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... but we must pick ourselves up again...
Topic Started: Jan 31 2017, 09:46 AM (199 Views)
Cicada Days
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((Latanna Beckstead continued from Carry the Fire))

Dinner had been quiet, stately in it's trappings of a state funeral.

It was Wednesday, ten o'two and seventeen something seconds to the dot. Well, that was the inferred time. Latanna’s current watch was a plastic face she normally would have abhorred, but alas, friendship proved the occasional superior of materialism. It had been designed- and was maintained- in part by the ever unfortunate apprentice artisan Olivia Fischer.

Ever unfortunate. Rather unfortunate word choice in light of recent events.

Seconds passed, Latanna uncomfortably aware of each robust click of the gear of the second hand. Olivia’s design had been mostly praiseworthy, only slightly criticism-worthy after the fact. The hand had been calibrated wrongly and adjusting the second hand was a mere tick away from impossible on the Doomsday Clock. Oliva had set the watch eight seconds inferior, over time it had precisely drifted to fifteen. So, it had specifically been Wednesday, ten o’two and thirty two seconds. To the dot.

Latanna recalled how apocalyptically apologetic Olivia had been, in so many equally embarrassing social short-fuses. Latanna had been parts unamused, bemused, amused. Ah, Olivia. Right or left of wrong she found a way to make mountains of molehills and she found a way to succumb to the tyranny of her own majority likewise. Sweet Olivia. Darling Olivia. Poor Olivia. Ever unfortunate…

She’d been on that bus today.

Latanna recalled it with the slight sear of her frontal lobe to a tender char. She’d had the opportunity to say goodbye to Olivia… Bridgette, Emma, Conrad, all the other names she doubtlessly knew but couldn’t seem to recall for reasons unknown and patently absurd. What she did know was that she was a busy girl! It would have been reasonable to forgo the hug by the symbolically bland facade of the bus any other day. She’d been reasonable. She’d sent a text.

Only now did she realize that the texts might never have reached an audience. It was so rare that Latanna pen ineffectual words.

Drumming at the keyboard of her laptop thus frustrated. She didn’t even know the rhythm of the song she tapped. It slowly eroded the waxy enamel of her painted nails against her own conscious will. No, no. She asserted herself. Her keyboard was granted mercy. Latanna sighed and flexed her fingers. The excess energy was conscientiously chased away, and Latanna paid it no further mind. She’d likely burnt out most of that energy having herself a disgustingly embarrassing ‘panic attack’ out in public. Horrid conduct. As if she were the sort to be a person sans control, sans reason. She’d merely had a moment of weakness. No more. Each stroke of a finger from then on was to have purpose.

After all she had a schedule to keep, to the second. Seconds more passed, counted to the second plus fifteen. She paced herself, worked efficiently. Worked as she always did, as if nothing had happened. She had duties, obligations. All God-given.

To the second.

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Today was the first day of rest after the fact. The busiest day yet, funnily enough. The household's everybody tended to the household's everything. That left nobody to tend to everybody. God's children ran themselves ragged and aground, remaking their lives in His image. Repentance, forgiveness, the orders of the day. Church service, volunteer work as always. Therapy sessions for the babes of the house. Answering the door for dubiously-coincidental passerby reporters. Packing boxes for the charities already collecting.

They already seemed to anticipate it. Seemed a moment too soon yet several days too late. Latanna occasionally let her thoughts drift, let herself wonder if something besides God's unknowable plan was culpable for the possibility of atrocious, unearthly evil having been inflicted onto her class... She'd berate herself after the fact, of course.

Eternal vigilance against moments of mortal weakness. That was the key. Latanna would not allow herself to be consumed by original sin.

Only now, late at evening did she rest.

Only no, her work was not yet done. E-mails, assignments... Certainly there was no longer assignment to be turned in. Latanna's grades had been returned and promptly faxed off to Brigham while hand-wringing and gossip-mongering over the dining room table. A grape vine had grown with the length to throttle by the noose. He said, she said, they all said. Yes, Latanna was certainly no stranger to the tribal wiles of social media's pervasive grasp. She was a bit more taken aback by the flood of speculation from her family elders, littering her Facebook feed with articles and opinion sections of questionable quality. But of course it wasn't at all apropos to discount the wise instinct, the instinctive wisdom of those who had many years on her, who had lived most of their lives under the specter of the infamous...

