The Cave of Sorrow
Criss Angel, famous magician, escape artist and Las Vegas' most notorious daredevil, reveled in the adulation his fans, the Loyal as they called themselves, gave him, taking time from his busy schedule to sign autographs, pose for pictures, and perform impromtu magic tricks on the street or in the lobby of the Luxor Hotel and Resort for their amusement. They, in turn, proclaimed their undying love of him through art, whether it was on paper, clothing or skin, or in writing, both in print and electronic; cyberspace was zooming with photos of him taken by those lucky enough to possess one. His live shows were sold out for months at a time, and every new episode of his television series, MindFreak, was eagerly anticipated. Many who saw his escapes, "denomstrations" he called them, considered him Houdini reincarnated.
Even his detractors had to admit he had a certain allure that was incomprehensible to them. Despite every effort to discredit him, his popularity never seemed to grow less. Of course, there were those right-wing extremists who blackened his name with accusations of witchcraft and devil-worship, even going so far as to call him the Anti-Christ himself, but they were few compared to those hundreds of ordinary people who had actually seen Criss Angel on television, on stage, or in person on the street. Wherever he appeared, performing everything from a simple card trick to a death-defying escape, more and more people were convinced beyond all unconvincing that Criss Angel could work miracles. Those lucky enough to actually meet him found not a devil but a friendly, affable man who spoke with a New York dialect backed by a mischevious sense of humor.
The Loyals loved Criss Angel, and he loved them in return, grateful for their devotion through good times and bad. When his mother fell ill with a heart ailment, the Loyals prayed for her recovery. When his divorce proceedings became public, they stood by him without question. His triumphs were their triumphs; his pain, theirs. And all they asked for in return was a few moments of his precious time to touch him, speak with him just to hear his voice, and for a small souvenir of their encounter to treasure forever. Despite his busy schedule, he did his best to oblige them. He knew that they were the reason for his fame and fortune; without them, he was just another card-shuffling conjuror from Long Island.
But there were times when Criss needed to withdraw from his worshipful fans and be alone with his thoughts. The Presidential suite at the top of the Luxor was supposed to be his own private sanctuary, but when overeager Loyals started camping out at the front doors, he was forced to move to a different one in the side buildings. But even that failed to give him the solitude he sought; living in a hotel, even one as luxurious as the Luxor, had its disavantages: guests came and went, which meant he was spotted in the corridors coming and going from his rooms. Many times he felt like a bird in a gilded cage, unable to be alone in public. To achieve fame for his art, he had sacrificed his privacy.
In desperation, he would ride one of his custom motorcycles into the Nevada desert, feeling the wind on his face as he sped down isolated roads and highways. It felt good to ride; the sheer exhilaration of escaping the pressures of his career thrilled him to the core. Sometimes he veered from the road and raced his bike through the desert itself, churning up clouds of dust as if creating a smoke screen to discourage the world with all its problems from following him. No ringing phones, no one badgering him for an autograph or a card trick, just himself and the elements. In the desert, he could be human again.
On one such excursion, Criss was tearing through the desert toward a large mesa when he stopped before the mouth of a small cave, just big enough to crawl through. Curious, he shut off the engine of his motorcycle, pulled off his goggles, dismounted, and walked over to look inside. The midafternoon sun did little to illuminate the interior of the cave, so he went back to his bike, took out a small emergency flashlight from his saddlebag, and returned to his exploring, scanning the dark cavern with the tiny beam of the flashlight for anything of interest.
No treasure, no bones, nothing but rocky walls and empty space. The interior seemed larger than the entrance, so Criss crawled inside, still scanning the walls with his little flashlight. There was just enough room to kneel in or sit down, but not to stand; Criss had to remain on his hands and knees, keeping his feet close to the mouth of the cave so as not to get lost or disoriented. He kept his crash helmet on to protect his head from bumps and scrapes from the rocky ceiling above. The air was hot and stale, making him sweat. All the while he fought off feelings of claustrophobia, reminding himself that the exit was right behind him.
