“Do you believe in magic? Not just in any magic, but the magic in a young girl’s heart, how the music can free her, whenever it starts? . . . I hope you do, because what follows is a story about the magical power of music, memory, and love.”
This was the prelude to the story Christy shared in October on Words for the Weekend. She and Cayman revived our beloved characters Sam and Dave, and suddenly, the story is taking on a life of its own. Jennie created Sam in the very first volume, and we have all fallen in love with her…and the journey.
If you need to get caught up, here are the stories from Jennie, Cayman, and Christy in order of publication.
After reading Walking on a Blood Red Moon, I wanted to know more about Rebecca. What follows is my entry into the lovely madness.
Into the Mystic
These mortal lullabies of pain
May bind a book, may line a box,
May serve to curl a maiden’s locks;
Or when a thousand moons shall wane
~~Lord Alfred Tennyson
I was supposed to be a doctor. Not your average Dr. Prick with a vacation home and a shitty bedside manner, but one who was going to save lives. You know, cure cancer, eliminate diabetes and abolish infant mortality.
Even by my unreachable standards, I was a badass. Ivy League sweaters had recruited me before I was out of high school, and I sprinted to Emory University with a full scholarship. The Marta was both a highway to Hell screaming away from a rough, roach-infested childhood, as well as the rail leading to dorm rooms and roommates with daddy issues. After the first semester, the white coats fast-tracked me, and I graduated from med school before my eighteenth birthday. I liked the shiny objects in the lab, and I could dissect a cadaver in my sleep. Like a junkie, I thrived on the adrenalin produced by thirty-six-hour shifts in the ER and a side-gig at the CDC.
The CDC is where I met Jimmy—we shared a hood and a Bunsen burner. Like me, he first-year gunner resident, but that’s where our similarities ended. He was confident, smart, and damned sexy. Larger than life, gregarious with an easy smile and dimples that knocked the sensible shoes off of my feet.
I was in love with him, but too chicken to tell. Love scared the shit of me. You know? And I didn’t want jinx the chemistry. My stomach lurched when his fingers knocked on mine, and I relished catching him map out every inch of my body during morning cardiology rounds. Yeah. Cheesy, like a bad zombie movie. I was a fucking idiot when it came to matters of the heart.
He made my gut hurt when he looked at me in a certain way. Expectant—like he imagined my belly big with his babies. I’m not denying having written his last name next to mine inside a borrowed Grey’s Anatomy textbook. Rebecca Du Maurier. I wanted his ring on my little green finger, but first, I had promises to keep. Cancer was not going to cure itself.
When in doubt, always know your way out.
I’d put on a chastity belt long ago. Not because I’m virtuous, God no! I was cautious and level-headed, but a crazy part of me worried that I’d burn in Hell if I broke that seal. Thou shalt not. Sure, I didn’t mind messing around a little, but it was difficult for me to maintain control when he touched me. During one of our “study sessions,” he peeled off his tee-shirt with such self-confidence that all I could do was stare, and then struggle to keep my perky parts covered. I shook like a stupid little girl, and he liked it.
But, I fought him (and me) and remained a technical virgin until the very end. And the end came too soon.
A woman with a commanding presence and a government badge tried to shoo us lab rats out before things got terrible. She was off to catch a plane, and suggested that we do the same, HICPAC practices be damned.
People scurried out of the air-sealed room leaving only Jimmy and myself. A virus was wiping out the population, and all I could think about was that I was never getting laid. (really?) He would never have the chance to know me. To know that I could have rocked his world. (I would have) That I’d never get to be his missus. (truth)
No matter how desperate the situation seems, time spent thinking clearly is never time wasted.
I left Jimmy slumped over in the isolation room. It sucked, but I had no time to dwell on the Alanis-ish irony. I emptied my backpack and filled it back up with matches, a scalpel, scissors, antibiotics, Neosporin, and a propane torch. I reviewed the discarded stack of books and weighed my options. I ditched Netter’s for Tennyson, and Lippincott’s for Bronte. If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.
A blur of days followed, and I prayed for amnesia. I couldn’t ditch the memory of Jimmy’s terrified, hazel eyes filling the rectangle of the PAPR face cover. He looked at me through the glass, plasma seeping from the lesions all over his body. His hands were splayed across the glass. Like that same bad movie, I matched my fingers to his, pretending that the two-inch barrier didn’t hinder our shared energy. He pleaded for me to leave, so I did. Like a chicken shit.
I grabbed the bag and mentally thanked the Romanesque rowing coach for moving me to the hammer spot mid-season. The training hours paid off as I sprinted through and around parked cars on I-85. Ha! The easiest I had ever been able to navigate through traffic leaving Peachtree at rush hour. The physical exertion provided enough morphine-like endorphins to block the pain of the previous twenty minutes. I didn’t take the time to see the viral effects on the people trapped in their cars. My life-saving innards left their cozy philanthropic cells while self-preservation pervaded every ounce of my lithe body.