Survival of the Fittest.

Hannah, interestingly enough, had been the first to evoke the possibility by acronym, before the adult's conversations had mutated their genes genes to include the letters S, O, T, F.

Of course Hannah's correspondence continued, usually in the realm of the material. Skype conversations featured her face slightly left of front and center, Hannah had always been the sort comfortable taking on the spotlight with charming grace. There was much to be said, shared between the families, and it was only a few branches of the clan that weren't abuzz with concern and worry by this exact moment in time. Hannah and Latanna were both active participants. But, there was something to always be said for the sequestering of moments shared between one and the other. Privacy for the more sinewy, delicate moments and words. Thusly, shame upon the McAllister administration and the voters who supported his expanding of spying on private citizens.

But Latanna hadn't quite responded. Normally, as in, always Latanna liked to answer her emails regularly. Correspondences were best kept engaged through care and attention, after all. Morning, afternoon, evening, there was always time to spare, five minutes here and there to carefully partner dance with the keyboard until producing social capital with a flourish and a bow.

There had seemingly been no time today. Downtime was still rather busy: diapers to be changed, meals to be cooked, friends to be called, consoled, comforted... Ah, well. Latanna hated to resort to excuses, but it was what it was. She'd lost the battle in allowing herself to be derailed from her own meticulous constructs, the guiding lighthouses of her personal city upon a hill. Latanna did not intend to lose the war. She sat herself right down before her computer, turning on the faithful old beast and setting her fingers to the keyboard. She waited productively, envisioning responses, double-checking mental lists, efficiently scanning the time. Four and three seconds, adjusted, to six. Inexcusably late.

The desktop booted with a lurching moan and was brought to life. Her first e-mail, as it turned out, was Hannah. Dear Hannah. Precious Hannah. She was much too young, too delicate to be sunk into the morass of a national crisis such as this.

Someone was knocking on the front door. Latanna picked up the sound of reporters asking for a moment of time, and just the moment after she could imagine she smelt and saw them too. Silly. Pointless. The distraction was banished from her thoughts, and with brisk clacks and cracks she powered through Hannah's response.

Timely, efficient. Two on the dot to six. Adjusted.

A moment of hesitation seemed to pass before she quickly scrubbed some unsavory, unkempt sentences and hit send.

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The sun crept across her neck, flames held to the nape of her neck so that droplets of sweat trailed down her skin like wax from candle. Latanna knew as per the burn that it was high noon thereabouts. Of course, she checked her watch anyways to be sure. Seventeen seconds to noon, precisely.

She stepped out of the cruelty of the desert's gaze. Only then did she realize she'd forgotten to account for Olivia's legacy. Two...

She'd lost the time. Frustration boiled her blood like even insolent summer sun hadn't. Just for a moment, then the overly familiar lazy summer sluggishness abated and she was once more properly tracking time.

Six seconds of a formal afternoon hour.

She distinctly recalled that she hadn't gotten around to her conferences at any sort of usual time. Indeed, memory weighed like a cross strung to her back. Like blasphemy. Heaven forbid. She'd had the time, and that was the other thing she distinctly recalled. She'd been sat by herself window-side by herself, the sill had been digging into the slight broad of her back. Her muse had been distinctly... irrelevant. Irreverent, perhaps. Considering a song of God, one to be sung in choir, that had been her business at the moment. She hadn't exactly penciled in any sort of practice that day, had she? That rhetorical question had only the clearest, most succinct of answers.

The exact answer she had, for but a moment, failed to invoke upon herself when she considered inconsideration of her own time and duty.

Hannah hadn't sent an email, she hadn't in a while. But she was of course far from the alpha or omega or first or last or beginning or end of Latanna's engagements. To family, friends, acquaintances met or not even yet she had to maintain the lines of communication. Warped as they all did around tragedy in the making. Someday it would be but history made, and Latanna very much intended to live and thrive 'til those days when books were printed about the folly and excess of the worst of God's children in ignoring his Commandments and inflicting evil upon their bretheren.

So yes. She had to get about to the business of living.

