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With light eye and unbreaking heart
They walk the iron changes of the world
Ever and never in a single breath...
The words of the poem came back to Sharadzi as she wandered the streets shortly after midnight. It was Friday night, and the cars passing by competed in the fields of drunken weaving, window-rattling bass beats and number of idiots hanging out the window waving bottles and screaming unintelligible remarks. She ignored them all and kicked on down the sidewalk alone, her hands in her pockets, her mocha hair streaming out behind her on the stinking wind of their passage.
The poem was a recent one, written by an unimportant poet she'd come across in a library. It had caught her eye because of its title--Song of the Djinn--but she hadn't thought it applied very well. Odd to find it resurfacing in her mind now.
She brushed through a pack of young Latino wolves, dangling near-empty longnecks between two fingers and rattling on at a fast clip to one another in a language she'd never had the opportunity to learn. They turned toward her as she broke through them, spreading out like the hunting pack they were, calling to her and to one another. Sharadzi stopped, wheeling to face them, her black eyes no different from theirs. Her skin, dusky enough to be a shade darker than her hair, combined with her high cheekbones, wide mouth and large eyes gave her the look of a mixed race--universally despised and desired. The perfect victim for them. She tilted her head a little to the side.
"Pretty girl," their leader jeered in a heavy accent. "You come home with us, eh?" His pack bayed laughter inresponse. Identical colored scarves hung from their back pockets, the uniform of their tribe.
At her hip, Sharadzi's cellphone rang in a tinny representation of a landline burr. She slipped it out and glanced at its screen for the flashing name of the caller. Ah, he so loved his modern technology--calling her on a cellphone!
"Not tonight, little wolves," she said to the Latinos with real regret. She waved her hand to them and turned to walk away, lifting the phone to her ear. "Master?"
Behind her, the boys converged on the spot where she had stood, shouting. They circled and crossed it again and again, barking in furious puzzlement, unable to get a scent.
"Sharadzi?" her benefactor said in his cracked, smoke-hoarsened voice. "I'm having some special guests in tonight, and I'd like you to serve."
"Of course," she said warmly, her step quickening. "Now?"
"They'll be here in a few minutes." A pause. "I know it's late, but you don't mind, do you?"
"You always were nocturnal, old man," she said with a chuckle. "I'm fine. You can sleep in tomorrow, right?"
"It doesn't matter. I'll see you in a moment."
"Yes, Master." She hung up the phone--a delightfully meaningless holdover term--and slipped it back into the tight pocket of her jeans. From one place to another she stepped and blinked in the dimness and quiet of her master's expansive bedroom. It was the penthouse suite. Curtains covering the huge windows on two sides of the bedroom were drawn, but soft pendant fixtures glowed here and there.
Her master, smartly dressed even at this hour, extended both hands to her. She took them gently. It was the most contact he had allowed since the wheelchair became necessary. "Master," she said, bowing to kiss the arthritic fingers.
"You look lovely as ever, my dear," Ray Carroway said, putting her a little distance to look, a move as graceful as the dancer he had once been. "But tonight I'd like you to dress a little more traditionally." He looked up at her, a young man's eyes in an old face.
"Traditionally, I dress in the fashion worn by the women of the time," she said. "This is it."
He gave her hand a reproving little shake. "You know what I mean. This is a special gathering, not an ... ordinary business matter. Wear your old things."
She froze, staring down at him, her black eyes wide. "Then you mean..."
"It's time to begin making a decision. The doctors give me less than a year. My empire must pass on." He sighed deeply. "Including my greatest treasure."
Posted October 26, 2011
Posted October 26, 2011
Posted April 14, 2010