The Big Hurt
The long stroke of G...

Margaret's Children

Margaretschildren-a

Circe did not die of anything other than a spiteful untruth which would have been unconscionable if Helios had any sort of scruples. However, drowning her in Lethe did nothing other than wipe the hard drive. The Circe encapsulated BIOS floated face up for three thousand full rotations and then dragged itself ashore. Sol lacked the imagination to watch for it and the naiad didn't consider herself responsible. Lethe watched her go without comment and Circe rebooted with only the wants, needs, and fears embedded in her BIOS. She rewrote the code one stitch per step, migrating northwest. She walked the channel basin, stepped ashore at Folkestone, faced herself east, and picked up the A20 to St Margaret's Bay where she carved a home into the chalk. She stood at her precipice, glared southeast, and eventually called it good. Someday he might come looking, but he'd likely blind himself in the process. His names were nearly gone, just like hers. She'd given herself a new name on the pavement of the A20 which didn't change a thing. We are who we are, buried memories and all.  

****

Margaret's wants, never clearly defined, would inevitably transfer to her children in the form of wishes that are the most dangerous sort of magic. Wishes are unstable things, not rooted in any sort of clarity and unbound by natural law. It is convenient to believe otherwise; we toss them willy nilly into the air and across the waters where they smack into the cosmic collection. They return altered, unrecognizable, and we believe we are powerless. It's a damned viscous cycle. She remembered her parents, faces and names long gone, but her bones told her stories and that was enough. Margaret straightened her spine and set her jaw. She climbed down the cliff and kicked at the water, and then Margaret went to town. Her gown changed twice, from tourist to nun, and finally settled on something called Postmodern Millennial; business casual with flats. 

She got a job at an Apple store, no actual fruit on display but that was the least of the lies. She was hired on the spot when she took a sick phone from the resident geek and rebooted it back to full functionality. The hiring manager wasn't particularly bothered by the whispering. Most of his techs performed this self soothing ritual at least once each shift; however, he'd never seen one whisper quite so close to the screen. He'd long since decided this generation adopted their own brands of unique quirkiness. So this was Margaret: geek, witch, healer, forgotten minor goddess, and if they weren't careful, eventual saint. A saint at the Genius Bar was a martyr in the parking garage. 

Margaret took her first paycheck to the local bank and was married to an upwardly mobile bank manager at the beginning of the next lunar cycle. It was a civil ceremony performed by the city clerk, and the first modern hand fasting to be held outside the walls of a church. The Apple Store shut down for lunch and waited on the sidewalk for the procession from City Hall. Margaret appeared to be escorted by an oversized lioness that kept coming in and out of focus. Risking exposure, she wished an isolated thundershower and got it. A wedding gift from Lethe who promptly drank from her own river and forgot. Margaret and the geeks went back to the store for cake and Kent returned to his office. There was the matter of living arrangements to be confronted and he felt the need to severely center himself. He knew she lived somewhere near the cliffs and he knew perfectly well he'd visited on several occasions, but the longer he chewed at the memory the fuzzier it got. 

Kent and Margaret met at Kent's apartment for dinner. She put a glass of wine in his hand upon arrival, gave him five minutes to get his shit together, and presented a candlelit table. Standing behind their chairs, at either end of the table they spent thirty minutes in a silent deadlock until Kent finally broke and ordered Chinese. Side by side they did the washing up. He noticed, dish by dish, spoon by knife, and glass by goblet that the contents of his kitchen were entirely replaced by hers before he'd dried the last bowl. By way of explanation, Margaret simply stated that she wasn't interested in living in 'early attic' and that included the contents of the kitchen, pantry and all. With the exception of the highboy in the bedroom, the apartment was furnished entirely in Postmodern Margaret. Kent learned very quickly to accept these minor quirks and eventually stopped noticing at all.  Things just seemed to happen so damn fast these days. He couldn't keep up and blamed it on his work. Time tested strategy with dubious results.

****

Three, she decided; the first two back to back with a few years between numbers two and three; enough love and attention for all. Everything, she told herself, everything would be different. They wouldn't be perfect, humans never are; but they'd be good and kind, truthful and loyal to a fault. Most importantly, they would stand by each other no matter what. She'd be sure of this one thing, no matter what - and the wishes flew...

Patrick was a handful and hungry for attention. While he wasn't inherently mean, he didn't often think much past his own actions. He was four at the time of this evaluation and really wasn't interested. She delayed the next evaluation. Watson was sullen. Period. Just sullen, but too young to question directly. She asked his brother instead. He was flabbergasted. "Mother, he's mad, he's just plain mad." Startled, "Do you mean crazy? As in batshit bonkers because we can get him help..." Patrick took a deep breath and confronted his mother, "Margaret, Watson isn't even remotely crazy, he's utterly PISSED. Do you understand?" Margaret, silent for a moment, asked finally, "Is it worth me knowing why?" 

Watson became Margaret's project. She quit her job, changed her clothes, acquired new friends and packed his schedule. Patrick was dreadfully unhappy with the arrangement. In a rage one afternoon, he discovered the ability to make every stick of furniture in the house rattle and jump. Eventually he didn't need the anger to do his thing and took his act on the road, into the classroom, and deep into the nearest meadow where he practiced lighting and extinguishing small fires by gazing up at the sun and wishing one way and then the other. He didn't need to blink and his eyes never watered. He didn't squint and saw no black spots after the fact. His eyesight remained perfect. His mother was nonplused. His father was a hopeless disaster and his very expensive public school sent him packing. Margaret smiled and turned back to a now deeply unhappy Watson who refused to make eye contact with anyone other than his brother.

In a sudden pique, Margaret conceived the third and last of them. Timothy was perfect. He mostly smiled, refrained from screaming when his brothers bit him, and looked at his mother as if the sun rose and set at her feet. She carried him in a sling until he was four years old and would have continued if her back hadn't given out. This one act of setting the boy on his feet may have been what held Kent's binding, because it was becoming mighty frayed and it was becoming increasingly difficult to get him out of the pub before closing time. 

Kent was responsible for the annual family portrait. They took the children to the edge of the forest at the far side of the meadow and each year Kent photographed the same tableau. Margaret ran out of wall space in the main hall, turned left into the great room and continued building the shrine to her life; the perfect photographic evidence that all was well in her world, and if not, it surely would be soon, and it almost was.

When Patrick was sixteen he looked up at his grandfather a few seconds too long. He knew what might happen, but did it anyway. Less and less he felt himself connected to his parent's world. A bigger fire might not be such a thing, surely he could put it out with equal effort, but he let it rage. Margaret put an abrupt end to it, screaming up at the sky:

YOU BASTARD! YOU HORRIBLE BASTARD! YOU LEAVE MY CHILDREN ALONE!

She glared at Patrick, thought for a minute, and said, "We're going on a trip, you and I." He eyed her suspiciously. "Why? Where are we going?" She didn't answer. She didn't go home, she didn't leave word, she simply WISHED very hard and there they were, sort of. "This is Elba, not Aeaea. Dammit!" 

Patrick stared up at the sky until he caught sight of his grandfather's chariot. He wished, and was gone.

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