Once more she lingered, and felt a certain disquiet for it. That emotion rooted with gnarled thorns into her throat, something to be swallowed with difficulty. She'd come to school as a courier, to negotiate the grades of her sister Rebekah, but a Freshman. Missing assignments due the seventh, not received by teachers lost on the sixth. In spirit, in mind... in body, Latanna didn't know for sure, she was merely middleman. Providing sheets of paper neatly stapled twice, packaged in a manila envelope. The front office of Cochise, built into the ancient carpeting of the East Wing. Latanna and a young adult woman whose face Latanna didn't recognize. Perhaps a temporary hire impressed into service when hands on deck were short. They'd both worn polite smiles. But it had been so quiet, even when they'd been talking.

The halls were cavernous when silent.

A name had slipped out while they'd been talking. Mr. Graham. Yes, she recalled all too well. Less than respectable dress, awkward glasses, youthful body. Immaculate smile.

She'd excused herself not a second too soon, of course. Rebekah's proper grades negotiated, assured.

Where was she now? A window, again, and this one consumed her fully. She was arrested by it's orbit, she couldn't help it. How unfortunate, truly. The Green Belt stretched out before her, familiarly ignoble as it always had been. Lit at times by the harsh blur of the desert sun, the cool charcoal smear of streetlights at night. The flickering of a thousand candles. Plus one left abandoned.

Latanna dismissed herself. From school, and from further thought.

She had less time with which to go about her day. She'd wasted it.
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It was dark in God's kingdom, and his children slept or perhaps wept.

She was not ready to say what needed to be said, and yet she had no other recourse. Time continued to march forward, and she had known since she'd been a wee innocent babe that it would not deign to wait for her. She knew that asking the time to slow at her behest was merely imposing herself onto others and onto the natural order. She would not play God.

Latanna stumbled, all the same. Mortality stayed her hand, in the form of constricted breath and a violently pounding, pouting heart. It demanded something she couldn't give it.

It demanded time.

fifty-six Mississippi

fifty-seven Mississippi

fifty-eight Mississippi

fifty-nine Mississippi

and, nine thirty-three

one Mississippi

two Mississippi

three Mississippi

four Mississippi

five Mississippi

Trying times made great men and women. She recalled that night of the candlelit vigil, recalled the sour mote of flavor that memory left puncturing cheek and tongue. She knew she had to be something more than what she'd been, trembling, pathetic.

So she ignored the trembling of her hand and wrote, and wrote until the watch her friend had built her long ago told her the time had gotten away from her, and she realized she had written through the darkness and it was once more dawn, the light announcing itself through her windows in rays stretching like the hands of a clock. She felt no warmth, only the cold and lifeless mass of the Enter key beneath her thumb.


At some point an unknown amount of time later she began to count the seconds that passed with no reply.
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Latanna watched Hannah as she ran, and ran, and in the sun washed backdrop a light-anointed Aunt Marion and Uncle Jamison danced oh so gently with their babes to each arm, Jamison Junior to his father, Johannes to his mother.

Six-o-clock, to the dot, in the evening. Latanna clasped her hands before herself, shoulders steepling. Hair fluttering away by the whims of a gentle breeze, as did her skirt of ethereal, almost undefined color. All colors seemed to melt together somehow, in such a warm moment.

Latanna called for Hannah once. She was almost to the treeline. The mischievous girl looked back with a toss of head over shoulder, careless, free even from the concept of freedom. God's providence, yet, shone down on her, casting russet hue shadows over her cheeks.

"I'll be fine, Lala!"

No, she wouldn't be. Latanna's voice rung clear through all the distance between them as she reiterated her point.

"C'mon..?! Pleeeease!!"

Certainly not. Latanna did not waver, not an inch of her statue-cast form. Not a grain of sand would have slipped out of the hourglass neck between her fingers, for she held them tight, a fist's worth of two fingers firmly beckoning. Once, all that was needed.

"Ugh! Okay!!"


Pure white walls, timeless, flanked on all sides. Chilled floors of marble stretched wall-to-wall. A dais in the precise center of the room, on each of it's cardinal directions two simple steps ascended, hewn out of the marble. On the walls crosses hung in intervals, adorning every alcove with simple and elegant wooden faith. In it's center was a dollop of pure alabaster, man-size, a pool that yawned open with crystal-clear water, fed by a small bowl fountain so gentle as to be silent. It's shallow basin was brightened by the light that streamed in from windowed rafters, clear glass letting in the brilliance of the desert sun. All was clean, in a homely way, as fresh as one's own bedroom would be when recently swept, dusted, tidied.

