Saturday, March 14, 2015

Animas - Part 3

       Charlyt and I look at each other. “It’s either our virus or theirs,” we whisper together. The decision’s easy once we see it that way. Between releasing our virus to make our bodies incompatible with the Animas and the aliens killing off the rest of the humans who aren’t able to be manipulated and inhabited by their kind, then it’s obvious we’ll infect everyone with the Hepatitis B virus. We both know what our answer is. So do Sy-Nu and Mai-Li.
          “How are they going to release their virus?” Charlyt asks.
          “We can just switch the viruses, right?” I ask, following as best I can.

          “That’s the idea. The Animas are planning to—“

          “Wait,” Charlyt interrupts Sy-Nu. “What virus are they going to use?”

        I can see the anxiety in her eyes. She’s one of the best researchers at the Disease Control Office. She knows what viruses we should be worried about.

         “Our species has a natural immunity to the ebola virus. Since the bodies we occupy actually acquire our protection, they will be unharmed. Humans without an Animas inside them, well…”

          Charlyt covers her mouth. There’s horror, revulsion on her face. Whatever this ebola virus is, it must be monstrous. I wrap my arms around her tight. She’s shaking. “Don’t worry Char. They’re not going to release it. We’ll send out this Hepatitis B before they get the chance to kill any of us.”

        The Animas inside us are quiet. It’s almost like I can forget they’re here. Almost. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to feel like I have any privacy, even when they’re gone. “What’ll happen to you guys when we get Hepatitis B? Do you just fall out of our bodies? Do you die?”

          Mai-Li answers. “We don’t die. Our connection with your bodies will dissolve. We’ll leave the same way we came.”

         “How’s that?” I just found out the aliens occupied the Corda bodies. Who knows how they got inside in the first place?

          “Air is the essence of your life. Without it, you’ll die within a minute or two. It is everything to you. We are inhaled into your bodies, becoming your essence. So we’ll be exhaled and return to our previous bodies.”

        “What do those look like?” Charlyt pulls her face away from my shoulder, composed again.

         “You’ll see soon enough.” Sy-Nu is less empathetic than Mai-Li. At least his voice sounds more brusque than hers. “As I was saying before, the Animas are planning to infect the water supply. That would quickly spread the illness and those who don’t drink from the system will catch it from the carriers.”

          “Do you have enough of the virus for it to travel the same way?” I ask.

          Charlyt stares over my shoulder, working through some calculations I couldn’t ever hope to understand. She nods. “Yes, it’ll work.”

          “We thought so too,” says Mai-Li.

        “So, how exactly are we going to get past whatever security measures you aliens have taken to switch out the viruses that we’re all plotting to use on the population?” And why am I involved in this? I’m not smart. I don’t have access to any of these kinds of places. The only things I’m good for are my physical measurements and the way I use those to perform whatever menial obstacle courses the Office of Male Fitness for Race Preservation creates for me.

         Sy-Nu answers my supposedly private thoughts. Charlyt needs your support. And there might be some skulls to knock together before this is all over and done.

          I scowl. Charlyt raises her eyebrow.

          “I can’t wait to have real privacy,” I say.


I walk Charlyt to work like I do every morning. We hug longer than normal. If something goes wrong, if even one person suspects her, she may never come out of that building again.

“I can do this,” she says as she rests her forehead on mine.

“I’ll be right here waiting for you.” I kiss her. I don’t want to let her go. For once, Sy-Nu knows to keep quiet. This is our moment, even if we’re not really alone.

Keep her safe, Mai-Li, I think.

I will, she answers.

I know she’ll do everything she can, whether she has to take control of Charlyt’s body and use it to get them out or not. Charlyt walks through the revolving doors and I pray to whatever higher power exists that I’ll see her in four hours.

This morning, I conserve my energy and strength, only pushing my workout to the point where my stats will be satisfactory. It’s hard to rein myself in. Right now, I want to beat the punching bag to death and jump rope until my body is stinging from the whip of the rope. My mind is at the Disease Control Office.

