Sarah Ann Steckel: Seeds of Deceit

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Admin Note: Sarah’s story is a continuation of the characters that she uses for each month’s prompt. Amazing how she can weave the prompts into her stories. The link to her Facebook page and the beginning of the saga follows the story.

Seeds of Deceit

By Sarah Anne Steckel

“You know this man, Newo?” Vortex’s unyielding gaze glowered up at the other man from where he sat on his bar stool; Calamity wasn’t as tall as Vortex, and like in every lifetime before, also had a full head of thick brown hair and a precisely trimmed beard.

Vortex found it hard to believe that they shared the same basic ancestor.

He would have cracked a smile if he wasn’t so annoyed. Slowly he shifted his gaze over to Newo; the creases of his frown made his face turn into an angry and wretched scowl. “Do you remember him in his entirety… or just what he’s told you?”

“Vortex…” Newo looked between both men, but she found her gaze lingering on Calamity. He appeared less intoxicated than before, he held his broad shoulders back, and he righted his posture, standing taller than before. Slowly she looked back over to Vortex and firmly said, “I remember him, and our previous lives…”

“Do you, though?” Vortex grunted and stood from his seat. His eyes narrowed when he noticed the two of them holding hands, and he had to hold back the growl that was growing inside his throat. “Let go of him, Newo, step over here by me.”

“You afraid of me stealing your woman, Vort?” Calamity sneered as he let go of Newo’s hand, wrapping that same arm firmly around her shoulders and pulling her close to him. He narrowed his eyes at Vortex and gave him a snide, knowing grin. “She said that it was pretty close this time. Maybe the next time I’ll be the one to claim her… who knows?”

“Get off! What is this?” Newo growled angrily and broke free from Calamity’s grip. She pulled a small knife from an inner pocket of her jacket and waved it threateningly between the two of them. “Some battle over who can ‘claim me’? I belong to only myself, and no one owns me!”

“Newo, it’s not like that—” Vortex interjected, but was quickly cut off and overpowered by a slurring Calamity.

“Hold your girl-power touting speech! I came here for the drink specials, but here I find you actually brought me here to have a fight with my friend Vortex? That’s cold, woman…”

Vortex sighed deeply and grabbed Newo by the wrist, glaring at the two of them as he grumbled. “We need to leave this bar. All of us. NOW.”

“You really think pointing a weapon at me is best? ME?” Calamity spouted, a slow rage beginning to swell in his throat before he lunged at Newo, knocking the dagger out of her grip with ease. “I’ve always admired you because you’re a brave girl, but raising a hand against me is stupid, rather than brave.”

Vortex quickly wrapped his arms tightly around Newo’s shoulders, restraining her as she tried to attack Calamity, and pulled her away from him. Turning around with her in his arms, he placed his back between his begrudging pink-haired companion and the drunkard. Giving a fierce and angry growl, Vortex hissed between clenched teeth, “Door. Out. Now!”

Despite Newo’s struggling, Vortex walked through the door with ease, knowing that Calamity was following closely behind. They walked along the dark street for a few blocks before stopping at the corner of a local park, where Vortex opened his arms and dropped Newo carelessly on the turf. He walked several feet away from both of them and sighed dramatically. “Go on, kill one another in this peaceful park, I don’t care.”

“I only wanted to fight him because of that ‘claim’ comment…” Newo mumbled under her breath as she got to her feet, gently rubbing the spot on her rear where she landed.

“And I only got angry because she drew that knife,” Calamity said with a soft sigh. He walked over to Newo and casually placed his arms over her shoulders. “I could never really hurt her…”

Vortex attempted to hide the rumbling chuckle that was forming in his throat so hard that he wound up snorting instead. “Really, Calamity?”

Calamity narrowed his eyes at Vortex, a sneer of disappointment momentarily lapsing on his face before he turned to face Newo and smile. “Really, really. Every lifetime, scout’s honor.”

Newo heard Vortex snort again, muttering something under his breath, but his voice became distorted as her memory began to fall into the void. Her sight of both men dissolved, their images breaking away, disturbed by flashes of light and brief glimpses of a large crowd of people. She could feel the sun on her face, and the hot humid air that clung to her clothes, and caused her vibrant pink hair to frizz. The murmur of the crowd began to grow, and she lifted her eyes up and over to what was drawing such a crowd.

