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Friday, July 29, 2022

F³ Visions

            Storm Riders could take the cold. Something about our powers let us survive the freezing temperatures of 60,000 feet in the air. The heat was something else. The inipi was also known as a sweat lodge, and the purification ceremony meant Jack and I had spent hours in here. Sure, there were little breaks, but for the most part, we endured heat, steam, and total darkness. It was a relief that I couldn’t see Jack.

            The bigger relief was after the first session he had given up complaining and settled into a comatose state.

            I had felt that way for some of it, too, but for some reason sleep didn’t actually come to me. Instead, I felt this buzzy, drunk-feeling, something I hadn’t enjoyed ever since becoming a Storm Rider. My thoughts were slow and as deep as the universe, which was easy to appreciate the vastness of in total darkness. It was like being in space, floating free.

            The hiss of water on hot rocks broke the buzz, making me focus on something else for a change. My eyes were playing tricks on me as I could swear the steam from the water swirled into patterns.

            No, it’s the air currents. I can see air currents, duh.

            After a moment, I realized they were the same complex patterns of air currents that we had seen near Melissa, outside. The more I stared, the more the patterns resolved themselves into the shape of a woman’s face with long flowing hair that whipped around her, like a whirlwind, obscuring the rest of her body within the cyclone.

            I opened my mouth, about to utter an apology, but it came out as a grunt when the air current shifted around to look like a hand gesturing me to stop.

            “You say something, Reilly?” Jack asked, sounding bedraggled?

            “Huh?” I said, focused more on the hand than Jack.

            “Nothing,” he said, then fell into grumbling.

            The hand curled its fingers until the index finger waggled at me.

            A warning? A scolding?

            The air swirled again, this time forming a complex pattern. It formed a ring about as wide as my arm span, flowing in a single direction. The current reversed itself and coiled like a snake climbing up against the ring’s current. When complete, it reversed itself again, coiling in the opposite direction. Finally, a sphere of air formed in the center of the ring.

            Holy shit, that’s the symbol of the storm riders. What the hell is this?

            The door to the inipi opened. The twilight stabbed at my eyes, and I flinched away from it. By the time I got any kind of vision back, the wind pattern had vanished.

Friday, July 22, 2022

F³ A Warning

             “That really is the sincerest apology from Jack I’ve ever heard,” Nat said. “What about you, Anna-Maria?”

            She tapped a finger to her lips. “He does not do contrition well. More like a child saying what a parent wants to hear so he can be rewarded with a cookie.”

            “I could use a cookie,” I said.

            “You people are really strange,” Melissa said. “But, yeah, I can see his ego is wildly out of control, but that’s fine. True sincerity would have been best because apparently what you do is really important, but if you won’t restrain yourselves from blowing up the planet as you save it, well, I guess a threat will work. This is your warning. I don’t speak for her or any of the other spirits, but I can guarantee you that you pull this shit again, Whirlwind Woman will be back. Or maybe Thunderbird or someone else. And good luck convincing us to get rid of the curse again.”

            Jack opened his mouth, but Anna Maria slapped him with some wind-walking.

            “Speaking of,” I jumped in, “how is that going to happen? Are we forgiven or. . . ?”

            “Follow me,” Melissa climbed down from the rock and began walking north. After about ten minutes of ignoring Jack’s grumbling, we broke from the trees to see what looked like a hand-built dome tent, if it was ten feet across and only four feet tall. It was covered with thick cloth so that I couldn’t even see what the frame was made of, but I suspected wood.

            Outside of the dome’s door was a large firepit with wood neatly stacked, ready to light. And old woman in blue jeans sat on a log round, a walking stick resting on her knees. The long braid of dark hair going gray was pulled over her shoulder. She was looking at her phone, but put it away as we broke from the trees.

            “Welcome to the inipi,” Melissa said. “You’re going to go through a purification ceremony.”

            “You’re going to need a lot more firewood to purify Jack Dailey,” Kate said.

            “We don’t want to burn down the forest,” Nat said.

            “Har har. Hilarious,” Jack mocked. “Like the rest of you lot are fucking saints?”

            He’s got a point, there.

Friday, July 15, 2022

F³ An Authentic Jack Dailey Apology

             “Did I hear that right?” I whispered to Nat.