While I’m throwing weights around with my training group, I know Charlyt is searching for every vial of Hepatitis B she can find. Once she’s sure there aren’t any left in the building, she’ll let Mai-Li take her over. Assuring those around her that an Animas uses that body, Mai-Li will order a transportation unit for the virus. If it’s not stored at a specific temperature, it’ll die and our plan will fail. If the vials break, there won’t be anything to throw into the water supply.

Finally my exercise is finished. I shower and wait outside Charlyt’s work. I’m over forty five minutes early, but I don’t dare risk missing our window. Once the Department of Medical Transports files their routine report of who requested hazardous materials containers for the day, we only have three hours before the Animas track her down and kill her. Yes, they’ll kill her, even before they understand what the virus could mean for them. The simple fact that she took viruses out into the public is a death sentence. It doesn’t matter to them that Mai-Li will lose her body. According to Sy-Nu, the leaders may kill Mai-Li too for not being in control of her human. At the very least, they’ll banish her from the planet.
       I’m sweating in the sixty degree weather. That shower seems like a wasted effort at this point. My eyes never leave that revolving door. Not once in those forty five minutes. A few people leave with transport containers, but none of them are Charlyt. Another one comes through the door before I can see who’s carrying it. Then I see her. She looks like she’s aged twenty years. I must look just as worn. Stress like this could send anyone to an early death. I jump from the bench and hurry to her.
     Calm down and act natural. You’ll give us away if you two don’t stop looking so terrified. It must have taken a mountain of self-control for Sy-Nu to keep quiet all morning. But then again, he’s been silent all my life. What’s another day? He’s right though. I slow down my harried walk and Charlyt takes the hint. She stops and puts on a smile for me. As soon as I get to her, I hug her and then take her hand as if we are on our way to lunch like we are every day at this time.

          “How did it go?” I ask.

          Her hand is freezing in mine. “I found another store of the virus. We’re going to have more than we need, but I took it all anyway. I didn’t want anyone to find out what we’d taken and what it can do.” She speaks in barely a whisper.

          I direct us toward the taco stand on the outskirts of the city. We order just because we need to play our part. Hovering near the cart, we are caught in the middle of the lunch rush. Men pour out of the Water Supply and Treatment Plant building to our right. I swipe the scan card of an employee who practically asked me to take it from him by butting in front of us. Charlyt sees and pushes through the crowd toward the door. We get through as fast as we can. Who knows how many people saw us? It doesn’t matter much. Our time is ticking away.

        Twisting through the corridors, we avoid eye contact with anyone we encounter. Our key card gets us deeper in the building. We went over the floor plan for hours last night. I know we’re getting close to the testing site. It’s the only open access to the city’s water supply. And it’s the most heavily guarded.

          Two men turn into the hallway coming toward us. We look away, but they stare at us and stop right in our path, blocking the way.

          “I thought the final phase didn’t begin for another five days,” one of them says, looking at the container in Charlyt’s hand.

          “Word got out of our plans. We don’t want any incompatibles to escape while we sit back waiting for some arbitrary date. There’s no reason to wait. So the time is now.”

          I don’t think Charlyt said that. It didn’t sound like her. It must have been Mai-Li.

          “I wondered why we were waiting around once the decision had been made,” the other guy says.

          “Where are your security badges?”

         I start to hand over the one I’d swiped from outside, but my arm stops. “We’ve been instructed to have you take us the rest of the way,” I say, but not really. Sy-Nu has taken over. I’m still here, but I’m not in control of any part of my body. I feel my muscles tighten. He’s ready for a fight.

         “We weren’t given any instructions about this. Let me call—“

       My fist connects with his head and his eyes roll back as he topples to the ground. Then my hands grab the other guy’s face and twist. A crunch follows as he collapses in a heap on his friend. I killed him. No, Sy-Nu killed him. I didn’t have anything to do with it. I’m on my knees rummaging through their pockets. I’m just watching at this point, awed at the sensation of watching Sy-Nu control me. We find their security badges. Sy-Nu takes the transport container from Charlyt in one hand and grabs her hand in the other.

