Salia was used to having kids laugh at her.
As a child back in Iran, her mother told her it would happen, a lot.
Just one of the difficulties of being born to Christian parents in an Islamic country.
Today, the kids were no different. Generally innocent, but usually ignorant of reality. As it should be. No child should have to endure the atrocities she’d seen in her homeland after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. And today, ISIS? A new Caliphate? It’s worse than she imagined it would be.
With a short gait just shy of a shuffle, mouthing words that were barely audible, Salia came off looking like a mental patient as she walked the sidewalks around her suburban D.C. neighborhood. Just a senile old lady who’d lost grip on the real world.
The children could laugh all they want.
Frankly she liked it this way. At 81, People tended to leave her alone. And this kept her focused. She could amble around the block undisturbed as the warmth of the sun caressed her olive skin. She always felt safe when she was in the light.
Plus the vigor from walking a few hours a day made her feel young.
Kept her sharp. Sharp in mind and even sharper in spirit.
All she had now was time. And she made the best of it. Her pension from thirty years at the State Department as a translator gave her nice life in retirement. But Salia never believed in retirement. She believed in refirement. Get fired up about something else, and you’ll live a long life. So it goes.
We’re not done yet! She murmured under her breath as she made her way around the block again.
Everyday like clockwork, she went to battle, fighting like it was her last day on earth.
Her body had already begun to betray her, but she wouldn’t give in. That’s why she walked. She knew if she stopped, everything would slow. Her eyes would dim, darkness would come, and the battle could be lost.
She needed the fight. It made her feel alive.
Her mouth moved silently as she walked, “struggle is not against flesh and blood . . .it’s against the powers of this dark world . . . against spiritual forces of evil.”
Kids. Laughter. An ignorant snicker. Little did they know, this seeming little old lady was a first line of defense in battle thats raged for thousands of years.
No one could tell she was fighting for her life, and theirs.
“Against the rulers . . . authorities . . . in the heavenly realms.”
She could feel him there. Just behind her and to the right. He went with her everywhere.
She’d only seen him once, after her husband William died nearly 7 years ago. Toiling through the night in prayer and sweat, her bedroom burst into light. And there he was. He was like a man dressed in linen, a belt of gold. His head touched the ceiling while his feet stayed on the floor. With a face like lighting and eyes like flaming torches, He spoke with voice like thunder.”
Salia lay prostrate on the bed in a pool of sweat and fear. Her eyes were closed with her head buried in the sheet. Yet she could still see him standing at the end of the bed.
“Do not be afraid. I am Micah. The time has come. The kingdom has suffered violence and the violent shall take it by force.”
Then he was gone. In the absence of the Micah’s light, Salia’s room was a shadow filled shell. To weak to move. She slept.
Since that night. She could feel him there.
She knew he followed her on every walk around the neighborhood. Every trip to the store, the doctor, the park. Everywhere she went she could feel him there.
But today was different.
“I’ve been give a Spirit of power … a sound mind.” She continued to prepare herself.
As she rounded the corner and approached her house, the sun slipped behind a fast forming cloud. It cast a long shadow over her home, turning the taupe colored clapboard siding to an ashen grey.
A chill coursed through her veins. Holding her head high, she made her way to the house. As she approached, Micah was gone. She felt nothing. Nothing but cold on a balmy summer day. The children across the street were oblivious. Cars came up and down her street, none the wiser.
The twinge of fear was taking root. “I’ve been give a Spirit of power … a sound mind” she kept preparing herself.
The brass doorhandle was cold to the touch.
Opening the door he was there. In a neatly pressed dark blue Ermenegildo Zegna suit and black Farragamo shoes, no socks as was the fashion of the day, he flipped through her bible. The one William had given her as a wedding gift.
“You really believe this can help you?” He tore a page from the book.
Salia didn’t speak.
Tearing another page, “I asked you a question.”
No response. She knew this day would come. Praying everyday since she first saw Micah, she’d been piercing the darkness. She prayed for Iran, for America, for those at war with ISIS, anyone in need of fervent prayer, Salia spent every waking hour in battle. She knew one day she’d piss off the enemy. But it didn’t matter. She kept at it, buoyed by the thought that Micah was with her. But not today. She could feel he was gone.
Her houseguest got out of the chair. As he stood, every wrinkle in his suit fell out. It was just as crisp as the moment he’d put it on.
