Sunday, May 15, 2016

Too Wyrd, Excerpt, Part 11

Part 1 is here.  Part 2 is here.  Part 3 is here.  Part 4 is here.  Part 5 is here.  Part 6 is here. Part 7 is here. Part 8 is here. Part 9 is here. Part 10 is here.

We fell silent when Keith dropped the woman's arm and stepped onto the table over the fire pit. I nodded. Clever use of space.
Keith held up his hands, and I focused on making mental notes.
“Quiet please!”
He still wasn't confident in his ability to work the room, so he yelled instead of waiting for people to simply fall silent.
“I would like to welcome you all to our presentation. Tonight, you will see some things that only hint at the power that I can access. Power that I will use for the benefit of those who would follow me.”
“Follow you where? “
People's heads craned to pick out the voice in the crowd. I noticed the kid in the area where the voice had come from. He manipulates the crowd with a lot of micromanagement. He may be afraid that he could lose control. Insecurities? Or just over planning?
“I am gathering a legion of warriors, destined to reshape the world into a paradise,” he said. “We will take the mess that has been created here on earth and transform it in a way that the politicians haven't been able to do, despite their campaign promises, because of their political fighting and back-stabbing. We will make this world a better place for ourselves and our children.”
I winced. The man had abandoned his own child, but was preaching parental responsibility?
The crowd, however, was loving it. I couldn't blame them.
We lived in a world where people in power were just as likely, or more, to believe that the Christian God would provide a miracle to save us, as that there was a looming disaster in the environment and climate. I suppose that would be okay, but this God never seemed to follow through these days, and super storms were becoming frighteningly common.
The activity at the platform drew my attention back. Keith was holding out his bare arms, and the older guy had reappeared, holding a 2 foot long machete that he was sharpening with a stone. How classic, but it sets a good scene.
I leaned forward, trying not to miss any details, as the man set the whetstone aside and raised the machete above his head over Keith's arms. I suppressed a flinch as the machete came down on the bared flesh. I could see the sharpened blade glint as it struck and glanced off.
The man drew up the machete again, and Keith took a handkerchief that the girl offered up to him. The machete came down on the cloth and sliced through it cleanly. The crowd gasped.
I bit my lip as Keith stepped down from the small platform. The short table was removed and the fire pit was lit. Tensions built as the flames got higher.
The older man used a poker to move the burning logs around the edges of the pit, leaving a small space in the center. Keith poured a cup of some kind of liquid into the fire, which then leapt even higher.
“Lighter fluid,” Joseph murmured beside me.
I nodded. “Or gasoline.”
I couldn't help but hold my breath as Keith lifted his leg to step into the center of the tall flames. He stood there, arms spread for a moment, before I saw his lips move briefly. The flames instantly died down to cinders, and I watched as, one by one, the red embers went out.
“Fuck me,” I breathed.
I stared in shock, trying to process what I'd seen, as Keith took up his position on the small table and began speaking again. It was much the same as what he’d said before, though more drawn out. I wrenched my mind from Keith’s so-called miracles and dragged my focus on to what he was saying.
I tried to pay attention to the series of clichés and trite phrases that Keith was using to get the crowd riled up, but it was like listening to an infomercial after an action movie. I caught several of the phrases that Muriel had used the day before. I knew the sales tricks Keith was using, and I could sense the excitement and drive when he yelled out a call to action. But I couldn't help wanting to shake my head at how transparent it was to anyone who was familiar with the techniques.
I could tell that the crowd wasn't feeling the same way. They were lapping up every word and embracing the emotions Keith was calling for. The faces had gone from passive curiosity at the beginning of the event to barely contained ferocity. Keith had tapped in to people's basic need to have faith in something, and he offered himself up as that thing.
I looked around at the crowd, and I felt a sinking feeling in my gut. As Keith began closing out his speech, I grabbed Joseph's arm and tugged him towards the door. He shot me a look, but he let me drag him back from the crowd.
I glimpsed Keith and his small entourage moving towards the back of the room where they had entered just an hour before. The crowd was pressing forward, pressing inwards on each other.
Joseph and I were just outside the crush and nearly to the door when I heard a high-pitched wail of pain and fear. I whipped my head towards the sound and spotted a small figure drowning in the crowd.
I nudged Joseph and pointed at the scene. He used his greater height to see over the frenzied group.
“Looks like a young girl,” he said. I didn't wait for him to say more.
I pushed my way into the crowd, tapping into the feelings that I wanted. I projected confidence and regality to encourage a sense of awe, as well as feelings of rejection and submission to keep people at bay. I tightened my gut and let the feelings wash down my arms and fingers, and into the space around me.
Now, this stuff doesn't work like it does in the movies. There's no concussive wave that knocks people back with an almost visible force. It wasn't even a parting of the sea of bodies as people got out of the way. The crowd still bumped into me and jostled me around, but they tried to avoid it. They moved away from me, even as they mostly ignored me.
Two twenty-something guys hesitated in their surge forward just as I passed in front of them. A large man held his ground just a moment longer to keep from being pushed into my path. A woman slipped her thin frame between two other bodies just before I stepped into the space she had been the moment before.
I quickly made it to the young girl, a brunette of about 13 years. I grasped the girl's arm, and felt her fear even before I saw it in the hazel eyes she turned towards me. I sent feelings of calm and safety down my hand, and indicated the back of the room with a jerk of my head.
We quickly moved away from the press of bodies, despite the limp she had, and I handed her over to Joseph. I sent out a feeling of avoidance while Joseph sat the girl down in one of the few chairs along the back wall. I kept an eye on the crowd and grounded my energies a bit while listening to them talk.
“What's your name?” Joseph asked.
“Liz. Who are you guys?”
“Joseph. Nicola. Are you okay?”
“Just a sprain, I think. Someone stepped on my ankle.”
“Do you have friends here? Family?”
“Yeah, my friends are... “ Liz trailed off as she looked into the mass of people in front of us.
“We can just wait here for things to calm down,” Joseph assured her. “You can find your friends when people start leaving.”
I caught Liz's nod out of the corner of my eye. The crowd was still pushing, but the initial frenzy was dying down. It didn't look like anyone else had gotten any injuries more severe than some bruises from people elbowing.
“Joseph.” I caught his eye and waved him over. “Time to accelerate the calming and the going away of the masses.”
He nodded and stood next to me. We put our hands at our sides, palms facing forward. We grounded and centered, and let our energies join where our bodies were nearly touching.
I hesitated a moment to see if Joseph would take the control, but he didn't. I quickly reached for the emotion I wanted: laying back with a cool drink in the shade of an umbrella, with a warm breeze, the soft roar of ocean waves, and the warm colors of a tropical sunset. It was calm, content, and sedate. I sent that feeling into our combined energies and projected it out in a broad arc over the crowd.
The result was subtle but quick, taking hold in a matter of minutes. People who were hyped up and bouncing on their toes, stepped back, rolled their shoulders and relaxed their stance. The crowd stopped its steady press forward and, after a momentary hesitation, began shuffling towards the doors. Instead of the aggressive shoving, people began to display more courtesies, letting people go before them, saying “thank you”.
I rolled and cracked my neck before turning to Liz. “You see your friends?”
She peered around us to the crowd. “Well... Oh yes! Kate! Becca! Over here!” She stood and waved her arm as two other girls walked towards us. After a moment of catching up, the three girls walked off with the remaining crowd.
Joseph grabbed my arm. “We need to leave unless we are doing a confrontation here and now.”

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