We sprint down the hall and scan our way into the access room. Charlyt pulls vials and starts dumping them in the running water visible in the transparent pipe. She’s not hesitating. It can’t be her. Mai-Li must be as present as Sy-Nu is in my body. They’re doing this. Are we doing the right thing? Did we just sign the death warrant of the human race?

No, you didn’t. You just granted them freedom from our kind.

I don’t know if I believe Sy-Nu.

The last of the vials are emptied. Feeling returns to my limbs. Sy-Nu has given me the reins again. Charlyt reaches for a sample cup. Dipping it in the water, she looks at me.

“Are you ready for some real privacy?”

I take the cup from her and she fills one for herself. “Will we be able to see you when you leave our bodies?” I ask the Animas who have been with us since we were three years old.

No, our essences aren’t visible to your eyes, Mai-Li says.

“So this is goodbye?” Charlyt sounds upset. How can she be? These things kept us from having children. Once they’re gone, they can’t interfere with our happiness ever again.

And neither can other Animas. You’ll have more freedom than you could have ever dreamed of. Sy-Nu sounds a little offended.

I didn’t mean it that way…I mean--

I understand. Your love for that girl is the only good thing about you. Never take it for granted.

I never will. I'd do anything for her. And I always will. Raising my cup, I watch Charlyt drink deep. I tip the tainted water into my own mouth and swallow. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015


           Eternity hadn’t seemed so bad when I was considering the gamble. In fact it seemed pretty reasonable. But after spending centuries wandering around this world without a reason to be here, I was pretty sick of it. I should have considered that she would have some other stipulation that would end up screwing me over instead of actually helping me, but I was blind. I was in love and I was stupid. And now I’m paying the price. I had hoped after a while that I would just accept my fate, but so far it had only gotten worse.
Still, I searched. I searched for the one who would set me free. The one who would one day liberate me from this personal hell I lived in now. I searched without hope because I knew it would be in vain. I did it anyway because I had nothing else to do. After the first three centuries of earnest seeking I began to realize I would never find her. I was cursed to search for someone that did not exist. That was the deal I made with Sharim. I can still remember walking into her small, makeshift house in the forest boarding Lord Drake’s kingdom.
“Please, Charles. Let’s just go back and forget the whole thing,” my young bride-to-be, Kesa, begged of me.
“No, we can do this. We just need to stay together.” We’d only recently learned of a woman who could work mysterious magic and even grant people the thing they want most. Being born of noble blood I was not allowed to marry Kesa even though she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I was determined to marry her at any cost and so we decided to come and see if the rumors were true.
“I can help you become a noblewoman of birthright if that is what you truly wish,” she told us after we had explained why we were there.
“It is,” I said with confidence.
“Then let us talk about a price. I would require some of your ladies beauty.” Kesa made a frightened noise and I turned to her.
“You have enough beauty to give some of it to her. It will be alright, I love you,” I assured her. Her terrified expression faded and she nodded.
“You must be sure your love is pure or there will be a terrible consequence for your actions,” she said to me.
“My love is pure,” I told her. How could it not be? I couldn’t stop looking at Kesa and wanting to be near her.
“Very well. Upon your return you will find things different then before you left. When you awake in the morning some of your beauty will be gone,” she told Kesa. We left immediately and sure enough the whole town was talking excitedly about our engagement as if hours before they hadn’t been fighting about our secret romance. I went to sleep that night happier than I had ever felt before. But when I woke up the next day and couldn’t find Kesa I knew something was wrong.
“She’s in her room,” her sister told me. “She won’t come out and she won’t talk to anyone.”
“She’ll want to see me,” I insisted. I walked into the house and gently opened her door. She was sitting in a dark corner with her back toward the entrance.
“Kesa? Is everything alright?”
“She said it would be different and I expected that. But it’s just not the same,” she whispered.
“Let me see,” I said coming into her room.
“No! Please, Charles I-.”
“Kesa, you know I will always love you. No matter what.”
“Do you promise?”
“I promise,” I said as I reached out and lightly touched her shoulder. She turned to me then and I couldn’t hide my surprise. Her face was still as lovely as ever but a giant wart protruded from her nose like a beacon drawing my attention to it and nothing else. I tried to love her after that but I just couldn’t stop staring at that wart and no matter what we tried it would not come off. We grew apart and eventually she grew old and died. I wish my fate had been the same, but I did not die and I did not grow old. Instead I’ve wandered the earth generation after generation looking for my beautiful Kesa without any hope.
But today, all that changed.  Today I saw the tiniest spark of hope in the form of her beautiful, pure face. She was dressed, like me, in modern clothes that still made her look as lovely as she did when I first saw her. She was exactly what I needed to see and I almost ran to her. But after the amount of time I’d spent looking, I hesitated. What if it wasn’t her? What if I failed again? I wasn’t sure I could handle that. Finally I decided the risk was worth taking and I headed over to where she sat drinking her drink and reading a book. I sat down without being asked and I could sense the surprise in her body language.
            Slowly I raised my eyes. Her face was the loveliest thing I had ever seen on this planet and was just as it should have always been, before we made that horrible deal. The moment our eyes met the familiar energy seeped into my body making me feel more alive than I ever had before. I smiled in triumph but the moment was short lived. The disgusting wart that I had come to dread appeared once more on her face and the energy dissipated, leaving me feeling more lonely and discouraged than I knew I could possibly feel. She wasn’t the one. They never were and I would continue living my miserable life without meaning and purpose. 
          The woman who wasn’t Kesa slumped to the ground and I stepped over her now lifeless body to continue my search for the woman I would never find.
*Copyright Jayne L. Bowden*