“I asked you a question, Salia! Do you really believe this stuff you read? You think it can help? We’re winning the war my dear. We’re winning the hearts and minds of little ones all over the world. And the disaffected are joining our ranks left and right. You haven’t got a hope. And frankly, your prickly little prayers are really stinging my ass. You sound like fingernails on a chalk board. And it’s time for it to stop.
Her 81 year old body stiffened, a mix of fear and fight.
As he approached the white of his eyes turned black, and his icy pupils turned a fiery read. A pilot light of hate, igniting a ear splitting scream if anger and rage. In a split second he’d closed the entire distance to Salia. Raising this right hand over his head, it turned a scaly blackish-green like the hide of an alligator. His once long elegant fingers were now six inches of razor sharp blackened bone.
With all his strength, his hand came racing down toward Salia’s face. His movements so quick, she never had time to catch her breath. She was a doe, face to face with the hunter, at point blank range.
As his hand met the hair of Salia’s head, the room split from top to bottom in burst of light. The bronzed sword cut through the air, landing instantly on the top her attackers head. Slicing him in two equal halves from his head to his feet his body disintegrated before hitting the ground. Salia looked on in awe. Micah’s blade was nearly six feet long. It had torn through her attacker without so much as a scratch on her or house.
She tried to breathe, but it wasn’t necessary.
The light and peace that filled the room were better than air. She’d seen a glimpse of the battle in heaven. And she was now determined to fight even harder than before.
Micah smiled. “There will be more.”
“I’ll be ready.” Salia started to chuckle as she thought, “. . . your prickly little prayers are really stinging my ass.
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Jinn Zhong…
This Scientific America article: Time on the Brain: How You Are Always Living In the Past, and Other Quirks of Perception written by George Musser
But more specifically, this particular passage:
David Eagleman of the Baylor College of Medicine proceeded to treat us as his test subjects. By means of several visual illusions, he demonstrated that we are all living in the past: Our consciousness lags 80 milliseconds behind actual events. “When you think an event occurs it has already happened,” Eagleman said.
In one of these illusions, the flash-lag effect, a light flashes when an object moves past it, but we don’t see the two as coincident; there appears to be a slight offset between them. By varying the parameters of the experiment, Eagleman showed that this occurs because the brain tries to reconstruct events retroactively and occasionally gets it wrong. The reason, he suggested, is that our brains seek to create a cohesive picture of the world from stimuli that arrive at a range of times. If you touch your toe and nose at the same time, you feel them at the same time, even though the signal from your nose reaches your brain first. You hear and see a hand clap at the same time, even though auditory processing is faster than visual processing. Our brains also paper over gaps in information, such as eyeblinks. “Your consciousness goes through all the trouble to synchronize things,” Eagleman said. But that means the slowest signal sets the pace.
The cost of hiding the logistical details of perception is that we are always a beat behind. The brain must strike a balance. Cognitive psychologist Alex Holcombe at Sydney has some clever demonstrations showing that certain forms of motion perception take a second or longer to register, and our brains clearly can’t wait that long. Our view of the world takes shape as we watch it.
The 80-millisecond rule plays all sorts of perceptual tricks on us. As long as a hand-clapper is less than 30 meters away, you hear and see the clap happen together. But beyond this distance, the sound arrives more than 80 milliseconds later than the light, and the brain no longer matches sight and sound. What is weird is that the transition is abrupt: by taking a single step away from you, the hand-clapper goes from in sync to out of sync. Similarly, as long as a TV or film soundtrack is synchronized within 80 milliseconds, you won’t notice any lag, but if the delay gets any longer, the two abruptly and maddeningly become disjointed. Events that take place faster than 80 milliseconds fly under the radar of consciousness. A batter swings at a ball before being aware that the pitcher has even throw it.
The cohesiveness of consciousness is essential to our judgments about cause and effect—and, therefore, to our sense of self. In one particularly sneaky experiment, Eagleman and his team asked volunteers to press a button to make a light blink—with a slight delay. After 10 or so presses, people cottoned onto the delay and began to see the blink happen as soon as they pressed the button. Then the experimenters reduced the delay, and people reported that the blink happened before they pressed the button.
These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project called “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels, and me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast.
Author’s Note: Depending on how Jinn and Dogwood are feeling, their writings, posts, or podcasts may warrant an R rating for mature content (99% of this comes from Dogwood).
This writer accepts no responsibility for what you may read or infer from the other two (unless its really meaningful, and powerfully impacts your life in a positive way).
Godspeed… and I hope you enjoy our project.