He was about to give up and back out of the cave when something on the far wall caught his eye. He drew his flashlight up to it. There, in the back of the cave was a man-made carving of some sort. His claustrophobia forgotten for the moment, Criss examined it carefully. From what he could make out, it was a disc with wavy lines eminating from it, presumably representing the sun. Humanoid stick figures lined up below it, poised in supplication to it. Below the carving was a shelf about a foot wide chiseled out of the rock; it was too symmetrical to be a natural formation, he observed. He ran his fingers along the rock-shelf, feeling the smoothness of its surface. When he withdrew his hand he saw it was sooty and black. Was it some sort of altar where they offered burnt sacrifices to the sun god? Probably. Criss knew animal sacrifices were pretty common in ancient times. Cruel, yes, but common.
Criss wiped his hand on his fashionably frayed jeans and retreated from the cave by crawling out backwards. The hot desert air was refreshing compared to the stifilng atmosphere inside; he breathed deeply, glad to be out in the open again. Still, it had been a thrilling discovery: he wondered if he was the first to find this little cave, or had some other explorer been there before him. He hoped for the former--that would be so cool! Imagine, he, Criss Angel, famous illusionist, making such a historical discovery! The press would have a field day--
His thoughts of fame and glory came to a crashing halt, replaced by fear and wonder. Before him stood an ancient Indian (though they weren't called Indians any more, they were Native Americans) in a finely tanned buffalo hide robe painted with arcane symbols. He wore no feathered headdress like in the movies, but his long white hair was braided with small bone talismens. An agate set in a finely worked silver amulet hung from his scrawny neck, and he carried with him a carved wooden staff with brown feathers dangling from the top. He wore a grave expression on his withered face, and his dark eyes were fixed squarely on Criss, who could only stand there, dumbfounded. Was it a man, he wondered, or a ghost? "Wh-who are you?" he stammered.
"How have you offended?" he spoke in a sepulchral tone.
Criss was as bewildered as he was frightened. "Huh?" was all he could get out.
"How have you offended?" the buffalo-robed figure repeated.
"I-I don't understand," Criss stammered. "Who are you, anyway?"
The white-haired native pointed to the small cave with his feathered staff. "You entered the Cave of Sorrow," he explained in the same eerie voice. "How have you offended?"
The Cave of Sorrow? What the hell is that? he wondered silently. And why did this creepy guy keep asking him how he had offended? Maybe he had been trespassing on sacred ground when he went in? Yeah, maybe that was it. The guy was (bleeped) off about him going into his sacred cave. Criss pulled himself together and said, "Look, I'm sorry if I desecrated your sacred Cave of Sorrow or whatever you call it, but I was, well, I was just curious to see what was inside. I really meant no harm."
The old native remained expressionless. "You have not offended me," he intoned.
Criss exhaled deeply. "Well, that's a relief," he mumbled under his breath.
"And you know nothing about the Cave of Sorrow," the old native continued.
"No," Criss admitted, shaking his head. "Nothing. This is the first time I've been here."
The native stepped forward. "I am Medicine Man," he said, his face expressionless as ever. "In life, I was shaman to my tribe, called upon to heal, to read signs and omens, and to guide youth to adulthood. I alone contacted the spirit world for the benefit of my people. I also judged guilt or innocence to those who offended the customs of our tribe. Now, I have become the guardian spirit, the avatar of the Cave of Sorrow. For many, many moons I have watched over it, to guide those who have offended to atonement."
Again, he pointed to the cave with his staff. "The Cave of Sorrow is for those who have offended to retreat and think upon their actions. Some go in of their own free will, others are commanded to do so. They go in, fast, and think of how they had offended, and how to make amends."
"How long do they stay in there?" Criss asked.
"As long as it is necessary to atone for their wrongdoing," Medicine Man replied. "Sometimes it is a day, sometimes several days, sometimes a full circle of the moon. But all who go in leave an offering to the Sun God when they are ready to return to the tribe and make amends.
Well, that explains the soot on the altar, Criss thought. "What do they offer to the Sun God?"
"Whatever they think is pleasing to him: corn, meat, beads, or anything of value that would serve as a sacrifice of atonement."
"Oh, I see," Criss mumbled, nodding his head.
"And now you know the purpose of the Cave of Sorrow."
"Yes, now I know, and I am sorry to have trespassed upon such a sacred site," Criss apologized. "I promise not to come here again."
"The Cave of Sorrow is for all who have offended," Medicine Man told him. "If you have offended, you must come here, fast, and think upon your wrongdoing. The Sun God shines upon good and evil alike. Do not fear it. It is there for your benefit."