“Ten more minutes till launch,” Vortex said, his voice lacking in any form of exuberance.

The large red and white Apollo rocket sat vertically upon Merritt Island, and for most of the morning it stood tall and silent; but just now its engines began to billow with smoke and cause the amassing crowd to stir. Newo turned to look up at Vortex and smile, only to be caught off guard by a second man walking up between them. He threw his arms around both of them, careful not to spill whatever drink he had within his wax-coated paper cup.

“They’re so close,” Calamity slurred, his gaze wavering between Newo and Vortex. “These humans are on to something… But they’re not close enough, you know? It’ll still be a long time until they even make it far enough… to even know enough!”

“You’re drunk, man!” Vortex faintly shook his head, looking around Calamity to gaze upon Newo. “Don’t listen to him.”

“Ah, but that’s when it’s best to listen to me, girl.” Calamity winked and wrapped his arm tightly around Newo’s waist, pulling her away from Vortex. Placing the rim of his cup between his lips, he interlaced the fingers of his free hand into hers, and began to dance with her in the grass. He was humming loudly, and spun her several times before stopping to take a gulp of his drink and grin. “At least, that’s when I’m the most fun.”

“Says you.” Vortex rolled his eyes.

“After all this,” Calamity motioned to the rocket off in the foreground, “I’ve heard of his huge outdoor festival happening next month upstate in New York, you guys wanna go? I figure we could hitchhike up there.”

“Maybe.” Newo mumbled, her attention turning back to the rocket as the murmurs of the crowd began to grow. She heard a son inquire with his mother if the astronauts would encounter little green men on the moon, and Newo couldn’t help but smile.

“Space holds more than just ‘little green men,’ boy!” Calamity reprimanded, and with a firm and authoritative voice continued, “Open your mind, there’s more out there than just a simplistic comedic bastardization, there are beings out there smarter than you, than your smartest man on Earth—”

“Cal—” Vortex interrupted with a sigh.

“—Elders who have the vast knowledge to send beings down to observe—”

“Calamity, ENOUGH!” Vortex shouted, causing both the mother, child, and Newo to jump. Vortex sighed louder a second time and pointed to the horizon. With a deflated murmur he said, “Just shut up and watch the show…”

Calamity grumbled under his breath as he reached for the flask he had hidden in his side pocket. With one hand he unspun the lid and poured some of its contents into his wax cup, and waved the canteen from side to side when Newo looked in his direction.

“It’s not even eight-thirty in the morning,” Newo said shocked, and shook her head.

“Perfect time for a drink, I say!”

The engines from the Apollo rocket sputtered and roared to life, and as a heavy black smoke began to billow out from them, a hush fell over the crowd. Through the sea of people, a murmured countdown from ten began. Calamity looked at everyone as they all counted in unison, 5, 4, 3… and with an urgency he grabbed Newo by either shoulder and kissed her forcefully by the time everyone got to 1. When he pulled back, he ignored the angry glare that Vortex was shooting at him, and couldn’t help but chuckle to himself at Newo’s shocked expression as he loudly shouted, “Happy New Year!”

“I’m hungry,” Calamity said calmly, acting as if he didn’t just do something strange and indecent. He took a step back from Newo and inserted his smallest finger into his ear and began to wriggle it around. He wrinkled his nose and snorted, taking one final gulp from his cup before turning his attention back to the both of them. “So, I know of this brunch party happening at one of the hotels nearby. I say we crash it and get some food, maybe have some mimosas?”

“No,” Vortex said sternly, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Okay, fine,” Calamity said with a sigh of defeat. “It’s a bit non-traditional, but I’m sure they could make us some tequila sunrises… Ugh… You always gotta be special, Vort…”

“No. I’m not going. We are much too old to be crashing parties, Calamity.”

“Says you.” Calamity smirked as he glanced at Newo before motioning in her direction. “You see how she hasn’t responded? She thinks my plan sounds like fun!”

With both of them staring at her, Newo felt her cheeks grow hot and she looked off into the sky in an attempt to find the rocket that launched only moments ago. Unable to find it, and knowing that they were still staring at her, she shrugged and lowered her gaze. “I mean, there’s nothing else to do.”

Vortex sighed and turned his back to the two of them and said nonchalantly, “Whatever, Newo. You know the number to call if you need me. I’ll see you later.”

