I love the smell of lemons, it evokes images of childhood, lemonade stands, barefoot and innocent, not a care in the world.
The scent is luring me closer and closer to that goddamn mirage ahead of me. I’m so exhausted I don’t notice the mini-tornado headed straight at me till it’s close enough to feel stinging sand from the funnel dust-cloud headed fast and furiously right at me.
How the hell do I duck and cover in the middle of a desert?
Looking around desperate for some sort of protection I can feel the bottled Djinn throbbing in my pockets, soft eerie moans whispering words I can’t understand.
“Get back here!”
Screaming into the darkened sky as a Tasmanian sand devil bears down on me wasn’t going to bring my Muse back but I felt like I had to try something.
It’s so close I can feel my hair getting all static-like, grains of sand imbedding into my flesh as the funnel of scary closes in on me, I say a quick prayer in my head (Catholic School habits never leave, they just hide) knowing I’m doomed and it comes to a complete stop.
Less than a breath away from me, it stops.
It’s still swirling in place, hovering in front of me as it spins but I notice letters of the alphabet scrambling like hermit crabs, forming into words. Just three words; “help me catt”.
Huh? Who? What the hell? Who in their right mind would be asking me for help?
I barely even have any real friends… no, she wouldn’t, it can’t be my Muse. I get on her nerves too much and besides, she’s the magical one, I’m just a lowly human in her eyes.
Besides, if she’s in trouble, we are both so screwed.
“Catt hurry, please…” The unfamiliar voice fades away as the whirlwind disappears, leaving not a trace.
It did however, somehow manage to leave me sitting in the most comfortable chair in the entire world.
Right in front of an elegant Tea with all the trimmings, under, of course, the blue and white striped tent I’d been hallucinating.
“You didn’t hallucinate anything child, we’ve been waiting for you. How about a nice cup of tea? It’s your favorite British Blend. Or a nice tall glass of ice cold lemonade? You must be parched from the sun.”
My mouth waters as a handsome elderly gentleman bows before me with a flourish then points to the delicacies on a trio of overflowing three-tiered trays. Pots of tea and glass pitchers of lemonade filled with sparkling ice cubes and lemon slices, every sweet you can imagine was there, as well as tiny little cucumber sandwiches accompanied by an array of food beckoning me.
Alice, I remind myself, just think of Alice and little bottles that say “drink me”. That isn’t working because all in all, Alice had fun in Wonderland. Ok, baseball. Which I know nothing about.
As I open my mouth to rudely inquire what the fuck was going on he spoke.
“Just call me Jann my dear child, sit, rest, relax, you’re exhausted, you need to sleep.”
My eyes grow heavier as he speaks, his voice hypnotizing and hard as I try to fight it, I feel myself fading fast.
“I can’t sleep,” I mumble, “things to do…”. I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.
“Sleep child. Now.”
And I did.
“It’s all your fault you know.”
I’m sitting on a straight-back chair, hands and feet tied just a little too tightly as a striped hyena circles me, sniffing.
Gentlemanly Jann waves an elegant looking platter filled with lemon scones and clotted cream under my nose enticingly before turning over the whole shebang, smashing it all into the desert sand.
“It would be so much easier if you just give me the bottles Catt.” His voice is honey smooth but his eyes are angry, a kaleidoscope of storm-clouds and lightening swirling together violently.
I guess the tea party is over.
I have to get out of here somehow, these extra-tight ropes sure weren’t making it any easier. And where the hell was my Muse when I needed her?
“What’s my fault? What did I do?” My voice was a mixture of false bravado but I couldn’t cover the racing of my heart. “What are you even talking about?”
The hyena barks out a laugh sending a chill through my body as it slithers around me.
As the hyena rises up on it’s hind legs and transforms into a breathtakingly beautiful woman, the chill I’d been feeling gets chillier.
She is absolutely gorgeous and smells of deceit mixed with apples.
Her stride is Top Model perfect as she towers over helpless me tied to this damn chair.
“What you did, you ignorant little fool, is open up a door.”
Leaning down closer to me she places a perfect slender red tipped finger gently against the softness of the skin underneath my chin.
She applies just enough pressure to force my gaze to meet hers, the endless pools in her eyes let me know without a doubt she could rip my head off with that one finger if so inclined.
“And now,” she continued, “that door won’t close.” Her voice is steel and broken glass, with each word she slides her sharp fingernail down closer to my throat, that same exposed vulnerable throat she was now taking too much interest in, if her sudden drop of fangs was anything to go by.
“By the way, I want those bottles Kitty Catt,” she leans in so close I can smell her evil soul. It smells a little too good for my own good and oh man where’s a superhero when you need one?
“Whoa, hey, wait a minute.” Shit. Does everyone in the world but me know about these damn bottles? And now there’s doors? Why didn’t I go to college and get a degree I’d never use and become a Stepford Wife instead of writing?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I begin nervously, trying to pull away from her. Not so easy when I’m practically hog-tied to a chair.
“I didn’t open any doors! I swear I didn’t!” I hear that tone my voice gets when I’m petrified, my words all rush together and my pitch rises and it’s not helping with hyena lady in my face.
“Uh, ma’am.” Can’t hurt to muster up some respect, try to be polite at least. I guess not.
Do you have any idea how loud a hard smack across the face sounds in a desert?
One hundred. One hundred loud.
“Oww! What the hell did you slap me for?”
“Don’t get flip with me missy,” she hisses at me. “you’re a fool. You play with things you don’t understand.”
“Duh,” I cringe as the word slips out of my mouth before I can stop it.
She leans in closer sniffing the base of my neck, almost nuzzling my hair.
Pulling back a little, she just tilts her head and stares at me.
Jann stands behind her staring into the distance, looking as if he’s listening to something my human ears can’t hear.
Nobody says anything for a good long while, hyena lady continues to stare at me and it’s really starting to freak me out.
Before I have a chance to blurt out something stupid, she takes a step back, though her eyes are still locked on mine.
“Well this is unexpected.” She waves a hand in my direction, “release.”
The ropes drop away, I immediately attempt to rub some of the numbness out of my hands.
I stay where I am, uncertain of her motives.
“You really don’t know what you did, do you? I’ve been inside your mind and you really don’t know,” she states.
“Uh, actually, no.” I say meekly. Not my usual tone of voice but she scares me more than that Miranda lady.
“How did you do it?” She sounds almost impressed, I mean aside from the fury.
“Well, you see, there’s this Muse and, umm, what did I do again?”
I swear I saw actual lightening bolts flash in her eyes before she answered me.
“You,” she stopped and shook her head as if she couldn’t quite figure me out. Join the club.
“You opened doors that shouldn’t be opened. All the worlds are bleeding into each other, Asmodeus has been waiting for this opportunity for eons and you gave him exactly what he’s been waiting for.”
At my blank look which, in my defense, was more fear than anything, she rolled her eyes and took pity on me.
“Apocalypse, End Of The World? You know, everything goes Boom?”
“Me???” I squeaked. “I didn’t… Apocalypse? Is this like a reality show or something?”
Ok even I admit that was lame but my brain was working overtime trying to process, well, all of this.
“That’s all you have to say for yourself!” Shit, here comes cranky hyena lady again.
to be continued