"Amen to that," Criss muttered under his breath. "Uh, well, it's been nice talking to you," he said to the shaman nervously, "but I got to get going now. Thanks for the history lesson. Later."
With that, he jumped onto his bike and jammed the kick-starter harder than he needed to. The motorcycle roared into life. Before he turned around to ride back home, he lifted his eyes toward the spot where Medicine Man was standing. The trouble was, that spot was empty.
love it :) great chapters , can't wait to read more :)
This is one story that I loved to read Vertias
As Criss sped back to the Luxor Hotel on his motorcycle, his shaken mind swirled with unanswerable questions about what he had seen, or thought he had seen, in the desert. Who was the Medicine Man? he kept asking himself. What was he? Was he/it a ghost or simply a delusion caused by the desert heat? Had he imagined the whole thing? No, that couldn't be right: as creative and talented as he was, he couldn't create a separate being out of thin air. Had he stepped through some time-portal, breached some barrier between time and space when he entered into the Cave of Sorrow? Again, no--that was delving into the realm of science fiction. Was it simply a ghost? Criss did believe in an afterlife, but he considered himself intelligent enough to know that ghosts did not exist. Indeed, he had exposed many of the tricks fraudulent mediums used to con innocent people who wished to contact their deceased loved ones out of hundreds of dollars by staging fake seances.
A fake. What if the Medicine Man had been a real person all along? What if he was the one who was delusional instead of himself? What if this Medicine Man guy was simply some crazy old dude who lived alone in the desert pretending to be a Native spirit? It was perfectly plausible--living alone in the desert did strange things to people.
The thought comforted Criss as he rode on. No doubt the isolation had driven the old man to the point of madness, confusing ancient Native lore with reality until he believed himself to be the "avatar" of the Cave of Sorrow, he theorized. The bone talismens, the feathered staff, the leather robe with the painted symbols--all props to stage his illusion. He didn't act crazy, but people who lived in a fantasy world often behaved as if they were sane.
But how could he explain the Medicine Man's sudden disappearance right after he got on his bike? Well, hey, the guy was an illusionist like himself. Hadn't he himself pulled disappearing acts in the street countless times before? With skill and timing, anyone could make himself seemingly vanish into thin air. If he was an illusionist, he was a very good one, Criss conceded.
He sped down the highway. The apex of the giant black pyramid that was the hub of the Luxor Hotel and Resort came into view over the horizon. Nothing had changed as far as he could see, thus eliminatng the time-portal theory he had created earlier. No ghosts, no spirits, nothing but a crazy old Native living alone in the desert keeping watch over a small hole in a rocky mesa with an ancient carving on the wall. Criss decided to forget the whole Medicine Man incident and get on with his life, crazy as it was in itself. He had more to worry about than avatars and ancient caves; he had a demonstration to plan, one that would be bigger than the hotel demolition in Florida, and he couldn't wait to spring it on his crew.
Meanwhile, at the Luxor, life went on as usual. Guests passed through the glass doors leading to the largest atrium in the world, luggage in hand or wheeled in on shiny brass carts by bell attendants, ready to try their luck in the casinos, be pampered in the spa, party in the clubs, shop in the boutiques, dine in the restaraunts, enjoy the live shows, or just relax and be waited on hand and foot by the staff. And the staff made doubly sure every guest who arrived received the best the Luxor offered. Las Vegas was not just built on money, but fantasy and illusion, where the average Joe or Jane could be treated like royalty, surrounded by wealth and luxury, if only for a weekend. When people passed through the glass portal into the black glass pyramid with the blindingly bright apex shining straight through the stratosphere, they left the troubled economy and all the other problems of the world outside like a stray mongrel.
Two such average Janes, a pair of sisters surnamed Honi, entered the atrium that bright sunny Friday morning, their luggage piled onto a brass luggage cart being pushed by an exhausted bell attendant. No, that's not quite right: the elder sister, Bianca, a buxom, fashionably dressed, peroxide blonde who carried herself with a haughty air considered herself far above average. The pile of luggage on the cart was her own, proof of her superiority. She never traveled lightly, even for a two-night stay in a hotel; Heaven forbid she should be without the proper outfit whenever the occasion called for it. Bianca took a perverse pleasure in ordering the poor bell attendant where to move the luggage cart, and for God's sake to be careful with her precious pile of suitcases, garment bags and overnighters. Here, in the Luxor, she was queen of the realm and made sure everyone knew it.