Calamity chuckled loudly, mostly for himself, and then reached out and grabbed Newo’s hand into his and broadly grinned. Suppressing his growing obnoxious laughter, his voice came out in a whisper, “I think he’s a bit jealous, don’t you?”

Newo shrugged and casually reached into his pocket to remove the nearly empty flask. With a smile on her face she opened it and drank the last of its contents before putting it back where she found it. “Where is this party, Calamity? You need to restock.”

“Cal… Cal, this couch is too comfortable. I can’t reach my drink,” Newo slurred as she pitifully reached in a failed attempt to grab her cup from the coffee table in front of her. In her lap was Calamity’s head, her free hand running her fingers through his long, dark hair. Calamity rolled slightly and grabbed her glass and handed it to her, its contents slouching and nearly spilling over the brim. As he placed the rim of the glass to Newo’s lips, she drank as much as she was able to from the glass before he pulled it away and put it back on the table. “Mm, thank you, friend!”

“S’what friends is for!” Calamity cheered jovially. He reached both hands up to either side of her face and stroked her cheeks. “And I’ll always be here to play the friend.”

“Play the friend?” Newo giggled loudly. “Who says it like that? ‘Play the friend,’ so silly…”

“S’what I am! A silly boy…” He sobered momentarily, his voice lowering. “Your favorite boy…”

Newo blinked several times and furrowed her brow, then couldn’t help but laugh uncontrollably as she whispered, “So serious…!”

Calamity spun himself into a sitting position and faced her, firmly grabbing either side of her face and looked deeply into her eyes. “I am being serious. Dead serious. Newo, it’s destiny! We were meant to meet.”

Newo looked at him, concerned. She leaned back in a failed attempt to pull away from his grasp, but he held onto her face and she was unable to break away. “What do you mean?”

“Like you and Vortex, I’m meant to meet you, and I endlessly search for you.” He pouted and leaned in closer to her. “It’s supposed to be me, Newo. Not Vortex… not anymore.”

“What are you saying, Cal?” Newo tried to back up from him a second time, unable to due to his firm grip. With a growl forming in her throat, she said, “Let go of my face, you’re hurting me!”

“I’m supposed to be…” Calamity growled back, his face millimeters away from hers. Newo watched as his eyes wavered between a hard and angry glare to fighting back the tears that were threatening to roll over his cheeks. She could clearly see that he was wrestling to hold something back, something that caused a nervous and apprehensive feeling to slowly swell in her stomach. For several long minutes they remained silent and still, their gazes locked on to one another.

“But I just fucking can’t!” Calamity shouted as he let Newo’s face go and he stood and charged his head into the opposing wall. He seethed between clenched teeth, and beat on the wall with his fist several times before he fell to his knees. He lay there on the floor for quite a while, rambling incoherently. “I just can’t, I can’t bring myself to…! But the Elders said… Instructed me… I had to find you. Find Newo. Find her. Be the first. I… But I have to… But I just can’t, I can’t… It’s getting harder to do this. It seemed so easy before, lives — countless lives — before. Now it’s just hard to want to… Newo, I can’t. I’m sorry, so sorry…”

He trailed off into silence, his breathing slowed and Newo realized that he had fallen into an uneasy sleep. Her head was spinning, and slowly she stood up on wobbly legs and stumbled around the room in search of a telephone. With trembling hands, she picked up the receiver and punched in the phone number that she had memorized and listened to it ring. When he answered, she fought back a sob and blurted out, “Vortex, will you help me?”

“‘Really, really’?” Vortex mocked Calamity’s tone and snorted as he shook his head. “You sound like a child. And I don’t think—”

“Vortex, let’s leave.” Newo’s mind snapped back into their current reality. She glared up at Calamity with a look of mistrust and suspicion, and then looked over at a surprised Vortex and gave him a firm and sly smile. Taking several steps back, she turned to look at her tall and bald-headed companion while wrapping her arm around his elbow. In a warm, almost coquettish tone she said, “You said something about showing me around tomorrow, let’s go and rest up someplace for that… See you around, Calamity.”

“Newo… Newo, wait!” Calamity watched as the two of them began to walk away from him, and he began to panic. His breaths became shorter, and he verged on hyperventilation as he shouted, “Vortex isn’t as honest with you as you think, Newo! There’s a lot of shit that you don’t even know about, a lot of shit that he’s hiding from you too! …NEWO!”

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