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It was cold and dreary, but what was new? The dark, gray clouds had been threatening rain all day, but had just let loose a light sprinkling. Such was life in Seattle during the winter. He pulled his collar up around his neck to fight against the biting wind. Picking up his pace, he began to move briskly along the old paved road. Dark streaks of asphalt cut across the faded gray surface of the road, signs that at least the county had tried to patch it. Tall weeds and grass had begun to reclaim what was originally theirs by jutting up through cracks and old potholes. Nature had a way of doing that.
He tilted his head back and stared at the clouds. They were a cocktail of black, various shades of gray and a few stray tendrils of white. The storm was fast approaching. The crack of thunder echoed in the distance causing his skin to crawl. Thrusting his hands into the deep pockets of his black, wool coat, he wrapped it tightly around his chest. The cold was penetrating his bones, making him feel perpetually damp.
He was late for work, which in itself wasn't that unusual. He had been on several occasions lately. Warnings had been issued, of course, but this time, it was different. This time, he would be fired. There were no other options in his mind. His supervisor would check the time cards just before lunch, as he always did, then haul out the chopping block.
He was going to have to drag his sorry carcass home after lunch and tell his girlfriend he lost his job. It wasn't bad enough that the bank had repossessed his car two weeks ago, but they were also falling behind on their mortgage payments. He felt a knot begin to form in his stomach,while acid threatened to backwash into his throat. He hated bills. They were the very bane of his existence. Such was the life of an artist.
Jax was a writer. From the moment he came home from the processing plant, that was all he did. When he was in college, he had at least had a computer to use, but now he sat at the dining room table in the center of his small singlewide trailer and wrote with pencil and paper. It was maddening to a certain degree, living hand to mouth, but that was his life now. No more depending on Mommy and Daddy for his weekly cash stipend, no more tooling around in the Lexus before class, no more mansion on the lake. It was all up to him now, and it was all because of a woman. His woman.
How he hated her for it.
It wasn't entirely her fault, he knew, but she was convenient, and he needed someone to blame. Jax had, at least, been a willing accomplice. During their junior year of college, he and Sara had met and fallen in love. They were both English majors with a passion for the written word. He couldn't count the nights they had spent just reciting their favorite poems to each other, her favorite was Yeats, his--Shakespeare. They knew they were perfect for each other, but his parents had thought differently.
He pushed the thoughts away. That was the last thing he needed right now. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulled out a red and white soft-pack of cigarettes and peered inside. Two smokes left. He considered his options for a minute, then decided to go ahead. He was already late as is. Grabbing the butt of the cigarette with his lips, he pulled it free of the pack. Depositing the pack back in his pocket, he produced a small silver lighter and lit the cigarette. Jax ran his hand through his short, messy dark hair. The rain was making it worse, but by this point, he didn't care. He took a long drag off the cigarette and slowly exhaled the smoke.
Jax felt the rain begin to swell. The drops were growing in size and frequency. He quickened his pace as a cold shiver ran down his spine. Twisting his head around, he glimpsed a dark form standing amidst the tall weeds just off the road.
It wasn't moving.
Jax stopped. Turning his body ever so slightly, he focused his attention on the form. He couldn't tell what it was through the rain. Focusing his eyes, he began to make out the vague outline of a woman. A feeling of dread passed over him. Something wasn't right here ... He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but there was a definite twinge of danger. Jax's senses were buzzing. Every nerve in his body was screaming for him to run, but curiosity overrode them. He stood firm in his spot, waiting, watching.
He suddenly felt a presence to the rear. Spinning around, he came face to face with another large black form. Stumbling back, he stifled a gasp in his throat. She was wearing a long, black, form-fitting robe with dark lace trimming. A hood was pulled up, while a thin veil of black lace fell over her face. All he could make out was the hint of her lips. He took another step back as they curved into a sultry smile.
"What do you want?" Jax stammered.
"To release you," the woman replied. Her voice was unnatural. It had an almost metallic tone to it, as if a machine were reproducing it. "I can give you everything you ever wanted."
"I don't know who the hell you are, lady, but I've got to get to work. I don't have time to screw around."
The woman raised her arm and extended her hand in one fluid motion. "I think you will make time for this."
Jax felt compelled to take the woman's hand. He raised his hand slowly toward hers, but yanked it back at the last moment as if he had been burned. "Who are you?" he asked pleadingly.
"I am the way. Take my hand, Jax. Everything will be fine."
Jax took a deep breath. A tingle of electricity washed over his body as an overwhelming, peaceful sensation set in. He wasn't afraid anymore. Reaching up, he took the woman's hand.