The other sister, Angela, a reed-thin figure in a plain green summer shift that had been fashionable back in the Sixties, followed her arrogant sibling timidly, hiding behind the luggage rack for safety's sake. Her dirty blonde hair, thin as her limbs, hung down from her head like a threadbare curtain concealing the fear and lonliness in her large blue eyes. Her luggage consisted of a single overnight bag, her canvas school satchel and her worn-out purse slung over her bony arm. At twenty-eight, the burden of living with an overbearing sister showed clearly in the sad expression permanantly creased into her thin face.
She did not want to be here at the Luxor; she preferred the privacy of her tiny bedroom back at the house their deceased parents had left them, grading papers and working on her lesson plans for the first-grade class she taught at Applewood Elementary School, or volunteering at the local homeless shelter where she taught literacy classes in the evening three times a week.
She was here because Bianca had won an all-expenses-paid stay for two at any of the top hotels in Vegas through some drawing she had entered so long ago she had forgotten about it, and had been dragged along simply because Bianca could not find anyone to share it with her (her latest boyfriend had broken up with her because he was unable to stand her any longer, and she had no friends to speak of), since the rules clearly stated that the prize was valid for two people for two nights only, and so Angela was drafted by default with warnings to stay out of the way. Reluctantly, Angela agreed, if only to avoid her sister's wrath, though she would have considered a weekend without Bianca around the house a better vacation than staying with her in a luxury hotel.
Bianca, however, yearned for the high life, squandering her trust fund on shopping sprees, spas, cruises and luxury hotels just so she could be indulge in the life to which she felt entitled. To her, poor Angela was at best a maid-of-all-work, performing all the household chores so she could be free to go shopping or spend weekends at one of the many luxury hotels Las Vegas had to offer. At worst, Angela was a useless burden intruding into Bianca's perfect world when she was three years old, usurping her place as Daddy's little princess and Mommy's little angel. Bitter and resentful, Bianca did her level best to make her baby sister's life a living hell from the first day her mother brought her home from the maternity hospital: crushing her spirit, pointing the finger of blame upon her for every crime committed, and belittling her achievements, all the while hiding behind a mask of perfect innocence.
Bianca manipulated and bullied everyone around her to get what she wanted: her parents, her grandparents, her schoolmates, and especially her younger sister who was too gullible, too trusting and too frightened to resist. Times without number Angela had her allowance extorted, her toys stolen or destroyed (or both), and the intimate details of her life, few though they were, broadcast to the world at large--unless, of course, Angela paid Bianca hush money to preserve them.
Now, there they were, in the lobby of one of Las Vegas' premiere hotels, preparing for a weekend stay in one of its poshest suites. Bianca swept up to the front desk, flashed the postcard she had received from the contest to the receptionist and loftily demanded the keys to her suite, which she received without delay or tantrum on her part. Angela, left behind with the luggage, stared at the patterned carpet, her misery unabated by the sights and sounds of the Luxor. She didn't want to be here. She didn't want to be anywhere but in the safety of her little bedroom, working on her lesson plan for the week, away from Bianca's screaming voice and overbearing manner. She could only hope that Bianca would spend more time at the spa than in the suite; only then could she have some peace and quiet.
The luggage cart was wheeled onto the elevator, or inclinator, as they were called in the pyramidal structure of the Luxor. Due to the sloping shape of the walls, they traveled on an inclined plane instead of vertically like normal elevators. Bianca, Angela and the bell attendant rode up to their suite in silence. Once the doors slid open, the attendant wheeled the cart to the designated suite, slid the master keycard into the slot, and entered. Bianca sailed in behind and surveyed the elegant suite with an extremely critical eye, then turned to the bell attendant. "Is this the best you got?" she asked contemptuously.
"Yes, ma'am," the attendant replied politely as he unloaded his cart. "This is the Nefertiti Suite, one of the best in the hotel."
Bianca made another visual sweep of the room. "It'll have to do," she sighed. "It's only for the weekend after all."
She turned to Angela. "Tip the man, will you?" she ordered.
Angela reached into her purse and gave the attendant a ten-dollar bill. "Thank you for your assistance," she said quietly. "We appreciate your help."
