ze one dat every man long to 'ave. Ze one 'oo give comfort from ze storm. Ze one 'oo give pleasure. Sometime she give pain. Great pain..."
"She is mine."
"No, Johnny. You are 'ers. Always you were. Always you will be."
"Always?"
"Yes. Always. She will change as you change. She will grow as you grow. In effect, she is you. It is good zat you love 'er. If you did not, zere would be little 'ope."

I stared at him, high above the earth.
"You 'ave already learn to submit to 'er. Zis make 'er very 'appy. Which make you very 'appy. Many, zey resist. Many never learn to submit. It is a - a - ze word is `stage'? It is a necessary stage - a step - to get to ze better place. You 'ave make much progress, Johnny. But you mus' not stay too long at zis one place."

We flew on in silence for a while. Finally he had his thoughts arranged.
"It give you much pleasure to 'ave 'er dominate you, non? Zis is a good sing. But zere is more. Much more. When you pass diss step, you will make much progress. I sink you 'ave become trapped, somewhere, an' now you are stuck. It is not a sing so uncommon, after all."
"I like it here, Jacques. Being stuck here is fine with me."
"Do not misunderstand me, mon ami. To go beyond dis place, is not to lose what you 'ave. It is to gain more. Ze pleasure zat you find with `Auntie' is as nossing to ze pleasure you will know beyond. She will be zere. Always, as I 'ave said."
"Why, Jacques, do you speak with that strong accent again? I thought you were losing it."
Another chuckle. "I sound to you as you wish me to sound. Did you not know zis? It mus' make you more comfortable zat I speak zis way, or I would not do it."
"Ah. Please go on. A silly point..."
"As I 'ave said. Everybody 'ave zis Mother. All are the same, only zey look different to each one. Your `Auntie' is as you 'ave made her. She is to your specific - your specification. According to your need. You 'ave, in fact, built 'er, as you 'ave built your strange boat."
"I built her? She was already the way she was!"
"No, my friend. She was 'ow you needed 'er to be. Loving you, she allow 'erself to be zis woman you 'ave painted."
"Is it a bad thing?" I noticed that the land below had given way to water. Broken, scudding crests. Moonlit and cold.
"Only you can answer zis kestion, Johnny. I can tell you only zat you 'ave become stuck in zis one place. To live is to move. To climb ze ladder to ze stars. Is it your wish to live?"
"Of course it is! Everybody wants to live!"
"Not everybody, Johnny. Many choose death over life. It is zeir choice."
"I want to live."
"Zen you mus' return."
"What? Now? It would be impolite."
"In ze flesh. You mus' go back an' change 'er. Change yourself."
"Can I do that? Can I really go back to her?"
"You can do whatever you want. You mus' only first be very sure zat you want it."

I considered this. It was all entirely sensible, hurtling through the cool night air, disembodied, out over the water with Jacques Merlin.
"I think I would like that. Oh God, yes! How do I do it?"
"You are sure you want zis sing to be?"
"I am sure." He smiled, waved, made off into the night, calling:
"Do not fear, Johnny. I will be zere when you 'ave need. An' remembair: you mus' Love 'er. No mattair what. She need your 'elp! Always you mus' give 'er your Love... Always! Adieu, mon ami! We will meet again..."

Sudden vertigo overcame me. My easy, practiced aerodynamics broke down abruptly, leaving me spinning, falling, end over end towards the heaving, moonlit waters, far, far below.

