Everett laid on the hard ground, his arms flung wide, soaking in the energy of the universe. With great care, he traced the beloved lines he knew so well. The Little Dipper laid above him, with her back so delectably arched, poised to swim through the sea of stars. The great bear stood watch nearby, jealously guarding his territory, prepared to strike at the smallest provocation. Draco split them forever asunder. Some nights, Draco was a great guardian beast steadfastly protecting the children of the sky, on others, he was the serpent that lurked in the night hunting the prey that others feared.
This was one of Everett’s favorite places to visit with his friends that waited in the sky above him. The gate barring visitors after dark was easily walked around, and he was far from the only visitor to this park. He was one of the few though, who bypassed the bushes littered with used condoms; instead, he trekked through the dark trail, often not bothering with his flashlight, knowing the trail as he did. He followed the sound of the creek as it got closer and closer through the trees until the trail cut through a grassy bank overhanging the icy waters. The looming trees at the riverbank hid the stars. He had to wander off the trail into the sparse grass that covered a hillside to get the best view. In his pack he carried a telescope. Some nights he used it to study the stars religiously, trying to find ones that he hadn’t seen before. Other times, like tonight, he relaxed and took off the mantle of the day. No coffees to fetch, no numbers to add, no boss to dissemble for, he had peace from all the voices telling him what to do. He laid still as the moon drifted above him. His breaths deepened, his heart slowed, and his thoughts calmed. He let go of the tension he held, felt it flow through his arms and drain out the tips of his fingers. Time did not exist as he lost himself in the stars above.
Are you up there, Mother, do you watch over me this night? Chaos was all around him, it chased him in the day and hovered just out of sight in the dark. The small bit of comfort offered to him was that she watched over him, saw the man he had become. Do I make you proud, Mother? I try so hard to do right. It isn’t easy for me, you know that. I’m sorry I wasn’t better for you.
Mother had raised him all on her own, with no husband nor family to help with the burden. She was years gone now, but she left her mark all over him. She had made him into the man he was now, the man with a moral code so strong that he still could not make friends for none lived up to his expectations. He saw their duplicity, their hypocrisy, and was reminded of Mother. For she had not been the saint she was supposed to be.
Everett was left broken, unable to trust or accept the shortcomings of others. By day, he went though the motions expected of him, he had a ‘stable’ job, he kept fit and healthy, he even tried dating sometimes. By night he sought out the night sky, sought out the friends he had created to keep him company, to hold his loneliness at bay. He liked to tell himself this is exactly where he wanted to be, here alone staring at the starry sky. But then the whispers in the back of his mind would sneak up on him, remind him of what he truly wanted. Someone to love. Someone that could love him, in spite of his failings. A wife, sweet, gentle, pure, someone that Mother would have approved of. A wife could set a proper table, a wife could comfort him after a crappy day at work, a wife could warm his bed at night. He had yet to meet the woman he sought, sometimes doubted that she existed. There had been a few that sparked hope, but they all disappointed him; they were not who they should have been.
He had met Rachel on a starry night not unlike this one, except that it was winter when the dark came early. She had been carrying a load of groceries far too large for such a slight woman. He had helped her carry them home, chatted with her in an easy manner he wasn’t used to. She smiled at him. He remembered that clearly. She smiled and it banished all the chill in the air. She had unlocked her door and beckoned him in. All those years ago, and he knew exactly how it felt to step into her home, invited, welcomed. He helped her put the groceries away, nervous, wanting to ask her on a date. He had turned to her, fumbled his words a bit, as he tried to be brave. He gathered his courage. She poured two glasses of wine and offered one to him. He was shocked. His mind whispered that he was a strange man in her home. He argued within himself that they connected, that it was like they already knew each other. But in his heart, he knew that only a wanton woman would drink with a man she didn’t know in her home where no one could protect her. It was clear where she expected this to lead. She was not who he thought she was, she was no better than his Mother had been.
Carol, he had known from his church. Quiet, gentle, proper. He had watched her from afar for some time, enjoying the shy smile she too often hid to herself. She should have been the one. He had taken her on a date, and another, had fancied himself truly in love with her. Carol that wanted to get to know him, Carol that needed a relationship built around faith. She was perfect. Until she wasn’t. Until he learned that the Devil had planted a seed in her heart. His wonderful, sweet, kind Carol, had a blind spot for her beloved brother. She would not condemn him, though he was married to another man. In a rare show of obstinance, her weakness had shown. She had pleaded with him to see that the hand of God could be seen in all love. Everett scoffed at her naivety. He had been raised to know that God’s love was righteous and exacting. Love had to be worthy.
He despaired of ever finding a wife, had vehemently sworn off searching for one, but his loneliness was stronger than his will. He yearned to find the woman that completed him. One full of kindness and purity that made up for his shortcomings.
Everett came here, to the stars, to leave his mortal sins behind him, to embrace the universe around him and the righteousness of his life. He sighed into the night. The serenity was harder to find tonight. Start again, he ordered himself.
“Hercules, lend me strength to fight my battles.” He whispered to his friends above. “Lyra, grant me the charm I need to find my mate.”
Something bayed in the distance. Coyote, probably. He didn’t mind. He was a large enough man that a coyote would leave him alone in favour of an easier meal. Coyotes were supposed to be there, they were natural. He closed his eyes, imagining all the critters and beasts stalking the forests around him. He imagined running as coyote, feet racing along the ground, or flying as a hawk, soaring through cool night air. In his mind he landed, then morphed to crawl in the fresh soil amongst the bugs. Natural, pure, good. Carefully visualizing himself as each, he was able to let go of the last of the tension he had been holding in his shoulders. He could feel each breath that entered him, filled him with life, and left him. This was the calm he sought.