The sincerity of her gratitude did not compensate for the measly tip the attendant received. He took it with a scowl and departed with his empty cart. Angela felt guilty over offending the man, but what could she do? It was the largest bill she had in her purse. With a deep sigh she went into the nearest bedroom and laid her overnight bag on the king-sized bed to unpack. Bianca immediately flew into a rage. "That's my room, Angela!" she snapped. "Yours is over there."
She pointed to the smaller of the two bedrooms of the suite. Chastened, Angela picked up her bag and went into her room. At least she had a room with a bed, she thought gratefully; she feared she would have to sleep on the floor or something. She laid her overnighter and school satchel on the bed and sat down, too tired to unpack and too anxious to do anything else. Meanwhile, Bianca busied herself unpacking her extensive wardrobe and storing it in every available storage space in the suite. From her bedroom, Angela could hear her humming happily to herself as she hung up her dresses, suits, blouses and slacks and stored her intimate apparel in the dresser drawers. You'd think she was moving in instead of staying for a single weekend, she said to herself.
Suddenly, the happy humming stopped. "Angela?" Bianca called out sharply. "Angela!"
Angela started. From the angry tone of her sister's voice, she knew that whatever her latest transgression had been, it was already unforgivable. She rose on shaking legs to answer the summons. Maybe she could mitigate the damage somehow. Maybe.
"Yes, Bianca?" she said timidly.
"Angela," Bianca said with forced calm. "Where is my blue suit?"
"Wh-which blue suit?" Angela stammered.
"What do you mean 'which blue suit'? The one you were supposed to pick up at the dry cleaner's on your way home yesterday, that blue suit!"
Suddenly, Angela recalled the blue dress suit Bianca had ordered her to pick up from the cleaner's on her way home from school, and with a sinking heart realized she had forgotten all about it. "I-I'm sorry, Bianca," she quavered. "I-I-I guess I forgot--"
Bianca's face reddened. "You forgot?!" she raged.
Angela stood rooted to the spot, paralyzed with fear. "I told you twice to pick up my suit and you forgot!?" Bianca shrieked. "Of all the stupid, incompetant, idiotic--"
"I'm sorry, Bianca," Angela repeated, more pitieously this time. "I just--"
She was cut off by a sharp backhanded slap to the face that sent her reeling to the floor. "Don't give me any excuses!" Bianca growled. " Now I have to ruin my vacation by going to pick it up myself, since you're too stupid to do it! It's lucky for you the dry cleaner's not too far from here!"
She grabbed her purse and made for the door. "Do something right for a change and put my things away while I'm gone!" she ordered. "And make sure nothing gets wrinkled! I'll be back later!"
Bianca stormed out the door, slamming it behind her. Angela still lay on the floor, her brain still spinning from the blow she received. When all was quiet again, she burst into sobs.
Great Chapter :) i really don't like Angela sister , can't wait to read more :)
Someone get Angela a back bone please
"It's gonna be awesome, guys!" Criss said enthusiastically to his production crew at the afternoon planning meeting. "It's gonna be bigger than anything I've ever done!"
Criss' brothers, JD and Costa, leaned toward each other. "Translation," JD murmured. "It's gonna be suicidal."
Costa nodded in agreement. "Is the insurance paid up?" he asked.
JD only made a little shrug and turned his attention back to Criss, who was outlining the details of his new demonstration. "I found this old abandoned mine, see, and what I'm gonna do is race through the whole length of it, chained and handcuffed, in a mine car right down the track before the whole thing caves in."
"Told you," JD murmured again to Costa.
"Of course we can't blow it up completely," Criss added.
Costa leaned to JD. "Well, that's a relief," he whispered.
"The mine itself is probably a historical site or something," Criss went on, "so, we're gonna have to rig up some rocks and set them off to cause a cave-in. So, whaddya think, guys?" He waited expectantly for a positive response, but received only stony silence.
JD stared straight at Criss, his expression grim. "I think you're nuts," he commented.
"Besides that, I mean," Criss retorted.
JD rose to his feet. "Aren't you forgetting something?" he asked.
Criss was bewildered. "Forgetting what?"
"The promise you made to Mom back in Florida, that's what!" JD shot back.