One thing out of place, a decidedly cheap plastic face, a thin band of a tacky blue hue, ticking away seconds a mite too late with it's silvery hands perpetually racing away inches.
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Father was staying in a hotel, staying in conference. Las Vegas was a charming town in it's own gaudy way. Latanna found she had appreciated Uber, missing as it was from the fabric of Kingman society.

She'd stepped out of the sedan with a spare bag, an old classic silver-hue Nordstrom. With a single change of clothes, neatly folded. The car had pulled away, leaving her a lone figure in the wide driveway of Las Vegas' temple. She'd been slow to move from place, shaking off the daze. Perhaps the unfamiliar brightness that awkwardly sat on her paper-thin skin, perhaps that was what distracted. Certainly it seemed she had few thoughts to spare. Her mental energy was still vested into procedures and formalities. She'd almost forgotten she had a family waiting at home for her. Father would greet her when she got back, for lunch. Yes, that was right. She would call the multitude of faces still living, faces eerily familiar, Mother, Aunt Marion, Uncle Jamison... Hannah.

Of course, she moved on. At some point, time unknown.

Her appointment was set for ten-o-clock-something, and Latanna was on time, or early. She had scheduled the baptism over the phone, to a faceless friendly voice that had gently reminded her that she could baptize herself for many an un-anointed stranger yet to be introduced to the beauty of God's visage, worn in mercy. Latanna had gently rejected such a thing.

She supposed that it was the proper thing to do, to take on the burden of spiritual absolution for countless others that she would have once wished to call, perhaps, constituents- in the fantastic, so-far-off, never-to-be climaxes of her youthful fairy tales.

She, however, would not do it. She brought with her only one name, scrawled overly-sloppy onto a pink business-like card:

From Margaret, née Wilson; from Mason Fischer. Olivia Fischer, deceased, age eighteen. Latanna remembered, belatedly, emptily, that she had never called, never offered condolence. So simple a failure, that her previous self of every other year of her life would have had her head served on a platter for. But, for the blasphemy of daring to paint her besmirched image onto that of a righteous man. No, Latanna deserved no such accolades. So simple. Almost freeing, in it's totality. Latanna Beckstead, taken by loss, broken by adversity, not the girl who'd had a thousand heroes and a thousand words sharpened like the legendary weapons of said heroes.

Latanna had drowned in those thoughts all nights, many nights prior. It was a brand new day, albeit, one completely lost on her.

They read the rites.

Miss Latanna Beckstead stood, bare arches of her feet flat besides a cheap plastic watch sitting by the baptism pool. A bishop in simple baker's white stood abreast, nodding his head in deference, reminding Latanna a second-or-so too late that she had to do the same. He spoke of the washing, of the cleaning of Original Sin, in His name, by His glory. He spoke in a powerful drone and monotone, that went into one of Latanna's ears, right out the other, much as she tried to grasp for each syllable of carefully crafted meaning.

All she had left to give, for Olivia:

Forgotten memories. Thrown and scattered into the pool as she stumbled, her face lurching forward until she almost hit the water.

She submerged into the pristine cold, inches deluging her legs, her hips, torso. She said a prayer with her thoughts, whispered it on her lips. And for a moment, she nearly invited the water into her lungs.

She did not. She lived, and offered that to Olivia as well. Whatever that meant.

Water trailed from her as the sacrament ended. Miss Latanna Beckstead stood, a lone figure, atop a dais. Thin films of water sluiced down the rags of her clothes sticking to skin, fell like teardrops into puddles that shied away from her two feet. Her blonde hair done up into a heavy mass of waterlogged ponytail. Her eyes drawn shut, her lips still frozen open. Right at her toes, a cheap plastic watch, made by hands now gone from this Earth. Hands she prayed met God.

Latanna, for once, begged. Without dignity, for what was left of her dignity? She prayed cold, shivering, alienated thoroughly from her own hall of worship. She begged the same few syllables, over and over and over


He did not answer, immediately.

So after some unknown amount of time, she left, clothes changed, Uber called
Time lost, Olivia lost, Hannah lost,
all lost.
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((Latanna Beckstead V6 concluded))
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