            “Did you hear Jack Dailey say ‘I’m sorry’?” She whispered back.

            “I did.” I used my little finger to clear out my ear.

            “No, you didn’t hear it right, and neither did I because Jack never apologizes for anything.”

            “Yeah, I know, so we’re both delusional, right now?” There was no wax on my finger.

            “Seems that way. Or maybe alternate reality.”

            “You mean the multiverse, like in that strange movie?”

            “Uh huh.”

            Melissa considered Jack, wondering if she had heard him right, too.

            At the silence, Jack lifted his head up and looked around at everyone. “That’s all you’re going to fucking get, all right? If you didn’t hear it the first time, you’re shit out of luck.”

            “Say it again, but a little louder,” Kate said, holding up her phone to record him.

            “Oh, okay,” Jack said. He brought up a middle finger. “Fuck,” he drew out the word, then lifted his second hand identical to the first. “You,” he stretched this out as well. Then he turned the fingers to point at one another. “Sideways.”

            “That is definitely a Jack Dailey apology,” I said.

Friday, July 8, 2022

F³ The Real Deal

             At the end of Jack’s rant, we didn’t know what to expect. Certainly something wrathful was the normal cliché, or nothing at all, but Melissa just laughed.

            “Well, you may be right about that, and all the spirits and gods are probably worse douchebags than you people could ever be. Doesn’t change the fact that you’re up shit creek without a paddle. If you want this whatever it is to be gone, you need to apologize and be sincere.”

            Jack opened his mouth, closed it, scowled, then opened it again.

            “Joaquin!” Anna Maria cut him off before he could go on to round two of the rant. “Your capacity for anger, arrogance, and assholery is legendary, but these are supernatural powers that are moreso in every way. They need no reason for their actions, and no power in the world can force them to play by our—or your—rules.”

            “She doesn’t even fucking care. She’s not here. Yeah, I see the patterns in the wind, but that’s not a true presence. She could at least show up in person. And why is Melissa judging the sincerity, huh? Makes no fucking sense, especially not to just ask permission.”

            “And this is where your fucking whiteness comes in,” Melissa scowled. “Thinking you know what this is actually about. Get your ass up here.”

            Jack wind-walked his way up, showing off that he could literally walk on air.

Melissa didn’t appear impressed. Instead, she pointed back the way we had come. “What do you see?”

The rock they stood on was not titanic, but there was enough of a break in the trees that anyone on top could probably see over the brush.

“I see the crater. So what?”

“So that’s what this is about. Whatever your powers, whatever your job, doesn’t give you the right to come in and destroy shit, especially when it’s not your shit. You like it when someone breaks into your house and takes a baseball bat to everything?”

For the second time in just a few minutes, Jack’s mouth worked without anything coming out of it, until, finally.

“I’m sorry,” he said simply.

Friday, July 1, 2022

F³ A Cool Band Name

             “Hey!” Jack protested.

            Oh, God, here it comes. Better settle in.

            I found a convenient rock to sit against as Jack launched into his rant.

            “I am definitely overprivileged and a douchebro, but my being white has nothing to do with that. It doesn’t even have to do with me being an asshole, which I readily admit. But I don’t see your ass or Whirlwind Lady—”

            “Woman,” Melissa corrected.

            “—Whatever—putting her ass on the line to save the world from freaking Cthulu and his acid punk bandmates from other dimensions from ripping the earth apart and consuming the souls of all humanity!”

Acid Punk from Other Dimensions would be a cool band name.

“So fucking excuse me if me and Reilly and the rest of us don’t go asking for permission like we’re polite, stiff-assed Brits calling on the fucking queen! We’ve got a job to do, and we’re going to do it because there’s too many goddamned gods, spirits, and whatever-the-fuck they want to identify as in order for us to be polite. Maybe if they lent a fucking hand once in a while we might be inclined to be nice, but if they just sit on their asses all day and get tweaked because we didn’t bend over and take it up the ass like Oliver fucking Twist asking ‘May I please have some more?’ then they can kiss my ass.”

            Nat had joined me on the rock, and just covered her eyes with her hand, groaning slightly. “It’s too late to say he’s not with us, isn’t it?”

            “Oh, yeah,” I sighed.

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