Criss stood there dumbly, trying to recollect whatever he had promised his mother in Florida but not daring to say anything for fear of looking ridiculous. Exasperated, JD stepped forward and faced him down. "You promised Mom that, after that hotel implosion escape, you would not do any more life-threatening demonstrations!" he reminded him. "And now, here you are planning to escape from a mine shaft that's gonna blow up with you inside! What the hell is the matter with you, Christopher? Don't you care about Mom's feelings?"
"Of course I care about Mom's feelings!" Criss shot back defensively. "I care about Mom, period! But this isn't like the hotel demonstration. I'll be outta there before it caves in, I guarantee it. You know me--I always have a backup plan. Everything's gonna work out just fine, I promise. Besides, Mom doesn't have to know about it, does she?"
JD remained unconvinced. "She has ways of finding out, little brother," he told him. "She's a mom, remember? And when she gets wind of what you're up to, she's gonna be pretty upset about it."
"So, we keep a lid on it until the day of the demonstration," Criss said. "That way, we spare her feelings, and she won't worry so much."
"She's still gonna worry, Christopher, and I don't like deceiving her this way. If she finds out you lied to her, she's gonna be really (bleeped) off at you."
"We're not lying, JD, we're just...sparing her feelings about this" Criss said. "Now, are you guys with me on this or not?"
JD looked at Costa, then around the room at the rest of the crew. "Can you give us time to think about it, at least?" he requested.
Criss considered it. "Well, okay," he aquiesed. "Think about it, sleep on it, then we'll go on from there tomorrow morning."
For the first time during the meeting, JD smiled. "Fine," he said, "we'll let you know first thing in the morning."
The two brothers shook hands. "Well, if that's all we got, then I guess the meeting's over," Criss said genially. "Everyone can go now, but be here first thing tomorrow morning, same time, same place, same channel."
The crew rose to leave. Costa swept up to JD's side and walked out the door with him to the elevator bank. "What was that all about?" he demanded in a hoarse whisper.
JD held up a placating hand. "Don't sweat it, Cos," he muttered. "I'm just buying some time, that's all."
"Time for what?"
The elevator door opened, and the two brothers stepped inside. JD leaned closer to Costa. "Look, I got a plan to keep Christopher from doing this whole crazy mine shaft stunt, but I need your help."
Costa grinned. "You can count on me."
"Now, here's what we do..." JD began
The elevator door slid shut, concealing the pair inside and cutting off their conversation to the outside world.
Angela Honi examined her thin face in the bathroom mirror, searching for bruises or broken bones where Bianca had struck her. No damage that she could see, only a red splotch where Bianca's hand had landed. It would clear up in a few hours, she told herself. If only she had remembered to pick up that blue suit from the dry cleaners, she admonished herself. Then none of this would have happened.
Her blue eyes were reddened and swollen from weeping. She was always weeping, it seemed to her, and Bianca was always the cause. She was the bully, the tormentor, the blackmailer, the inquisitor, the source of all sorrow and fear. She knew Angela's weaknesses and exploited them at every turn: sellling her diary to her schoolmates, making her an object of scorn and riducule during her school days; extorting what little money came her way, whether it be allowance, gift money, or earnings (Angela had set up a separate savings fund to keep some of her teacher's salary away from Bianca's greedy hands); making her a scapegoat for everything that went wrong, even when she was nowhere near the scene of the crime; manipulating their parents into getting what she wanted; ridiculing her interests; even destroying her cherished pink and white teddy bear, a crime Angela vividly recalled to this day. Bianca symbolized everything that was evil in Angela's life, the wicked witch who blighted what should have been a happy childhood.
Now, as Angela approached her thirtieth birthday, Bianca was targeting her trust fund. Having nearly depleted her own with her extravagant living, she sought to claim her sister's as well. But Angela needed that trust fund more than her sister did: with it, she could pay off her student loans, set up a small retirement fund, and maybe get a place of her own, away from her overbearing sibling. So far she had been able to resist, but how long would she last? Bianca could not kill her, of course; according to the terms of the fund, if murder was confirmed, the fund would go to charity instead of the next-of-kin. Mr. Strang, Father's banker friend and trustee of the fund, was her only defense against Bianca's avaricious ambitions. He alone guarded the money due to her, and he alone knew the laws governing it. He would not let Bianca get hold of that money no matter how hard she tried. It was Angela's only hope for a better life.
