Monday, July 30, 2018

Halloween 2060 ~ Trick or Treat

I've had a lot of names over the years.  The one I'm most known by is Tommy "the Machine" Gunne. I was never famous, but I have a solid rep in the shadow community, particularly around Seattle.  If I took a job, it usually got done.

You've been reading my stories and I hope you've learned a few things from mistakes I made along the way. I've made several tremendous mistakes.  There are things you learn with experience, things old-timers might tell you, if there were any old-timers and they felt like sharing their insights.  I'm not going to turn this story into a 'how-to' tale, or one of those 'I remember when" sagas.  No, I'm going to remind you that you aren't just a runner.  You're a person.  Take some time, as often as you can, to be a person.  All too often, those days are limited.  Cherish them.

~ Tommy "the Machine" Gunne

October 31, 2060

1830 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

Lily had healed up from our trip onto the island in hours.  It took me a few days before the chemical burns on my chest and abdomen lost their tender pink tones.  With judicious use of magic, I came away with almost no scaring though, to this day, when I get a tan you can see small little splatter marks where the coloring doesn't match up. Aria didn't scold me too badly.

The rest of October was quiet at the office. I had debriefings, looked over information for potential team members, and kept myself busy reading up on alchemy, enchantment, and magic theory whenever I had time.  I went home each night and focused on my family.  I tried to help cook dinner but was soon vetoed as no one appreciated my efforts. {I'm telling you Tommy, Rose is by far a better cook than you'll ever be ~ Angel}

Halloween came quickly, and Aria and I dressed the twins in their little pea-pod costumes.  Rose wanted to stay home to hand out candy.  The weather turned unseasonably cold and we had snow coming down shortly after 1800 hours.  Aria and I decided to keep the twins indoors, but Lily had been excited to go trick or treating like Rose had done the year before.  I bundled up while Lily took on her young elf girl form then pulled on her Halloween costume.

I walked out the door and saw a flock of children heading toward my door.  Small goblins, Lone Star patrol officers, cartoon characters, and cyborgs were popular costume choices that year.  Lily looked on in undisguised fascination at the small humans and their strange appearances.  Lily was a small elf girl. Her white robe was partially concealed by the brown hooded cloak she wore over it.  The light up 'sword' she carried made a humming sound that oscillated as it swung providing a precise reproduction of the sound effects used in the movies almost a century before.  I doubted that anyone would recognize what her costume represented, and that was just fine.  Rose and Lily both enjoyed the science fiction classic.  I smiled to myself, wondering how many people would have difficulty figuring out Rose's costume and those large green ears.

I walked with Lily along the sidewalk with the snow drifting down slowly.  It wasn't sticking to the street yet, and the sidewalks had too much traffic for snow to take hold.  Our first stop was at the Campbells, the middle-aged orks who lived just a few houses down from us.  My AR visor displayed the "Trick or Treat welcome Here" overlay that floated over their door.   Lily walked up to the door and rang the bell.

"Trick or treat" she said plainly.

Mr. Campbell smiled broadly, his tusks showing over his lower lip.  "Well, well.  I am impressed.  Just you this year Lily? Rose sick at home?"

"No, Rose is handing out candy to other children.  She says it will be more efficient, and she can eat candies she likes without offending anyone."  I had to smile at Lily's blatant honesty.

"I see. You girls are both very smart.  I think I'll forego the trick and just give you a treat."  Mr. Campbell pulled out his large bowl of candy and dumped a huge handful of treats into Lily's bag. "May the force be with you." he added with a smile.

"And with you, always." Lily said.  Her voice carried a solemn seriousness I had to admire.

I shook his hand and thanked him, then followed Lily around the neighborhood.

1920 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

Lily and reached the front door as the AR overlay above the door was shut off.  The neighborhood cut-off time for trick or treating was 1930 and most of the kids in the area were already done and at their homes picking through their treasures.

The candy bowl inside the door was empty.  A trash can full of wrappers told me where most of that candy had vanished to.  "Good thing you girls don't get stomach aches." I said to Lily.

"Mom, I'm home." Lily announced.

"Welcome back you two." I heard Aria call back from the nursery. "Just changing the twins."

"Need any help?" I called back.

"No.  Do me a favor and check the candy though.  Never can be too careful."  I smiled and spread the candy over the table.  A wave of my hand and a subtle spell found no poison but revealed a horrific amount of sugar and artificial sweeteners. A quick check for any physical tampering revealed nothing threatening and I pronounced the loot suitable for consumption.  Lily picked up a licorice stick, tore open the plastic wrap and began to nibble away.

"It's all fine, honey." I said.  Aria came out with Rose, each of them holding a twin.  The little pea-pod costumes were very cute on them.

Lily and I played with the twins as Aria and Rose told us of all the little trick or treating kids they had seen.  Rose was impressed by a few young princess costumes but was particularly fond of a young orc barbarian costume the Campbells' grandson had shown up wearing. Lily shared the story of a small toddler who had fairy wings and a tail that attached to her bottom.  Jasmine and Violet each held on to one of my fingers while they giggled at the sound of their sisters laughing. I felt eyes on me and looked up to see Aria smiling at me.  She was simply radiant, with a bit of pink in her cheeks and sparkling eyes.

"I love you, Aria." I told her.

"I know." she smiled back. "Good thing I love you too."

After the twins went to bed I pulled up an old horror sim. Aria and I watched it while Rose and Lily watched over the nursery.  Sometime before the movie ended I fell asleep.  Horror movies had lost their bite lately.  The real world held far more frightening things than I had ever seen on the trid.  Aria woke me up after the movie ended and we went to bed.  I fell asleep with her head on my shoulder and the scent of honeysuckle and vanilla in my nose.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I felt the physical world and the astral world slide very near each other.  I heard things in my sleep, saw colors of such beauty I couldn't name them, and felt a joy in my home I could scarcely believe.  Jasmine and Violet were happy babies, Rose and Lily were powerful spirits who seemed to be very contented, and Aria was radiant.  Her life was full of love and laughter.  The only dark spot in that colorful vista, was me.

I dreamed and drifted along the astral currents, buffeted by laughter and love.  I felt it pierce me, caress me, and flow over me.  I also felt the cold within, the darkness I see in myself, the anger that came out when things happened I could not stand.  In my dream, I was suddenly in darkness looking up at a worm ridden figure who spat out spells that slammed at my defenses.  I saw madness take hold of me for a moment as I raged and hurled magic with madness fueled recklessness.  I saw myself follow Pepper into an abandoned old pawn shop, shooting people dead as we walked through them.  I saw Sue laying in a bathtub, in her neck broken.  Piles of ghouls, blood splattered walls, screeching vampires, and walking dead men plagued my sleep.

"Wake up." I heard the voice, found it and latched onto it. "Tommy, wake up."

I opened my eyes and looked at Aria.  In the dark of our bedroom we both saw fine.  Her natural elf eyes shining like stars while my spell-enhanced vision let me take her in.

"I was dreaming." I said sleepily.

"You were having a nightmare." Aria corrected me. "You want to talk about it?"

I thought about it a moment. "No, you've heard it all before.  I could use a kiss though."

Aria pressed her lips to mine.  She lingered there for a long moment, kissing me gently.  I felt passion rising in the moment and wrapped my arms around her. She responded with a fierce kiss and we let the night pass away from us.  The world spun on, the children slept, and for that evening the only magic in my life was her.


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