Father finished his lunch and returned to the fields. Michael's face and hands were beginning to blister terribly. He lay on his mother's bed, while she sat beside him, dripping cool water on his burns. Each drop made him wince a little, even as it helped slow the burning. That's the trouble with burns. Remove yourself from its cause, but it still burns you.|
''Thank you, Mother. I am really quite a mess, just a mess. I don't know what's become of me, I don't,'' a nearly tearful Michael confessed. Martha just continued to apply the cooling water. She smelled so warm and wonderful. A myriad of subtle scents issued forth from her being. The scents were so seductive. His nostrils opened wide to take more of them in. Michael grabbed at her shoulder with his blistered hand. The puffy little water bubbles were only topside. His closed fists must have protected the insides of his hands. He pulled at her shoulder, drawing her closer to him, and he kissed her hard on her soft lips, sucking them into his mouth. This action shocked both of them. ''Michael!'' Martha declared in shock. ''Not even my husband kisses me like that. I wish he would, but he doesn't. What's got into you?''
''I wish I knew. I wish I knew. I am changed all over . . . Martha looked all of a sudden at him with more shock, and simply said, ''Your, your, your TEETH! You have DOG-fangs!'' She must have gotten a good view of them when he opened his mouth wide to enunciate the word ''wish'' properly. ''My TEETH! That's the least of my problems. They are, for the most part, hidden, and they do a good job of biting, heh, a VERY good job of biting. What more is required of them? NO! It's INSIDE me that I feel the most changes. It's not just the greater strength, and the keener eyesight. It's my EMOTIONS! All of them seem so fiercely strong. It's why I . . . KISSED you like that . . . I don't know how to manage them anymore!'' Michael lamented.
''You MUST learn! Managing one's emotions is like riding a tiger. You used to have a tame tiger, and now you've been given a huge and wild tiger. The tiger needs taming!'' Martha wisely advised. ''How do I do that? How do I learn?'' Michael begged.
''How is an animal tamed? At first you must respect the power of the beast. You must know what it can do. From there, you can work on gaining the animal's trust. Yes, you have to trust yourself. You have to believe you can do this thing. At first your successes will be small, but they will grow. I love you, Michael. I believe in you.''
''Yes, I know you do. I'm so grateful you do. Words cannot express how grateful I am . . .'' With that, he clutched again at her shoulder, but he didn't try to kiss her. At least not like THAT any more. ''If I become anything decent at all, it will be solely due to your love. I know that,'' His eyes filled with tears, and they overflowed onto his cheeks. The salt of them stung his burnt cheeks, as he silently prayed he would have the wisdom and resolve to become a refined and decent human being. He never wanted to feel so much like a feral animal as he'd often felt the past couple of days. He'd do his best to do as his mother advised.
'Riding a wild tiger', riding a WILD TIGER, indeed!'' He thought, as he took a deep breath while he strengthened his resolve.
As he took another deep breath, right now no feral emotions troubled him. He was so glad to just rest and lay peacefully while his burnt skin mended itself. In a trance, almost, he felt, as he laid there and let the powerful healing essence within him do its work. ''What is it? How is it? I feel it within me, pulsing through my veins.'' He let the mystery of it wait while he relaxed and let it do its work. Not all of his new emotions were frightening. He felt a most luxurious sensuality, too. It was to this he submitted completely. He submitted and would never fight it for a harsh asceticism. No, he would enjoy his new keen senses, and what each of them brought him. From this decision came a deep peace and he soon drifted off to sleep, where he dreamt of angels. Why angels? But these lovely winged beings he'd once seen in a book came to flit around about him and discuss him. ''He'll be alright. He just needs time. He will learn soon what the Gift can bring him, if he manages mastery over it.'' one said to another, which replied, ''But he will learn, all will come in time to our fair child. Sleep, well . . .''
And they disappeared and he reappeared in a green and leafy grove. In this world, the sun did not burn. It was made of some other substance. The leaves were different. He could absorb strength from the leaves, which swayed in the gentle breeze of this place. How nice that he could find his own temples of the soul in the secret places of his mind! He would not be 'evil', he would not succumb to malicious forces. He heard them baying, beyond that green forest. All sinister, with ugly teeth and ugly eyes, and ugly voices, they were. But they could be dismissed by force. Anger, unbridled lust and greed need not rule his life. Maybe the force was the art of transformation. These emotions could transmute by powers of the mind into creativity of something new. ''Powers!'' he heard as he woke long enough to remember his dreams and etch them into his memory book before returning again to slumber.
