Of Monsters and Madmen
by K. C. Gray
Table of Contents|
Chapters: 1, 2, 3
Chapter Two: The Journey Home
She stood before the counter in a seedy motel, the man behind the desk eyeing her as she did him. Down by her side, her fists shook, and anger grew so quickly her eye twitched. Had she any of He’s powers, she might have leveled the building.
“We have nothing for you here,” the man shouted. “We don’t need this!”
“All we want are two rooms, and you have plenty!”
They’d already gone to three other hotels, and every attendant reacted the same way, even when He was by her side. She thought she could walk in here alone, and perhaps no one would recognize her. But her face had become as recognizable as his... maybe more so.
Six months of traveling the world, visiting the Czech Republic, Nigeria, Tasmania and a few other remote places, and it seemed everyone lost the mind-numbing fear of He. They were bold, not running away, but giving him the cold shoulder. And she suffered by association. She was sick of it, and he’d done nothing to incur their insolence.
“Listen to me, crazy lady.” The man started moving his fingers while he spoke, like it would somehow help him get his point across. “We don’t want any trouble. Leave or I’ll call the police.”
She crossed her arms, and her jaw ached from pursing her lips.
The bell to the front door dinged. The attendant’s face grew slack, his eyes widened, and he stepped back until his body bumped against the wall.
A smile crossed her face.
“What is the issue?” He asked.
“I don’t want any trouble,” the attendant answered.
“Neither do we. Only a place to stay for the night.”
“We are at capacity. No rooms—”
She leaned forward, finger pointed. “You lying sack of crap!”
Laying a hand on her shoulder, He tried to keep the situation calm. “Please. Take a second look. We’ll leave early in the morning.”
The attendant fumbled behind the desk for a moment, and then threw a key card at them. It hit He on the chest and clattered to the floor. “There! Just leave!”
“I said two rooms,” she screamed while He bent over and picked up the card.
“This is fine.” He laid two hundred-dollar bills on the counter and walked to the exit.
She grabbed up the two bills and shoved one in her pocket. “This dump is eighty bucks a night. I want change.”
“No,” the attendant waved her away. “It’s free tonight, just go. Leave!”
Shoving the second bill in her pocket and snatching her overnight bag from the floor, she stormed out of the office, brushing past He who held the door open for her. She stomped down the pavement for a few steps before realizing she had no clue where they were headed.
He strolled up to her, left hand shoved in his pocket while the right held the card. A slanted smile crossed his face. Over the months, the little twitch of a smile turned into a longer one, still one corner, but he could hold it for minutes before it melted away.
She crossed her arms, waiting for him to catch up. “What?” she asked.
“I thought I was the one with anger issues.”
Huffing, she refrained from rolling her eyes, from showing disrespect. “What room are we in?”
He looked at the paper sheath covering the card. “A-3. I believe it’s there.” He pointed to the corner of the separate three-story brick building. “I can sleep in the car.”
“No. Come on.” She slowed her walk, arms still crossed, watching the flickering lights of a vending machine. “Why do you put up with assholes?”
“They have every right to fear me after what I’ve done.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
As they crossed the parking lot, she looked up at the full moon. Breathing deep, the moment seeped in. Despite how rude everyone acted, she still enjoyed the travel. She’d seen more in six months then she’d ever dreamed possible, and He had come through with paying her bills. She never realized he’d meant all of her bills... for life. Her bank account sat full, overflowing, and all debt had been paid off before their adventure began.
“Are you excited?” He asked.
More fear than excitement filled her. Her mom calmed down after the first few days, but then she kept insisting that Tessa come home for a little bit. Mom was still leery of He, but they’d never gone so long without seeing one another.
She shrugged. “To be honest, I’m a little worried.”
“Because she may try and get me to stay.”
They stepped up onto the sidewalk leading to the building with their room. He scanned the room numbers and pointed to the door. “If you wanted, you could stay. I said a year, but we’ve traveled to quite a few places, already.”
“No. You said a year, but I want longer.”
His slanted smile returned. “How much?”
As they reached the door, the sound of peeling tires drew their attention back to the parking lot. A plume of black fog gathered around a car right before it took off, squealing out onto the street. The stench of tar surrounded them, causing her to gag.
“Why’d they do that?” she asked.
He put the key card in the reader, but it didn’t turn green. He tried several times with the same result.
She stomped her foot. “That asshole!”
“It’s okay,” He said, placing his right hand over the reader. It buzzed, and the green light flashed. Pushing open the door, he stood aside to let her go first.
She recognized the respect, the kindness, but her body filled with negative energy and she couldn’t wish it away. Brushing past him, she stormed into the room and dumped her bag on a chair next to a table.
A dankness surrounded her, filled her nose, and that pissed her off even more. Brown stains spotted each cream-collored wall, and the carpet, once probably a gray color, deepened and darkened to black in some places. Piece of crap place, and the attendant acted like their staying would lower the value.
She paced the room, growling. “Egypt! Italy! France! No other country showed you so much disrespect. Yeah, they were a little afraid and apprehensive, but no one flat out told you to go away.”
“I never destroyed one of their cities.”
Her head shot up at him, and her eyes narrowed. “Why do you do that? Why make excuses for them?”
“It’s not an excuse... merely fact. My powers are unrivaled. If I were to be pushed to self-protection again, what would they do?”
“They shouldn’t push you that far in the first place.”
“Perhaps. But it’s happened.”
She sighed. The argument could go on forever. His strong desire to empathize often overwhelmed them both.
Needing some time alone, some time to let the anger seep out, she grabbed her bag and paced to the bathroom. “I’m taking a shower.”
Shutting the door behind her, she leaned against it for support. Why was this bothering her so much? She could understand their fears, seeing as how she had once shared in the global view of He, but for months He traveled the world without a single incident, without a single sign of impending destruction.
As she turned on the water, listening to it peck against the tiled floor, she realized her frustration. The news kept tabs on their every excursion. He and She, they called them. She hadn’t changed the world’s view of him. He’d changed their view of her, taking her name and identity.
In the beginning, they’d interviewed her mom and friends, and she felt proud, almost euphoric at their insistence that she’d lived, so he couldn’t be that much of a monster. After a month of the interviews going viral, though, they’d ceased. She was no long Tessa; she was She.
She unclothed and stepped into the shower, allowing the hot pulses to ease her mind. What would she do now? Set for life, she had nothing to worry about, no need to climb a corporate ladder. If she did wind up parting ways with He, she could always use the publicity to promote her clothing designs. She could make a name and legacy for herself.
But even then, she couldn’t imagine not having him by her side. His placid ways helped calm her in a lot of situations. She smiled to herself, remembering his statement about the one with the anger issues. Maybe she did have them, frustrations and anger that built up until she wasn’t sure how to release them.
She’d stay with him as long as she could. As long as He would allow. Damn the public and their opinion of them. At the end, she could always live in his mansion.
After showering, she threw on her pajamas, a pair of cotton shorts and a white t-shirt. They’d never shared a room before, but she had no worries about him. Not only did he always show massive amounts of self-control, but he never once leered at her or showed any kind of sexual interest.
If anything, she was worried about herself.
Walking back out into the room, she paused. The dank, muskiness had vanished. A breeze pulsed past her, bringing her attention to the other side of the room. The curtains fluttered in front of the open window.
He stood in front of the wall, back to her, with his left hand held high. Where his palm faced, the brown stains on the wall lifted off, hovering in the exact same pattern. With a twist of his hand, the stain broke down, taking on the look of a swarm of gnats, and then growing smaller and smaller until the pieces disappeared into nothingness.
Copyright © 2017 by K. C. Gray