Sunday, March 1, 2015

History Can Be An Interesting Read

I know I've been awol for the past six months. All of us have. I don't really have an excuse. I also know that I owe you an ending to "Animas." It's just about done. I picked it up again last week and I just have to work out a few of the last details. As soon as it's finished, I'll post it for your reading pleasure. I need to post it just so we can all have some sort of closure for that story. 

However, I've also been working on a project for about five years. It's my grandparents history. They are some of the most interesting people I've ever met. They lived during the Great Depression and participated in World War II. Their story fascinates me. It took about three years to interview them and now I'm in the very slow process of compiling all those interviews into a readable, enjoyable history for our family to enjoy. 

I just recently wrote about the time they met each other and started dating. The voice is completely different from any other part of the story up to this point and I love it. I hope you enjoy it since it's a true story. And I promise to have the last installment of "Animas" by the end of the month. 

Now that’s a cute girl, thought Bill, looking out the listening booth window. I want to ask her out. But he didn’t. He wasn’t the kind of guy to just walk up to a strange girl and ask her out. Spigs might have the personality to do something that bold. Not Bill. His shyness sometimes bordered on paralysis. It definitely kept him from doing some of the things he wanted to, like ask that girl out. It didn’t keep him from staring though.

Oh no! he whipped his head back to face the wall. She saw me looking at her. Trying to act nonchalant, he bobbed his head to the music he could hardly hear through the blood pounding in his ears. A few seconds of that and he dared to peek through the window. She hadn’t turned away. He’d caught her looking at him. Now, he held her gaze. She smiled and dropped her eyes. Her friend nudged her and they moved on.

Those blue eyes, that smile…he had to find a way to ask her out. The music played in the background, but he wasn’t listening. He racked his brains. How was he going to get her to go on a date with him?

All attempts to focus on the music were gone. He couldn’t think of anything, but that girl so he left the store. She must be new to Helper. He’d never seen her before. There were more new faces since coming back from California. If he hadn’t gone, he might know who she was. He could already be dating her right now. He pushed those thoughts out of his mind. If he knew her name, he could find out more about her, maybe learn where to find her so he could talk to her. The idea made him cringe. If only he wasn’t so bashful. Maybe someone could introduce him. A stroke of brilliance came to him: if there’s one person who knows everyone in Helper, it’s got to be his cousin Spigs.

