My best name was less than seventy years ago; Kathrin Hart. It was the late 1940’s, and I had crashed in Paris during the Resistance. I was part of a special cargo being delivered to the front to hold the Allied forces at bay in Normandy. My plane was shot down along with its deadly cargo. During the crash, my memory was lost, my uniform destroyed. He took pity on me thinking I was one of the locals who had been near the plane when it went down.
He was a G.I. reinforcing a small town during World War Two. At our initial meeting, unknown to both of us, I was a tool of the Reich, my powers turned to their purpose. I had been recruited and exploited as a weapon of war. Our time together was brief but tender. Before the week was over, the two of us repelled another more terrible menace of the Reich which had escaped the crash and run amok, consuming the townspeople, nearly to the last man, woman and child. During the conflict, I died, along with almost all of his men. He was haunted by the carnage.
He did not know my powers would transcend death and I awoke during the night. My memory returned and I returned to the Reich to exact my vengeance. Even as I tore through Hitler’s bunker, I could not put this man out of my mind. The Allies were disappointed when they came to the bunker and passed Hitler’s death off as a suicide. There was something about him; something dark, something brooding. I recognized his Power, though I did not know its name.
He did not know. He could not see the other lives he had lived. Like rings in a tree, he had many lifetimes, each of conflict, and of suffering. He had lived many lives, each renewed by his dark connection to his power. Our powers were complementary, so we were drawn together, time and time again, our lives mixed sometimes as lovers and other times as deadly enemies. This time we started as enemies and ended as lovers. When the war ended, I found my way to him in the States and we married. Again. It was the beginnings of a mistake. Small at first, but it grew over time.
My presence, my Heart, my Light, triggered his Shadow and soon we had to move. Our powers were not in harmony, they could never truly be. Each time we grew comfortable, misfortune would follow us and people died. As his power grew I realized he was not just a child of Shadow. He was a Power. A repository of a Great Gift. As powerful as I had been, it would be nothing if his awakened. His power had a name and I pretended I did not know who he was.
During the sixties, his powers were fully active and we could walk between shadows no matter where they were in the world. If he could visualize a place, we could go there. Where once I could fly in hours, he could move in seconds. His powers soon equaled mine. Within a decade, they were greater. I knew nothing good would come of this.
I waited for our doom, our Houses to intervene, dark powers to appear, but our threats remained mundane and we grew complacent. We even went to Woodstock, laughed, got high, and traveled as if we were normal. We crossed the country in his hand-maintained VW bus with half a dozen other hippies. We made our way quietly through history until we met her. She was at Woodstock. I should have recognized her but we were happy not using our gifts. It had been so long, we thought everyone had forgotten us.
She was beautiful. Her hair was an afro, full like the head of a dandelion. She wore a simple halter and shorts and I remember her legs were the most amazing I had ever seen. Her body was brown like mahogany and her smile was a thing of warmth and sunshine. We were both drawn to her and we spent the day just getting high and enjoying the perfect day and weather.
We danced, sang and it was as if we had always known her. We lost our friends earlier in the day so we spent the night parked, making love till the dawn. When he and I woke later in the day, she was gone, but both of us were more at peace than we had been in years. After Woodstock, things changed in the world. Suspicion and fear became the order of the day. But for us, things seemed good, too good. We were happy for a time, able to enjoy our peace until she came back to us, nearly a decade later.
Her second visit was nothing like her first.
She came to us on a farm in Iowa. We had moved there hoping for a cessation to the slowly increasing attacks. They were strange, intermittent, without a pattern, at first. Racists with an axe to grind. A cross-burning, shootings from the road, refusals of service in nearby towns. We never protested. We didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves. I was a blond haired, Caucasian woman and he was a powerfully built African American. People were often hostile when we came to new places, especially during the late seventies, but people adjusted and usually left us alone after a time. But not this time. Their ire and their attacks increased. We turned our farm into a bunker and stockpiled weapons. These attacks were not the issue. They were a symptom of a greater disorder. The people were a projection of forces seeking us, hoping to draw us out. We waited, armed, expectant and patient.
And then she came. It was during a terrible storm, lightning flashing, tornado-like winds howling. We had retreated to the house to watch the storm looking for patterns or portents in its fury. She came running out of the woods toward the house and I recognized her immediately. Other than her clothes, she had not changed, as if less than a second had past between when she left us and now. She was carrying a small child with her.
As she staggered in from the driving rain she collapsed after handing me the baby. She seemed to be in another world, barely maintaining her awareness of us. She dropped to the carpet as if she were dead. He caught her and laid her gently on her back. Hidden by the baby were terrible slashes in her belly. Deep lacerations but they bled slowly, much slower than any wound that deep should. We were no longer waiting. Trouble was here.
He picked her up and struggled with her tiny body as if she were a great weight. He placed her on the sofa. I cut away her jacket and opened her shirt and saw her body had been terribly savaged and the injuries were across her thighs and back as well. Whatever did this was powerful and large. The claws were the size of his hands. He checked and rewrapped the child while I tended her wounds. We both had significant experience with injuries and often worked as doctors or paramedics. The child was about six months old and in perfect condition. After checking him out and satisfied to his health, we made ready. Whatever drove her here would follow. Soon.
