By the time the National Security Council meeting finished, the thunderstorm outside had subsided. It had gone on much longer than Miles had expected.
With sunny skies above, Marine One had a clear path for landing. Miles lingered a bit to watch the President make his way across the South Lawn before he headed back to the West Wing.
By the time he’d reached the colonnade adjacent to the Rose Garden, his private cell phone rang. Looking down at the number Miles picked up.
“Hello Bill, good to hear from you.”
“Hello Miles.” The thick middle eastern accent made it clear this was not a “Bill.” Always one for discretion, Miles didn’t take any chances. If the NSA or anyone else was listening in, the would have the most boring call they’d ever heard. Even if his phone was tapped, the layers of proxy servers used to route the call from Turkey would take years for even the best hacker to uncover.
“How are Alice and the girls?”
“They’re fine. Alice has been visiting family in Europe, and the girls left this week for the Mediterranean with a dozen of their friends.”
“How is life for you in the big city my friend?”
“Easier when the boss is out. But I expect things will heat up when he returns.”
“Good to hear. Well I can’t stay and chat, Alice is expecting a call from me shortly. I just wanted to touch base and let you know we were thinking of you.”
“Always nice to hear from you my friend.” Miles disconnected the call, a wry smile moved across his face. He guessed there were about probably twenty teenage girls that had been recruited from Europe to join ISIS in Syria. While forbidden from fighting, they were a part of the support system for the mujahideen on the front lines. Someone had to sow the suicide bomber vests together. And date and millet balls always tasted better when someone else baked them. Miles snickered as strode past the Oval Office and into his own.
Balaam spoke with a dry groan that smelled of sulfur. “Something funny?”
“Yes. Just amusing myself. It’s funny how purposeless people will fall for the first thing that comes across their path that validates them. Especially when their young. Its the best time to get them.
“We taught you well.” Balaam groaned.
“I didn’t expect you back this soon. You look like shit.”
“I had the quick upper hand attacking the smaller malakhim first. With him out of the way, I went to work on Raphael. Fighting an archangel is hard enough, and then this little bastard came out of nowhere and it took me the better part of three hours to break free.”
“I haven’t seen you this haggard before.”
“They are getting stronger. The prayers of the saints are emboldening them. They feel more of the cover of heaven just as I feel the growing void of hell.”
“Let’s not think about that my friend. Right now you need rest. There is always tomorrow.” A hint of doubt pulled at Miles as he spoke the last word. Tomorrow.
His mother’s voice rang in his ears. “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.” He never took to her and those damn bible verses. Adopted as a young boy she had always told him he was special. Your like Moses, she would say, he was adopted. Not only that, he was grafted into a royal family. But all her talk of Jesus went in one ear and out the other. Nothing she could say could heal him scars from his first six years of life.
Routinely beaten and starved by his meth addicted parents, the only relief came when the family home burned down. After the investigation, the fire was chalked up to poor ventilation around the makeshift lab in the back room. It never crossed anyone’s mind that Miles had lit the match. And he liked it like that. Even at such a young age, what Miles had lacked in physical stature, he made up for in intellect and a will to survive. Its the same tenacity he used to secure a full ride at Yale Law School as well as the closest office to the most powerful man in the world.
“Balaam. As I said, you should rest.”
“Indeed.” Balaam lumbered upward from his crouched position in the corner of the Chief of Staff’s office. Stretching his scaly, blackish-green arms out to the side then toward the ceiling, he closed his fiery red eyes and exhaled a battle-worn sigh. As he swung his arms down, Balaam lunged for Miles’ chest hitting him around the fourth button down on his Thomas Pink shirt.
Quickly surging through every cell in Miles’ body, Balaam settled down and came to rest. Miles leaned back in his and thought how much he liked the smell of sulfur.
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Dogwood Daniels…
Tibetan Sky Burial as covered by The Collective Intelligence in an April 2013 post titled Tibetan Sky Burial. Excerpt from the article:
Stupa burial and cremation are reserved for high lamas who are being honored in death. Sky burial is the usual means for disposing of the corpses of commoners. However, it is not considered suitable for children who are less than 18, pregnant women, or those who have died of infectious disease or accident. The origin of sky burial remains largely hidden in Tibetan mystery.
Sky burial is a ritual that has great religious meaning. Tibetans are encouraged to witness this ritual, to confront death openly and to feel the impermanence of life. They believe that the corpse is nothing more than an empty vessel. The spirit, or the soul, of the deceased has exited the body to be reincarnated into another circle of life. It is believed that the Drigung Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism established the tradition in this land of snow, although there are other versions of its origin.
The corpse is offered to the vultures. It is believed that the vultures are Dakinis. Dakinis are the Tibetan equivalent of angels. In Tibetan, Dakini means “sky dancer”. Dakinis will take the soul into the heavens, which is understood to be a windy place where souls await reincarnation into their next lives. This donation of human flesh to the vultures is considered virtuous because it saves the lives of small animals that the vultures might otherwise capture for food. Sakyamuni, one of the Buddhas, demonstrated this virtue. To save a pigeon, he once fed a hawk with his own flesh.
Author’s Note: The article from which this excerpt is taken is extremely graphic in nature and is not appropriate for all ages nor the faint of heart. Said differently, if you search for the article on your own, you’ve been warned that this content can’t be “unseen”.
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).
Godspeed… and I hope you enjoy our project.