He went to see him right away. Forgetting about small talk, he asked him if he knew the girl that was hanging around with Darcia. He started talking about her blue eyes and her brown hair.

Spigs smiled while Bill was lost in the description of her. “Of course I know her. She’s a great girl. Her name is Jessie. She lives over in the small apartment behind the Smith's workshop. She's a secretary at Jay’s insurance company. We do business with her. I’ve gone out with her a few times, you know.”

This was the best news he’d heard all day. And he’d just found the way to ask her out. “Will you ask her out for me?”

“What? Ask her yourself.”

“Come on Spigs. You know how I am around girls. I get so shy that I sound like I’ve got a stutter. Do this for me.”

“All right Bill. Just this once.”

“Thank you!”  He started to walk away then turned back. “When? When will you ask her?”

Spigs laughed. “I told you I’d do it so I’ll do it. Be patient.”

That wasn’t the definite answer Bill wanted, but it would have to do. He thanked Spigs again and again and nearly skipped away the way he’d come. All he could do now was wait.


“Look at this new one from Glenn Miller,” Darcia said next to me.

I had my finger on the latest record from Tommy Dorcia. I glanced at the album she scanned in her hands.

“It’s got ‘In the Mood’ and ‘Pennsylvania 6-5000’. Oh!” She tossed Glenn Miller aside. “Harry James. I think his music is better because he’s so good looking.” She giggled as she picked up the next album.

I cleaned up the mess she left behind. Darcia was always so energetic. Sometimes it made her careless, but it was part of her charm. She could make fun out of nothing. I liked spending time with her. The bell chime at the door drew my attention. I stifled the gasp that tried to escape. There he is! That same dark haired guy I’d seen at the La Sal a while ago. I still don’t know his name, but my goodness he’s attractive. He doesn’t see me. I watch him grabb a few albums and go into a listening booth. I try to keep my eyes from following him, but it’s useless. They go wherever he does.

“Jessie, did you hear what I said?” Darcia nudged me.

“Uh, yeah, Harry James?”

She didn’t buy my cover. She followed my gaze and saw the man in the listening booth. “He’s a looker, isn’t he?”

I was looking at him again. “Who is he?”

“Bill Marchello. He went to California after the war to work in a quarry there. Want me to introduce you two?” She raised her eyebrows at me in that silly suggestive way.

I laughed at her and looked at him again. He quickly turned away. He’d been looking at me. Maybe I should go talk to him. But I’ve never been that kind of girl. Darcia might. She’s pretty enough and audacious enough to do something like that, but I’m not.

I could hear Darcia rummaging through the artist’s albums again. My mind told me to focus on my friend, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop looking at that man in the booth. He turned my way and our eyes locked. Heavens! He is really cute. A stupid smile forms on my lips. Finally, some sense returns to my brain and I look down at the record I’m holding. Betty Goodman. Ugh. I don’t even like Betty Goodman.

“Are you done making eyes at that stranger that you don’t have the gumption to talk to? Because I’m done here as soon as you are.” She’s teasing me and I flush.

“Yes,” I mumble. “I’m done.”

We wander out of the store. I can feel his eyes on me as we leave. Is he ever going to come talk to me?


“Jessie!” Spigs runs to catch up to me before I go back in to work.

“Hey Spigs. How are you?” He’s always been kind to me. Even though he’s shorter than me, we went out of a few times, but we’ve never had anything serious.

“I’ll be better if you’ll do me a favor.” He pauses to pull in a breath.

“What can I do for you?”

“Will you go out with my cousin so he’ll get off my back?”

I laugh. His cousin sure must be a funny guy to have Spigs ask me out for him. “Who’s your cousin?”

“Bill Marchello.”

The man from the listening booth. “Yes, I’ll go out with him.” I can hardly keep myself from shouting.

He smiles. “Great. I’ll let him know. Thanks Jessie. See you around.”