When they came we saw them slowly approaching the house. They were wolves but the forest belied their size. Each was the size of a pickup truck. Their mouths open, lips pulled back, showed their razor sharp fangs, already bloody, each drip accented by the flashes of lightning, growing steadily more frequent, lasting longer and the crashing of thunder indicating the storm was directly overhead, no time between light and sound. With all the noise the strangest thing was the fact the child didn’t wake. As if lightning was something he was used to hearing.
My husband walked out onto the porch with a sawed-off shotgun, filled with a mix of blessed silver, lead, iron and salt in one hand and a rune-carved machete in the other. “Stay here. Keep them safe. I’ll be right back.” He walked out and the three giant wolves strode up to him within twenty feet and stopped. They were easily nine feet at the shoulder. It was simply impossible they should exist. But they were not from either of our Houses. This was an unaligned force. We had no idea of what to expect from them.
“We don’t want any trouble.” As if talking to giant wolves was something he did every day. I sat with my Winchester rifle pointed out the window. I had already picked my target. His posture indicated which he would tackle first.
“Give us the woman and the child and we will leave.” A gravely voice, I could hear it even at this distance, a sign of its magical puissance.
“Can’t do that.” His hands remained at his side, weapons slick in the rain, his shirt sticking to his wide back.
“Then, there will be trouble.”
My husband said nothing, but his body tensed imperceptibly, waiting for them to gather their courage. They seemed to sense his power and were in their way, cowed by it.
The wolf to his left bared his fangs and hissed. “Is that your final offer?”
“You, first.” As the wolf lunged, both barrels of the shotgun went off directly in its mouth. It screamed as it threw its head back, and smoke rose from it as it fell into the snow.
He turned exuding a crazy menace, smiled and asked to the remaining wolves, “Who’s next?”
The second wolf, as large as the first lunged forward and my .380 caught it cleanly in the eye. Ensorcelled, the round tore through the creature’s iron-hard flesh and ground its brain into mush as it scattered inside of the wolf’s skull. It stood for a moment, almost in disbelief and then slumped forward.
While the second wolf was falling to the ground, he leapt forward and his machete struck the wolf but against the iron hard fur, it blunted the force of his blow. The wolf surprised by his attack, bounded backward. My husband continued to roll forward toward the beast, trying to keep his momentum. He crouched before the wolf, who paused.
“We will not leave without her, so die.” The last wolf howled and the force of the sound shattered all of the glass in the house driving it instantly into the room as shrapnel. In that instant, I forsook my appearance of normality and moved.
I could see the glass, each shard of it as it turned into projectiles showering the room. I could sense those that would be a threat and struck them from the air with my spear, which manifested in my hand, extending my reach. The wide bladed tip swatting away each malevolent sliver. For me, time slowed. First one, then another, and another. My spear flickered in an out of existence, appearing only when lightning filled the house, ever louder, ever closer.
I was struck by dozens of shards, the beast’s magic weaponizing every pane of glass, each shard, cursed with the power to tear into unsuspecting flesh, each trying to gain a purchase. My manifested form was covered with my spiritual armor, screaming out to any of my House, that I was here; our decades of hiding were over. A few slivers penetrated, but nothing stopped my focus, nothing stopped my execution. I did not know this woman but I knew it was important to save her. I worried for my husband but I had to focus. Outside, things had gotten much worse for him.
He had raised his machete, touching the earth rune, so the wave of sound was deflected over him, but even a glancing blow had been deadly enough. The sound shredded his clothing and stripped him bare. Only his blade prevented his flesh from suffering a similar fate; only tattered rags remained.
Pointing the blade skyward, lightning found him, casting light and darkness everywhere. He disappeared from sight, and reappeared in the shadow of the beast. Lightning sparked, hopping back to the heavens and then back to him as if he were a tesla coil, trying to reconcile itself with his strange movement between where he was to where he now stood. The lightning roared with this violation of physics. The wolf was in the path as the lightning sought him out. Springing into the air, he stabs the sword into the side of the beast as the lightning finds them both. The final thunderclap is deafening.
The lightning abruptly stopped. The rain subsided soon after. The woman lay quietly, her breathing slowed, the child lay next to her, blissfully unaware of what happened. I got up, after removing shards of glass from by body and walked to the window. I could see my husband getting up, smoke still rising from his body. He turned and began to stagger toward me. I flew to him. He was still hot and he shone with a quiet luminescence. While we walked back to the house, the door opened up and the woman was there holding the child in her arms.
“We can’t stay here. Others will follow.”
“Who are you, what did they want, and why is it every time we meet, I end up naked.” His words were meant to be light, but his tone was deadly serious. These were questions he wanted answers to, now.
“My name is Gaia. And this,” holding the baby out for a second, “is your son.”
Equinox © Thaddeus Howze 2011. All Rights Reserved [@ebonstorm]