At some point, I must have fallen asleep on that first night. Tucked in the underbrush, with an English teacher’s voice in my head.
“Do you know where the wicked go after death?”
“They go to hell.”
“And what is hell?” Can you tell me that?
“A pit full of fire.”
“And should you like to fall into that pit, be to be burned forever?”
“No sir.”“Then what must you do to avoid it?”
I deliberated a moment: my answer when it did come was objectionable. “I must keep in good health, and not die.”
The group I crossed paths with appeared trustworthy, at least at the outset. I liked Dave’s deep-set eyes, and my ancient soul stirred when he spoke to me. He let me lay beside him at night. He thought I was scared and cold, but I just wanted his man’s body next to mine. I have a degree in biochemistry and know the Voo Doo response a woman’s body has. Fucking oxytocin. He made me miss Jimmy. The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.
Dave waxed on about Buddha, but I could tell that his words belonged to someone else—someone decidedly feminine. I heard his breath hitch when I flung my unruly hair around my head and pretended to strike a tree pose. It was my first attempt at levity after I’d abandoned Jimmy. Dave’s eyes saw me for a moment and then left to find something else.
Who was this woman? A wife? A lover? Whoever she was, she traipsed and hop-scotched through his nightmares. Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. His lilting words and poetic descriptions of her reminded me of the government chick who had evacuated the CDC offices. Even with her fancy title and government clearance, she possessed the humility of someone who’d give you her world if it made yours better. Despite myself, I was jealous of her long and lean with legs that seemed to snake all the way to her eyeballs. Her laugh was a crescendo of notes accentuated by a look that would command a man to part the sea just to be between her legs. Would I have the chance to be old enough to feel comfortable in my skin?
I imagined Dave and his woman had a cute dog with a hippy name and danced in the kitchen. To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love. I bet she wore lipstick when she folded his laundry. I imagined her tree poses were real and that she had mastered the bakasana. She probably made him wait to take her to bed, and I respected her for that.
I almost asked him where she was, this Sam, the name that left his lips when he struggled against the dreams. I didn’t want or need to know, even though he did. I could empathize–being driven crazy by the not knowing. But I knew where Jimmy was, where I left him, and the thought didn’t comfort me at all.
I was rifling through my bag when ratty pages of a Keats poem fell onto the ground. Rife between the Neosporin and Twinkies, Dave handed the folio to me and said, “Will you read it?” I recognized a look I was used to seeing on Jimmy’s face and obliged.
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
Keats could always take me to another place; it wasn’t long after that we were knee-deep in shit again. Dave tried to steer me away from the fire and the bikers who thought I looked like a sweet treat. Red hair was my life-long sorrow. Memories of my dad’s Vietnam era music rang in my ears as I struggled to maneuver through the brush. Over on the mountain, thunder magic spoke. Let the people know my wisdom. Fill the land with smoke.
It was useless, though. My trained legs were worthless with only Twinkie fuel in the tank, and I started to fall behind. Why the fuck were they wasting their bullets on us anyway? I was just about ready to dive into the clay when the ammunition hit its target—my heart. Another Morrisette moment.
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
From across the river, they watched me crumble as my eyes faded to black. Was it this dark or am I staring at the insides of my eyeballs? Misery racked my weary bones, but I couldn’t decipher the origination. My eyes fluttered open to find three little birds perched on the tree above me. The breeze kissed my face–warm waves interlaced with flecks of cold peppering my cheeks. God, I loved that sensation. Peaceful, enveloping, sensual. Jimmy used to make me close my eyes so he could run his lips over my eyelashes, and breathe into my hair. He’d press his forehead to mine, inhale and then whisper, “You smell like vanilla and chocolate.”
I cried, sobbed, retched–racked with guilt and longing. I ached to hear his voice again. To feel him take me in. I should have never left.
Then the calm returned, the little birds sang, and I snuggled into the bank—burrowed into what would be my forever home. The clay was malleable, familiar, and warm, and the timing was right. Hello, Love. I’m on my way.
We were borne before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won
As we sailed into the mystic
I don’t have to fear it and I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will flow into the mystic
Come on, girl
Too late to stop now
Playing off of what Jennie, Christy, and Cayman created, I left a few Easter eggs of my own. Did you find any along the way? Hint: Rebecca was a ravenous reader of the classics.
And, what would the next installation in the Zombie Apocalypse be without a playlist and a signature video?
Sending a heartfelt thank you to Christy and Cayman for inspiring me, and coaxing me out of my tightly wound, twined ball.
Bonus: Something wicked wonderful this way comes. Stay tuned.