Chapter 3, 50: Out of the Yellow
Charlotte held her left hand close, fingers contorted into the death gesture. She was bringing it into actin with a swing of her hips, not of her arm, to conceal the force of the blow until it was too late. Conceal it from the eyes of an invisible foe, she thought. That’s hard.
But not invisible if Charlotte just focussed, let her senses expand to take in the room, let her focus crowd out the noise of Ginger cawing, of the red, throbbing light from the pommel of the Pearl Harmony Sword. She had to focus. Those things bothered her, for some reason that she would not allow herself to think about.
Charlotte’s eyes, her ears, every sense all attuned to the whisper in the control room’s air that was the movement of her invisible enemy. Gust and breath was the movement of Eve’s invisible body behind her weapon. The flint spearhead cut the air, and, in her head, Charlotte knew where Eve’s body lined up behind. The air told her.
It was perfumed, Charlotte thought. The control room’s air held the faint, booze-and-perfume soaked essence of aftershave lotion. She hadn’t noticed it before, even with her Eight Spirit Dragon senses, but it was stronger here, near the dais-control-bed, or perhaps just no longer masked by the strong, nitrated stallion smell of her horse.
The perfume reminded Charlotte of standing behind her Dad while he shaved, playing with his brush, putting a little dab of Old Spice Shaving Soap foam on her nose.
I remember what you taught me, Daddy, Charlotte thought. The delicious feeling of a perfect move filled her as she swung with hips and shoulders. It was thrilling, the kind of excitement that you just couldn’t let go of to worry about any nagging thoughts. All the things that just went to making the story more complicated.
Like the clip-clop of hooves. Part of Charlotte was asking to be allowed the share of attention it needed to register what her horse was doing; what Rose was doing, for that matter. She pushed it down. There just wasn’t room in her head for the excitement and the attention at the same time.
You’re going down so hard, Eve, she promised, and she felt that flash of anger again. Anger and excitement went together, in this rushing now that was the perfect blow that was going to land and…
Charlotte’s feet went out from under her. Her mind flashed on an alternate picture of Eve’s position, holding her spear hanging in the air above her as she went low to block trip her. Too late! Charlotte was going down again, and she would be dead meat for the spear, then.
Daddy! She thought, throwing herself desperately forward, her good hand reaching ahead of her to find the angle that would allow her to cartwheel away from Eve’s deadly follow up.
Right into the onrushing, rearing, yellow-haired body of her horse. “Tellus!” Charlotte had time to scream, as her death stroke landed, square on the young stallion’s chest. Out of. . . Out of herself Charlotte felt a rush of blackness, of anger and impatience, all flowing through that connection into her horse.
In her mind, Charlotte could see that wave of darkness in Tellus’s veins, closing in on the horse’s beating heart with the deadly negation of all that was, of life and hope and the joy of hooves dancing on a ringing meadow. “Tellus!” Charlotte shouted again. Although everything was going so fast that what she forced out of her mouth was only a wordless scream.
Her horse froze in mid-air, his stone-breaking hooves suspended like the paws of a kitten being carried by the scruff. Charlotte, oblivious to danger, oblivious to pain, caring only about the horrible thing that she had just done, let herself fall, not caring that her right hand was out to cushion her fall, not caring that. . .
Well, that was a bit much. It hurt. It hurt so much when her hand hit the black-rubber flooring. It almost took her mind away from the powerful, purposeful foot now pressed firmly into her backside.
Charlotte squirmed far enough around to see what was happening above her. Eve was there, right foot planted firmly on Charlotte’s ass, invisibility dismissed, shield up, spear braced to armpit and hand, ready for the killing stroke that would spill her horse’s guts on the floor. Tellus was still frozen, and with those other senses, Charlotte could see Dim Mak death in his blood, ready to kill him before the too-sharp stone did.
But Eve did not know that. Probably, because she smirked down at Charlotte. “I’m going to kill your horse first. You know, I should have told you that before. I’d look badass. You, by the way, do not look badass right now. Loser.”
Inside her, where all those emotions had been a moment before, Charlotte could see the darkness, the same darkness that she had pushed into her horse with her punch. And where the darkness was, it didn’t hurt any more. It was like, she realised, a moment ago, when she had managed not to think about what her Mom would say, when Ginger cooed. That darkness could be everywhere, she thought. Above all, she could give her guilt and her love of Tellus to the darkness. Everything would be okay, then, the darkness whispered. I’ll show you how to kill Eve, Char-Char, the darkness whispered.
“For real?” Charlotte whispered back to the darkness, in the silence inside her head.
“For real,” the darkness said.
“You just promised that,” Charlotte thought back.
“I didn’t promise that. Your Dad did.”
“You can’t fool me,” Charlotte thought. “You are my Dad. The part that counts.”
“Guilty,” the darkness answered, and if a disembodied voice in the mind could sound like it was smirking, that was how the darkness sounded. “What we had there was a learning opportunity.”
Learning. Everyone wanted Charlotte to learn something.
Charlotte remembered something else now. Graydon had binge-read a big, blue book about Nietzsche the last spring, and for a few weeks he’d quoted it all the time, before Babs recorded him and played it back on him until he got embarrassed and quit. Charlotte remembered this bit, though: “Stare at the abyss long enough, and you will find it staring back at you.”