Angela left the bathroom and walked slowly into the small bedroom. It was not as sumptuous as Bianca's, but she didn't care. She had a room to herself, with a bed to sleep in--that, in itself, was a blessing. She picked up her school satchel, sat down on the bed, and pulled out her lesson plan notes. Maybe she could get some work done; it would take her mind off her troubles. It usually did.
She noticed how quiet it was in the suite. That, too, was gratifying; there was no noise from Bianca's hours-long phone conversations, or the television turned up so loud it was unbearable, or the neighbor's dog barking incessantly at everything that moved, or other such distractions she endured at the house. Maybe with Bianca out indulging in all the hotel's amenities, she could enjoy a bit of peace and quiet enough to get caught up on her lesson plans. That way, it wouldn't be a total waste of time here at the Luxor.
Angela's greatest if not her only pleasure in life was her work. She loved children, but especially the younger ones--fresh, bright, eager young minds that had not been dulled by the routine of the school system. Their innocence amused and delighted her, their inquisitiveness thrilled her. Granted, a classroom of six- and seven-year-olds could be trying at times, but the rewards compensated for the frustration of keeping order. The smile of delight on a little girl's face after adding three plus five by herself, the sense of accomplishment in a boy who had just mastered reading a difficult word, the gift of a bouquet of bright yellow dandelions in the spring, all made her life worthwhile. In the classroom, Angela could put Bianca's torments out of her mind and lose herself in the wonders of a child's world, a world that her sister had darkened with her presence when she was a child herself.
Now, in the opulent isolation of the hotel suite, Angela wished she could be with her young students again. Unfortunatly, school was closed this particular Friday due to some administrative function. Worse, she was stuck with Bianca for the next three days in this gilded cage, subject to endless abuse and derision until Sunday night when the free weekend getaway was over and they went back to the house (for some reason, Angela never referred to it as home, just "the house"), and life went back to normal, if being ordered about and screamed at could be considered normal.
She set aside her depressing thoughts and returned to her lesson plans, salving her pain and humiliation with work. The plans were due Monday at the latest, and she wanted them to be perfect. Maybe Bianca would be gone long enough for her to finish them. Maybe.
While Angela Honi struggled with her lesson plans and the misery of her life with her sister, Bianca, Criss was going over his plans for his mine-shaft demonstration. Using the mine itself presented no problem; there had been no word about it being of any historical interest. Indeed, the Nevada State Historical Society had never even heard of that particular mine before. The whole area was riddled with abandoned mines, they had told him, but most had yielded nothing but poverty and heartache for the miners who had worked them. A few, a very few, had contained any gold or silver ore, and tiny amounts of it at that. For Criss, that meant he could trigger as big a cave-in as he wanted, provided he had the proper permits.
With that obstacle out of the way, the next step would be the actual set-up of the demonstration itself. He would have to go to the mine, take measurements, calculate the time he needed to get in and out of the shaft, get a mine car if he couldn't find one in the mine itself, mark the places to insert the charges to cause the cave-in, and, of course, figure out where to place the cameras for the best angles. It would be weeks if not months for him to get everything the way he wanted it. Few people realized the time and effort it took for Criss to perform his demonstrations, especially on a grand scale as this one. Six months to a year of planning, arranging and rehersing equaled one five-minute demonstration shown on TV. In the end, however, it was worth it.
Criss resented his brothers' reluctance to see his art the way he did. While he grudgingly appreciated their concern for his welfare, he wished they could see the grand scheme of things when it came to his demonstration. True, sometimes things did go wrong, such as that stunt where he tried to catch a carpenter's nail shot from a pneumatic nail gun and ended up in the ER, or the prison van he had leapt out from and landed wrong, injuring his neck, or the aquarium escape where he nearly drowned trying to get out of a cage submerged in a shark tank and became ill from ingesting contaminated water, but those were the exceptions. He had been successful when everyone feared he had been killed, emerging unscathed (more or less) and triumphant. This latest demonstration would top them all, he vowed, and he would prove to the world that he was indeed successor to the late, great Harry Houdini, master of escapology and illusion.
For all this bravado, however, a tiny voice kept creeping around in the back of his mind, small but persistant, demanding to be heard. What about Mom? it said. What about your promise?