He could stand now to lay on his side and rest his cheeks on the soft pillow now. The pain had subsided that much. For these precious moments, he felt secure and loved.
All while his mother lived, he would feel secure and loved. Nothing would come too close to disturb him. He learned he didn't mind working at night. He could work the fields and his father was not there to tell him he wasn't doing it right. He was left to his own meandering thoughts. And, yes, sometimes, he still thought of Giselle. He would not see her again in the flesh, but he saw her often in his mind's eye. She never changed, she was always laughing porcelain-doll Giselle. He was not sorry he'd met her.
For many long years, he felt at peace. But changes were rumbling all about him. His parents were getting older. Their once smooth faces grew lines and folds and their hair turned gray. His mother even began to be humped over from the waist. Sad, he was, to see this decay. When he looked in the mirror to see his own face, no such etchings of time appeared. He was as he always was. He didn't like it that his parents aged. It meant only one thing. The decay would overcome them and they would one day no longer be.
Somehow, in his innocent heart, it was as though all should go on living forever. His father, always spooked of him, and certain a devil resided within him, acquired a new reason to despise Michael. ''Look at him, Martha! He does not age! He is fifty years old, and he does not age! SEVERAL demons reside in him!'' She did her best, as always, to reassure George. Though she wondered, too, about her magical enchanted child. She loved him no less for the mystery, and perhaps a little more. She was glad something she brought into the world could BE so magical, and kissed him and hugged him as always.
But all along, time was wreaking its damage upon these two mortals. How many seasons later was it, that while returning from the field early, George would feel a painful throbbing of his chest. The pains would often come and go, but there was something about them this day that said they were not leaving, not leaving without him. To the covered stable shelter near the house, he made it, and then he fell. The pains took him. Michael found him, lying there all glassy-eyed, and he stared at him in awe. 'George' was no longer in that carcass. That was just a carcass, empty of spirit. ''But filled with blood, should such blood be wasted?'' Michael wondered, and answered by kneeling before the body, bending his head low to its neck. He was surprised at how much blood he contained. It took some time to drain the body. When done, Michael covered the wound with his spit and wiped away any traces of blood. The wound marks disappeared, he then returned to the house to find his mother and tell her George had died.
With a great hug, he told her, and her own eyes took on a glassiness of their own. But this was the glassiness of SHOCK. George was seventy five. It was neither young nor very old. It was not entirely unexpected, George had revealed his heart difficulties to her. Still, knowing it could come, and expecting it are two different things. Michael led her to the body, so she could see for herself the sad truth. It came as a shock nonetheless, and she fell into Michael's arms, numb with immobility.
He caressed her, and led her back into the house, getting her to lay down, and comforted her until it was twilight. Then he went out to do what needed doing. He pitched dirt high into the air and away, making a deep hole in the black earth. ''Well, Father dearest, you have scolded me for the last time,'' he thought with a venom he then thought to check. ''Best not to give into the hatred. It would consume me. I cannot let it consume me. I cannot.'' He let the anger energy go into his arm, as he shoveled deep into the ground and tossed dirt. How rapidly he dipped and shoveled, over and over in a rhythmic fury. The rhythm became a trance of its own. Soon, the hole was deep enough, and he dragged the body to it. Meditating for a few minutes to cleanse himself of any unspent anger, he then picked the body up and tossed it into the pit. He meditated some more, before returning the removed dirt back into the hole. By the time the grave was all flat and even, he'd prayed himself calm again. It had taken every last ounce of his strength to do so, and he returned to the house weeping.
Tears dripped down his face in rivers. Thirsty for WATER, he found himself. He was glad of this one drink he could imbibe like a normal human, and he dipped his cup into the well several times, pouring the cleansing liquid into him. He could not cry hard enough. He wanted to shed every vestige of pain this man had ever given him. He wanted to lose each part with the flow of tears. How could he transform this? What alchemy was there for it? There was no understanding of how that man could be so hateful.
But he was no more. He could hate no more. Yet, still, Michael cried. Was it because all of his life, he had hungered for one kind word from that man, and none ever came? What would become of his Mother and him now? It was his father who travelled into town with the tobacco leaves for shipment to England. Would he be expected to do this now? And how could he do it only in the dark hours of the day? He could not manage the whole farm by himself. He sobbed some more.