The Cycle of Axer Carrick

-- A Timeless Interlude --

by Henry Wyckoff

Flipping a Coin

This interlude is timeless, in a certain way, but you could say that it takes place between Duplicity and Frostmelt.

Have you ever been down in the dumps? I mean, *really* down in the dumps? So far down in the muck that you can't see the light of day, and rotting landfill garbage sure smells real fine? O.K., it grosses you out, but you get the picture, and that's what counts, doesn't it?

(I laugh -- genuine laughter, and not that fake laughter you get from the old guy in a white suit, sitting on a rocking chair on his front porch, somewhere in swamp country.)

Now, where was I?... Oh, yes. Down in the dumps. That's where our dear Coleen was. You see, she grew up in so-called good times, but it didn't turn out so well, did it? She had parents, but they weren't good parents. More like, they had the tenderness of a sprung rat-trap and the compassion of a sharpened, red-hot spike up the -- Well, this is a general audience interlude, so you get the picture, those of you who'd qualify for NC-17 or Torture Ratings.

Her parents were the products of *really* hard times, and so lost their humanity. Their unspoken motto was: live, work, die. Only 'live' wasn't 'live': it was 'function'. 'Function' is such a *dead* word, isn't it? It's worse than anything we can imagine, but so many people choose to embrace the word and its implications.

So, we start off with Coleen living a hard life on an emotional level, even if her physical (don't read 'sexual' here!) and security needs were met. Her parents took care of her only by ensuring that she had a room to sleep in, food to eat, clothes to wear... and when she got old enough, a car to drive.

When Coleen revealed to her parents that she was a lesbian, and wouldn't put up with their dictatorship anymore, she was bashed around a bit by her father and told that she wasn't his daughter. Maybe he was right, though not in the way either one of them thought. She took as many of the essentials as she could, and took off.

We all know how she met up with Axer -- some anti-lesbian skinheads were chasing her down a road, ran her off the road, and killed her for the first time.

Axer took her in as a student, and for the first time, she felt that she had value. She was special. She was immortal. She was truly cared for. The fact that she had been raised the way that she did worked out very well for the both of them, because Axer could be considered to be an analog of her father, but a somewhat kind and compassionate one -- in his own special way. Sure, he was a cynical alcoholic, but he was also human.

Axer might have been aware that he was walking a fine line, but that wasn't his concern. He knew that we all have to sink or swim by ourselves, and on our own terms. All he could do is provide what she needed on a silver platter, and whether she took those gifts and learned to use them was her own affair.

Axer sent her away after she made her first kill. He had to -- it's tradition. She had to face herself now on a level which she had never faced before.

She didn't like what she saw. She saw everything and nothing. She didn't understand herself. She was lonely, and yet was unable to grasp out. She desperately wanted to be loved, but at the same time, she reflexively lashed out at anyone who might love her.

Across the Canadian border, and into the United States she went. It was somewhere in Vermont that she crossed paths with me. I still remember it well.

It was something of an old-timer's bohemian coffee lodge. I don't mean, 1950s -- try again. Try the days of the true enlightenment, when people were spiritual because they saw the light, and not because they were trying to escape the realities of the physical world.

I won't tell you the name of the place, or where it is, since the owner likes his privacy. He won't keep anyone out, but he doesn't like puds coming in. It scares away the customers who have a clue.

Anyway, I was lounging back, reading Owen... 'Dulce et decorum est.' This was a man who hated war, and saw the senselessness of it. But he fought. He didn't run off to some coffee house and 'talk'. No sir, he wrote about his experiences on the real front, which is why I respect the guy. Sort of like Metallica, in a way. Listen to their songs, and you'll feel the same mood, even though the musicians are separated by time and experience. But they touch the wind -- Owen's wind.

Coleen -- I didn't know her then -- comes in. I tell you, she was *hot*. You'll be shocked to hear this, but I think she was hot because she looked anything but civilized. More like Cierdwyn, who I did manage to glimpse when she was on the rampage. In a way, she resembled Cierdwyn too. Or maybe Shannon Dougherty. Her body had been shaped by traveling overland for a few weeks. Her body was slashed up quite badly, and she held a bloody sword in her hand. Her expression was a little dead.

"I didn't see any lightning flashes, so I assume that he's still after you?"

She looked at me in shock, as if she didn't even know where she was. When some semblance of consciousness (I assume that's what it was) returned, she looked at me in fear and confusion. "What the hell?!" Her sword was already drawn, so her only other alternative for a dramatic gesture was to put a sword to my throat. "What do you know?"

"Peace!" I smiled, holding up my book. "This is holy ground, so he can't attack you, nor you anyone else."

She was confused for some other reason now. "This? Holy ground?"

"Yes. It's holy because here is where the blessings of recluse are worshipped as any divinity or philosophy would be worshipped."

She lowered her guard, but not to a blind guard. Good. "Are you the caretaker?"

"No. I'm a fellow world-weary citizen of the world."

"That sounds like something Axer would say," she laughed, then her soul became withdrawn once more, as if she were trying to submerge an unpleasant memory. "You're not an immortal. What are you?"

"Human," I smiled. What I told her was the truth. "But I have a grave responsibility that allows me access here. You're allowed *access* because you're an immortal. I'm allowed access because I keep the world turning." I held out my hand. "I'm Schroedinger."

"As in--?" She took my hand.

"No relation," I smiled. "I'm not Austrian -- I'm Icelandic, if you can believe it." She shrugged. "Regardless, while you have access here, you must earn the right." I pulled out a quarter. "Why not earn it by chance? Call it out. Heads or tails."

It flipped in midair. "Heads I stay," she called.

It landed in my hand, and I flipped it onto my wrist. I was quite surprised, but I can hold a poker face. I smiled. "You can stay."

She went to another room to dump her stuff and clean off the blood.

I stared at the coin, grinning like an idiot. I don't know how she did it -- there was no *way* she could have done it, but she did.

You see, the coin I had flipped had two tails -- a tail on each side. Either way, she should have lost.

And now, I stared at a coin with two heads.

"You've got the touch, girl," I smiled. I looked after her, not out of some dirty wish to 'sneak a peek'. I guess you could say that this was genuine love. The way a father might love a daughter.

I'd finally found the one who would receive my gift.

Schroedinger's gift.

Outside the window, a grizzled mountain man holding a centuries-old axe waved at me. I nodded back, and he walked off with a smile. In his hands, he held Coleen's head.

But I also saw Coleen washing her face.

There's room for Guenter's reality in the world, as well as mine, Coleen's, and everyone else's.

Time and life are but a map, and 'reality' just depends on where we choose to walk. On a deep level, Coleen understands that. When I'm done with her, she'll know that on a conscious level and be one hell of a force to reckon with. Sure, she'll have an even bigger responsibility, but she'll rise to the occasion.

A cat meowed loudly and hopped into my lap. He purred as I scratched between his ears.

"Yes," I said to the oblivious cat. "You're mine."

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