*****

I awoke screaming, insane panic choking my hysterical cries. In the darkness, icy, thudding waves smashed me up against the bulkhead, invading my warm and cozy cabin, hurling me breathlessly into the main cabin before grasping me in harsh, hungry talons and wrenching me out through the shattered transom and into the raging night.
Nightmare!
I would awake. I must!
Water flooded my mouth, poured into my hammering lungs, squirted from my nostrils.
"Jacques! Help me....." I screamed once, tried to scream again and choked on a salty, silencing gag of ocean.
The boat had vanished into the howling wind. Gone without trace.
My legs became entangled in something and, desperately, I grabbed at it. A line. Snaking. Writhing. I pulled myself along its seemingly endless length, hopelessly hoping it would somehow lead me to safety. At the far limits of my endurance, I came, finally to its end. A stainless steel ring. Wide nylon webbing. Clammy, sticky waterlogged nylon. Silk? What?
The parachute wrapped its clinging folds around and around my thrashing body. I was sinking fast. I frantically shed my heavy clothing, hoping to gain some buoyancy, but it helped not a bit. Nowhere to stand. Nothing upon which to climb. I clambered all over the yielding parachute anchor, pressing it down into the dark and rolling waters. Sinking.
My strength was gone. The billowing silk was pulling me down with it, so I traded the very last of my life to free myself from its claustrophobic embrace. It slowly vanished into the deeps, dragging behind it the long, long line and the very last of my foolish hopes.

I sobbed and shivered. Lost at sea. It wasn't my fault. But then it was never my fault. Was it? The very, very end.
A large, white bird soared past, banked around and came back to examine my final moments, maneuvering easily on the violent blasts of wind. Its black, shining eyes fixing me in some hopeless, low-level attempt at communication.
"You don't belong here, little boy," it seemed to say. "You are not ready to ride the vast open places. I cannot help you, and even if I could, I might not. For you simply are not ready."
Still, there seemed, to my slowing mind, there surely seemed to be some basic sympathy shown. Some feeling for a fellow life. Lost and dying. I clung to this tiny, hopeless gesture. This final attempt at communion. It was the last, the only thing I had left. The great bird re-trimmed its wings, minutely adjusting its angle of attack, rising in imperfect, yawing circles under the force of the wind, moving away.
"Good-bye, little boy. Good-bye..."

I kept it in focus for as long as I could, viewing it through the stinging distortion of streaming layers of salt spray. The wonder of flight. It came to me, as I felt the feeling going from my leaden body, that I had always wanted to fly.
"If only," I thought. "If only I had built an aircraft. I wouldn't be in this stupid situation. I wouldn't have to be sinking into this watery blackness with nothing firm to stand on. I wouldn't have to be here. I wouldn't have to be dead..."

*****

Camelot: Instantaneously...


"Phew! Quite a ride, my friend. Boats make me queasy..."
"Merlin! What happened?"
"You are dying, once more. Even as we speak. Why did you not repair the dry-rot in the transom of your bizarre vessel?"
"Look, it was not my boat! How could I have repaired a boat I haven't owned yet? Don't be daft. And what are you doing with that wet cat?"
"Ah yes. Let me introduce Kilo. Or Cleo. Have you met?"
"Hmmm. Not yet. Hello, kitty. Pss-pss-pss..."
"Tell me," said Merlin. "Why do you people always say `pss-pss-pss' to cats?"
"It's cat-language. Means `get over here or I'll bash you over the head'."
"I see. Anyway, time to go. Did you read anything interesting? Let me guess. Morgan, perhaps?"
I stared at him. "How did you know?" He laughed in delight.
"I am Merlin, the Enchanter!"
"If you know everything, then answer me this: who is `the hawk'?"
"Ah." He said. "Ah!"
"Well? Who is it?"

He pondered for a moment, still holding the dripping cat.
"I am thinking of writing a book. Please don't spoil my ending. All right?"
I laughed, softly, amused as usual. I reached out and stroked Cleo. She ignored me, seeming to think I was somebody else. Cats always ignore those they love. It is their custom.

"Ready?" Merlin asked.
"I suppose so," I said. "How do I do this?"
"You found my crystal ball?"
I nodded.
"Come. Let us go back to the tower. Or was it the library? When - where - did you see it last?"

By and by, we arrived in the library, that became the crystal tower once more, as we entered with intent to view the crystal.
"What do you see?" Asked Merlin.
I gazed again into the swirling depths of the ball. It was very green, as if underwater. I caught sight of something sinking down deeper into the greenness. A buckled, metal shape. A number, in white. 302...
"Follow the number," Merlin suggested. "Go after it. Touch it. Go a'ead..."
I reached forth to touch and suddenly I was filled with terror and pain. Agony beyond agony! My heart burned in hell and my brain exploded outwards...

*****

"Squawk!" said the crow, and then made space.
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