I sort of stagger back into work. The rest of the day goes by in a blur. All I can think about is Bill Marchello. He was so cool looking in the listening booth, but why wouldn’t he ask me out himself? Not that I’m upset. At least he asked me out, sort of. I just can’t help but wonder why he had Spigs ask me out for him. Did he think I would say no? It would be impossible to say no to that face. Was he shy like me? I thought I was getting over my shyness, but when I saw him in the record store, I felt that stiff sensation come over me again.

So many questions and no answers. At least until our date. Since we didn’t have a phone, he couldn’t call me. Spigs just said he would pick me up Friday at seven. It’s agony getting through the rest of the work week. The anticipation for our date made me useless at my desk. Finally, the night came. I’m ready, but fretting in my living room with Momma and Daddy. I hear a car pull up. Gravel crunches under his feet as he walks to the front door. I’m up before the first knock.

Pulling the door open, I can’t control the smile on my face when I see him. He’s wearing a camel colored suit and a dark green shirt. Wow, does this guy know how to dress or what? 

“Hi there,” I manage to get out without stuttering.

“Hi,” he says. “I’m Bill, Spig’s cousin.”

“Boy is that a relief. I didn’t want to go out with the wrong guy tonight.” Look how charming I’m being. It’s better than sounding like an idiot, which is how I feel.

He laughs a little and offers me his arm. I take it and we’re out the door before Daddy can try to intimidate this new boy. It’s not something he’s ever done before, but Daddy loves to laugh. I wouldn’t put it past him to start a prank like that.

Bill leads me to his 1938 Ford Coupe and opens the door for me. We start talking right away. He tells me where he lives and a little about his family, that he has two brothers and his mom still lives in his childhood home. By then, we’ve pulled up to one of the dance halls and parked. Inside, we find a group of people we know, but I’m not too interested in them. My attention is on Bill. He pulls me in his arms and leads me on the dance floor. And I hang on tight because he’s a wonderful dancer. He does most of the work. I probably look like a graceful swan in his arms. I’m not a swan and I’m not graceful, but considering the way he’s leading me around, I feel like one because it’s so effortless to dance with him.

The date is amazing. We dance and drink and eat pickled eggs. He’s nice to talk to. A little shy, but it doesn’t bother me at all. It actually makes him even more charming. Holding my hand, he walks me up my porch at the end of a dreamy night and kisses me. I haven’t stopped smiling since he picked me up for the date. Or maybe I haven’t stopped since Spigs asked me out for him. All I know is that I had an wonderful time and I can’t wait to see him again.

I wait one, two, three days for him to come over or call me at work or something. The only thing I hear from him is silence. I go out with a different guy or two that following weekend, but I don’t see Bill anywhere. What happened to him? Did I scare him out of town? I can’t believe he hasn’t called me yet or asked me out again. I know he had a good time. Why wouldn’t he have had as much fun as I did? I replayed the date over and over in my mind. Did I do something embarrassing? Did I have something in my teeth? Nothing that would have caused him to leave me high and dry.

Confused three or four weeks later, I went to a planning meeting at Beta Sigma Phi. The final preparations were being made for the sorority dance. I needed a date. Since I was still thinking about Bill and not content to let things lie as I left them, I called him up.

“Bill, this is Jessie, Spigs friend. We’re having a dance party at my sorority. Would you like to go with me?” At least this way I can have some closure if he really just isn’t interested in me.

“Yeah, that sounds like fun. I’d love to come.”

If I thought I was confused before, now I’m into the land of the discombobulated. I arrange everything and the night of the dance party comes. He whisks me across the floor, just like the first time we danced. Everything is perfect, just like our first date. I wonder if he would just ignore me for another month again after this. When the date is over, I decide I’m not going to let it drag out that long. I would chase this man all over Carbon County if that’s what it took to be with him.

“I had a great time tonight,” he tells me as we prepare to part ways for the night.

“I did too. Thanks for coming with me.”

“What are you doing next Saturday? There’s a really great spot I know of for a picnic. Would you come with me and a couple friends?”

I knew it. I knew he couldn’t walk away from two perfect dates with me. “Of course. That sounds really great.”