Well, what about it? While he didn't like hurting his mother, this demonstration was too good to pass up. Besides, she didn't have to know anything about it, at least not for now. She didn't have to be there when it was going on, and after taping and editing, it would be months before it aired. By then she would be better prepared, mentally and physically, to see it. It was better this way, he reasoned. By keeping it secret, he spared his mother a lot of unnecessary anguish. Ignorance was truly bliss in this case. What she didn't know would not hurt her.
Great Chapter :) for once i think Criss should listen to his brothers , can't wait to read more :)
There, the lesson plans were completed, the last worksheet assignment had been graded, and there was nothing for Angela to do but stare out the giant window of the hotel suite and wish she was somewhere else. Friday morning had just turned to afternoon; she had been working for three straight hours but did not feel at all hungry or tired or anything but the need to escape the gilded cage she was forced to share with her sister, Bianca. But where to go?
Friday afternoon. Angela remembered that Fridays were her shelter volunteer nights. She knew where the shelter was, but her little Chevette was back at the house (Bianca insisted on driving her sporty Lexus, claiming "that bucket of bolts" Angela drove was unworthy of being seen at the Luxor) and so she had no transportation to get there. She wondered if they had buses in downtown Las Vegas. If not, well, then she'd have to take a cab, expensive though it was. One thing was certain: sister or no sister, she was not going to shirk her duty at the shelter just because she got shanghaied into staying in some fancy hotel.
But it was only twelve-thirty, and she didn't have to be at the shelter until six; that left five and a half hours with nothing to fill them. She looked out the window again. Las Vegas, the Entertainment Capital of America, lay spread out before her like a glorified carnival midway, and here she was, stuck in this fancy hotel room with nothing to do while Bianca was out there living out her champaigne fantasies on a budget of two thousand a month from her trust fund which shrank drastically every day.
Angela turned away from the window and found herself facing her reflection in the mirror above the dresser. She saw a thin, haggard face, grown old before its time. Her mouth had creased into a near-permanant frown. When was the last time she had laughed? When was the last time she had experienced pleasure? she wondered. True, she enjoyed teaching, and her young students' innocent remarks often amused her at times, but when did she ever really go out and enjoy herself as a person, as a woman? She had never had a boyfriend, not even in high school; she had always been a wallflower, too shy to attract any boy's attention. To her, falling in love was something that happened in romance novels like the ones her fellow volunteer, Darlene Milliken, was always devouring. Maybe it happened in real life, but not to her.
She looked away from her face and at the green shift she wore. She could not afford a new wardrobe, not on a teacher's salary, and besides, she was always the one paying the utilities, the cable bill (premium package, on Bianca's insistance) the property taxes and the insurance on her car, leaving little left over for personal expenses and teaching materials though the county covered most of the cost with vouchers. She made do with thrift shop finds and whatever she could do to recycle from her old wardrobe. "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without," her late mother had always taught her daughters, but it seemed that the younger adhered to it more out of necessity than good counsel while the elder ignored it altogether.
Bianca was a clothes horse. The piles of luggage she had brought with her for the weekend was proof of that. A perfect body like hers had to be dressed in style, she always insisted. God forbid she should go out looking like a slob like Angela, with her shabby, outdated clothes and shoes falling to pieces ("Where do you get your clothes?" she had demanded once. "At that homeless shelter you work at?"). She lived for the latest fashions: she worshipped the designer du jour whose latest creation she just had to have; she almost rivaled Imelda Marcos for the number of pairs of shoes in her closet (twenty-eight at last count), and she spent untold hours and who knew how much money at the salon getting her hair and nails done. Bianca was queen of her own little world and she was going to look like one, and damn the expense, while poor Angela shuffled through life in whatever article of clothing that would fit her frail little body, her unstyled dirty-blonde hair hanging limply around her face as if it had given up the will to live.
Angela began to feel something inside her welling up like a tea kettle full of boiling water. It's not fair, she told herself. Why should Bianca have all the fun while I'm stuck behind doing lesson plans? Don't I deserve to have a little fun, too? I don't want to die an old maid! I want to get out of here! I want to go out and see people, do things, see things, experience things I never did before! I want to be free! I want to be loved! I want to be alive!
She turned abruply away from the mirror, retrieved her shabby handbag, and dashed out of the suite before she changed her mind. She had five hours and fifteen minutes before her shift at the shelter, but she was determined to make the most of it.
Great chapter :) Angela really needs to stand up to her sister , Can't wait to read more :)
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