A distant laugh cut into his thoughts. He opened his eyes. He forced his teeth to unclench, his fists to loosen. “Breathe Everett”, he spoke softly to himself. “Others may come, but they will move on.”
The laugh came again, soft and merry. This time, it did not anger him so, instead it invited him. He wanted to know what was being laughed at, desired to see who carried such a voice that pulled at his wounded heart. He sat up, anticipation filling him as she came closer. He shouldered his pack and crawled forward on the hill eager to find the dark angel drawn to the night as he was.
Her voice drew nearer; he was flushed with heat. She will disappoint you. “Shut up”, he barked quietly at himself. But as if summoned by prophecy, he could now hear another voice. A thick masculine voice that was too coarse for such a feminine partner. The two distinct sounds jarred in the night, cutting through his heart. He stayed, needing to see for himself. Under the pale moonlight, their silhouettes approached the river. She was touching him, pulling him toward the water. Everett turned away quickly as the man lifted her shirt off. He was no voyeur, even if she was a common whore. If he threw a few dollars her way, she’d take him in, the way his Mother had let men do what they wanted with her.
He laid back down, desperately tracing the lines above him now, holding his hands over his ears to block out the obnoxious noises the couple made. His heart beat faster. The calm of the night no longer possible. What are you going to do about it? The whispers treacherously asked him, challenged him. Such a young woman to be flaunting herself in public. Temptress, she is. Will you let her get away with that? Is she better than you?
Everett dug his fingernails into his palms. Sometimes pain would quiet the whispers. “Not here”, he pleaded with himself desperately. “I don’t want to lose this place to.” He clenched his fists hard enough that his arms trembled. The whispers would not let go of him, they taunted him, reminded him of the cowardly little boy that hid in his room. They brought him back there now, to the night his friends first found him. He was curled up with the blanket pulled over his head and his hands covering his ears. Neither his hands nor the thin walls protected him from the obscenities hurled at his Mother by an unfamiliar masculine voice. A scream ripped from his mother followed immediately by a thud that shook his room.
“Please Lord, protect her. She’s all I got. I’ll be good, I promise. I’ll be good.” The boy that he was begged this boon. He hated nights, the visitors, the noises, and too often the bruises that covered his Mother after. All so that he could eat, so she told him.
Heavy steps left his Mother’s room, and their little apartment. He ran from his room to check on her. She was naked. It shocked him to see her as such, her flaccid skin out there for him to see, drooping hideously. Blood trickled from the corner of her mouth.
“What are you staring at, boy? Come for a look at your own Mother, sick bastard. You will not grow up to be one of those men, do you hear me. The Devil will not reside in you.”
Pain shot through his wrist as she grabbed him in one hand and a belt in another hand. She forced him to his knees. “Stay there boy, I know what is good for you.” He felt her looming over him. He tensed, waiting for the first blow. It came, and another, and another.
“Please. Stop. I won’t be like them. Please.” He screamed as a particularly strong blow dug deep into his skin. God, I promised! I promised to be good. Why?
His naked Mother rained blow after blow upon his now bloody body. He couldn’t say how long it lasted. He fled within himself and soared among the stars in the night sky. His Mother couldn’t follow him here. They were his friends, they whispered to him that he didn’t have to be hurt by her anymore. They spoke softly to him, said that he could protect himself, should protect himself, for it was she that did the Devils work and it was Gods will that she should repent for her sins.
His life had changed then, for when he came to, his friends were still with him, whispering to him, encouraging him, loving him as she never had. It was his friends that whispered God’s will to him. It was right that her sins should be punished, it was right that she should face her maker and atone for her wrongs.
He listened to the voices, did what he was told, carried out Gods will. With her miserable life ended, she joined the stars above and watched over him. He thought his friends would leave him then, but they didn’t. They stayed with him, pointing out the wrongs in the world, the flaws in the women he desired.
He had lived with his friends for over twenty years. He found peace with them, in the open spaces, when he could trace their shapes in the sky. The fussed more, when he was cooped up in the city, in an office, with a woman. Now this woman with her temptress laugh and whore-ish ways had drawn their ire.
His hands ached from the effort of resisting; his lip bled from where he bit down. He was done fighting them. As always, his friends won, they were right, he was a tool to be used for the good of men. He drew his long blade, crawled slowly along the grass towards the couple rutting like pigs. The noises of their release disgusted him. He crawled further, planning to take the guy out first. It wasn’t his fault, but Everett needed time with the harlot. He needed her to look at him before he finished her, needed her to see that he knew her soul; had judged her and found her wanting.
He cursed the sound of his legs against the gravel as he got close. Let them not notice. He was barely an arms length away when the guy jumped up, spinning to face him. A foot flew towards his face. Everett jammed the knife in the ankle as it connected. Pain lanced sharply through him as bone crunched. His bones. His face caved in. A weight fell on him, his throat was ripped into. He couldn’t breathe. He didn’t care about his breath, he didn’t even care about the pain. He just needed to see the stars.
Everett stopped flailing and laid limply as the weight rolled off him. His friends were there, above him, a whole sky of friends waiting for him to join them. Little Dipper, Ursa Major, Draco, his Mother, Rachel, Carol, and the others. They whispered to him what a good boy he was, that he had done right, that he could rest now. They kept him company as the light fled. Welcomed him to their warm embrace. He was home at long last.