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Deep Down Inside the Darkness








Deep Down Inside the Darkness







“He’s an alpha male.  He’s just like you.  Well, a younger version of you,” she says.



“Really, is that supposed to be a compliment?” I ask.



“Well, sorry, that didn’t come out right.  No, I guess it’s not.”



“I didn’t think so.”



“That’s not what I meant.”



“What did you mean?”



“I meant that he’s a lot like you.”



“Really now,” I smile.  “Who is he?  Tell me about him, Kitten.  Bring him to me.  I want to meet him.”



“This is not about competition,” she says.  “I love you both equally, and it’s tearing my heart apart.”



“Not about competition?  How could this possibly not be about competition?”



Her lips crush together.  Her eyes squeeze tight as she glares at me.



“So, who is this little cub?”  I ask.



“He’s not a cub,” she says.  “He’s a really nice guy.  You just don’t know him.  And you shouldn’t call him names.”



“That’s right Kitten, let me see those claws, get them out, defend him.”



“I defend you too,” she says.  “You just don’t see it.”



“Oh, and what does he say about me that requires my defense?”



“I don’t want this to be about competition.  I won’t let it be.”



“So, what the fuck is it about then?  You set it up that way.”



“You just don’t know each other, if you did …” she says, shaking her head.



“Oh,” I laugh, “I know him?  I know him well.”



Yes, I mull over in my head, I know him.  I know him well.  I know him like I know myself.  I know him better than he knows himself.  There is nothing he can do that I haven’t already done; nowhere he can go that I haven’t already been--But no, you are right Kitten, he doesn’t know me yet.



“You know,” she says, “you have a lot of darkness in you.”



“And why do you say that?”



“That laugh.”



“I have as much light as I do darkness,” I say, “my darkness is just more… defined.”



She cocks her head.  Studies me.



“So, tell me about him,” I urge.



“Well, he’s damaged,” she says.  “It’s so sad.  He’s plagued with nightmares.  He’s a combat vet.”



“How horrible,” I say, frowning my very best pout, “poor guy must be absolutely miserable.  He must be in terrible, terrible shape.”



“He is.  And he needs me,” she says.  “And you’re always gone so much.”



“He needs you?”



“Yes.”



“I’m gone so much?”



“Yes.”



“I’m sorry I have a job that requires travel?”



“You could be here more.”



“I’m here now.”



Does she think Afghanistan is the only war?  Doesn’t she know that there have been other wars?  Doesn’t she know that there are other wars, all over the place, all the time, wars fought in silence and in deep shadows, quiet and unpublished wars raging covertly on deep down inside of darkness—wars deciding the fate of nations?



Now I’m in a mood.



Yes, I ponder, bring him to me, Kitten.



So, he is young and he is damaged.  Now that is interesting.  The young man knows the rules but the old man knows the exceptions.



I play out the encounter in my mind.  He will circle me, try to wear me out, wear me down, tire me out until I can no longer stand, until I can barely move, until I am bleeding from the wounds that I have allowed him to give me; and I will play his game for a while, growl and claw, circle and snarl, spring and grapple, jump away to circle around and around with him.  And I will wound him too, just to make it look good.  And then, when he thinks I am too tired to fight, too tired to stand, he will move in slowly to make his kill, convinced of his victory.



But he has not learned to play dead yet.



He does not know his vulnerabilities.



He does not know that just when he is feeling completely and utterly confident, he is at his absolute weakest.  And then I will kill him: cleanly, simply, easily.



At the thought, I feel my eyes go dark.  I feel a memory slip into my brain and hurry me along like a rotten corpse into a grave, take me away with it as it flutters on bat wings to a faraway place.  There, I remember standing in silence behind a large weeping tree watching a funeral; the sky is gray, it is gray and going black, it is black and going malicious.  I am feathered by the leaves of the tree.  They fall across me discordantly, lying on my skin in a soft darkness, playing over me like true dark on darkness, like the outlines of a good scheme or the thick slices of a big malevolent plot, like the utterly terrifying scenes in a great horror movie, like first-rate film noir.  There is a glint in my eye.  It is a very black one.



“He was too young to die,” the priest said theatrically.



The crowd was sobbing.



Wistfully, he gazed up into the heavens, looking up as if there was something over us other than a big, bleak sky.



I tried to find some light in his eyes, some flicker of something, anything.  There was nothing left in them, nothing but gloom.  He had lost his faith.  Only the swift moving, dim clouds above were in his eyes, sweeping him away.  There was only a grayness left to him, he was more dead inside than I was.



At least I had Kitten to come home to.



I felt something close to sorrow for him, something close to sadness for them all.  I felt something close to pain for taking out their first, their best, their only hope.  Close, but not quite.



“And he was too foolish to live,” I said quietly to no one.



The priest lifted his hands up to the sky and wailed.



I shook my head.  “He should never have poked so hard at the soft underbelly of the beast,” I said.



I stepped back into a deep shadow.  I had a plane to catch.  There is always another plane to catch.



And I am well paid to remove nuisances.



I am good at it.



It’s almost never personal.



“Yes, Kitten,” I say softly.  “We do need to meet.  We really do.”



“Okay.  Maybe,” she says.  She puts a soft, warm hand in mine.  Our fingers intertwine.  She squeezes.   “We really do need to work this out, you know.”



“We do.”



“And you’ll be nice?  Pinky promise?”



“Aren’t I always?”





  



  

Donald Dean Mace







Donald Dean Mace is an artist, poet, and freelance writer living and working quietly in Yuma, Arizona. He has been published by Ariel Chart, the Yuma Daily Sun, the Arizona Western College Literary Magazine, his poetry was featured in a public service broadcast, and he was a guest on Mark Antony’s podcast, Strength to be Human.

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