“Dude.” Charlotte thought. “That German guy with the hard-to-spell name totally has your number.” Charlotte pushed with her mind, gathered up the darkness in two, imagined hands and shoved it into a corner. Oh, the darkness belonged to her, Charlotte realised. She had to own it, live with it. But that didn’t mean she needed to let it have her love for her Mom.
Or for Tellus. It seemed as though Charlotte could hear Uncle Henry in her mind as she turned on her hips like she was rolling over in bed, bringing Rose’s foot up onto her hip so that she could free her left leg and bring it up against Eve’s ankle just as the cave girl’s weight shifted to deliver the deathstroke.
Eve made a very unladylike oofing sound as her butt hit the ground, Charlotte thought as she rose from the ground, slid under Tellus’s hanging, still useless hooves, and threw her arms around the horse’s neck.
The Yellow Earth Lion Stallion’s get relaxed at his mistress’s touch, and the great hooves pounded the rubberised floor as he came back to the ground. Charlotte put her tears-wet face to her horse’s hide. “I’m here for you,” Tellus,” she gasped. “I didn’t mean to kill you.”
Unexpectedly, as she said that, she felt something from Tellus. Almost a blow, but struck at a level of this world of ours beyond the physical. A warm blow.
A yellow blow, of love and springtime coming flowing out of Tellus, chasing black shreds of spectres, the power that had seemed so vital and dangerous a moment ago. Tellus pulled himelf free of Charlotte’s grip and shook his mane so that fine, yellow hairs flicked in her face. Beads of tears were carried away from her eyes by the licking horsehairs. Tellus nickered.
And her phone chimed. “Breathe,” Uncle Henry’s voice said.
“Breathe again,” he said.
“Be mindful now,” he said, “Of the dharma path.”
Charlotte was mindful.
“Love those who hate you, so to share the loving compassion others give you.”
Charlotte looked down at Eve. You poor girl, she thought. “Look at what your Dad has done to you, girl.”
“I don’t want your pity, Wong!” Eve screamed as she came up off the floor, remembering to flicker and disappear in mid-air before committing to the angle of her spear strike.
Mindful instead of excited, Charlotte’s senses felt the wind and sensed the feint, this time. One blow, now, she thought. One blow to end it.
“Ready?” Her uncle’s voice said.
Charlotte put her weight on her left foot. So obvious, Eve, she thought.
Unbidden because it was eternal in the cycles of enlightenment, the power of Eight Spirit Dragon Kung Fu flowed in Charlotte’s left fist. She paused, careful and calm, in spite of knowing that the invisible spear head was coming at her. Fast as lightning, the old song said.
No, that was not it. Fast as these things must be, Charlotte’s left fist lashed out into empty air. And, just where it had to connect, it did.
There was a soundless flash of power, but this time, a power of life, of the green of summer by the river, and the snow of winter, the cold rain of spring that cannot touch winter’s bones, the ch’i of the world of five elements harmoniously combined, the holy air that imparted salvation coming out of Charlotte’s body to the sound of a prayer gong struck.
Also, one heck of a blast as Charlotte’s left fist connected with Eve’s shield and smashed right through the framework of hide and shaped wood to connect with the red-head’s face-with-way-more-makeup-on-it-than-they-actually-had-in-Ninety-Thousand-BC-I’m-Just-Saying-Is-All. And then Eve was flying through air like an extra in a Hong Kong wuxia film who just got clocked by Jet Li.
Except this was real, baby, Charlotte thought, as she cricket leaped through the air to collect her sword and then land, ready, on the ground in front of Eve while she was still slumping down the great viewscreen with its image of flickering, changing, abstract patterns signifying the great spaceship’s location in hyperspace.
Eve’s eyes were closed, again, but this time she wasn’t fooling anyone. The Eight Spirit Dragon Punch had put her out. “Night night, nobody home,” Charlotte said, letting a little satisfaction creep into her voice. “What?” She protested, to no-one in particular. “I’m not ready to be a living Buddha. I haven’t even had a boyfriend like that.”
“It doesn’t actually work that way,” a voice said from behind her. A never-heard voice, but strangely familiar, Charlotte thought in the second after she finished feeling her heart burst through her throat in utter surprise.
“Who?” She managed to sputter, before a horse’s nose nudged the small of her back with the soft touch of nostrils and warm breath. “You can talk now? What kind of magic freaking horse are you?”
Rose alit on the ground beside Tellus and Charlotte, her eyes wide and awake now. “Yeah, no. I did that. Chipped him.”
“He asked for it.”
“Dream message. You’re not the only one who gets them, you know.”
“Helps that I’m smart enough to talk,” Tellus said. “And patient enough to wait until you were ready. Jesus Fucking Christ it took you long enough to learn how to ride a horse properly. You know you almost blew it, right?”
“Your learning experience?”
Now Charlotte was angry. “You planned this? I thought I killed you.”
“But you didn’t. And hopefully you finally learned your lesson about dabbling in Dim Mak.”
Charlotte felt hot anger explode in her. “Everyone is trying to make me learn stuff!” She glared at her horse.
Her horse stared back, with those big soulful eyes that horses have. Until, finally, shame overtook anger in Charlotte’s heart. Because her horse was right. “I’m sorry,” she finally offered.
“No biggie,” Tellus said. “A stallion who can’t protect his mares and foals ain’t worth the shit he dumps.”
“You have quite the mouth on you,” Charlotte observed. “Wait. I’m your mare now?”
“Don’t be gross,” Tellus answered. “I know I need to get you a two-leg stud. Work on that next. “
“Unh,” Brian Ferguson groaned.