05-22-2012, 04:52 PM
It had been a slow day at the EMS station, barely twenty calls during Leslie's whole shift. Leslie was anticipating the evening with a mixture of excitement and dread, for tonight Criss would perform the most dangerous demonstraion of his career: escaping from a hotel about to be demolished. Would she witness the greatest escape ever preformed, or Criss' death live on television? Her mind boggled, recalling something a fellow Loyal once said about Criss' death-defying stunts: it was like watching a hanging, he said--you can't bring yourself to watch it, but you can't turn away.
Well, she was going to watch it no matter what. Criss would make it, Leslie told herself. He always had. But just to be sure, she would do a Tarot reading for him before the show. Leslie looked at the clock. Two more hours, and her shift would be over, barring castatrophe. Everything seemed peaceful enough around the station. Regina was perusing the latest issue of The Watchtower, the Jehovah's Witnesses' little periodical she always left in the break room and which Leslie always tossed in the trash. Leslie was tolerant of other people's faiths as a rule, but Regina's constant proselytizing rankled her. Regina had already been written up by Morton about it, but she still persisted in leaving JW literature around the station. If she ever found out about Leslie's Wiccan ways, she'd never hear the end of it. Besides, what business of it was hers, anyway?
The two hours dragged on, but the day shift did end. Leslie and Regina turned in their daily log to Morton and left for home. At the bus stop, they stood with other weary commuters for the Local to take them home. Leslie fought the temptation to start a conversation with Regina so as to avoid another invitation to the Kingdom Hall for services. Regina, however, served first.
"Boring day today, wasn't it?" she said casually.
"Yeah," Leslie grunted. "It was."
"Got any plans for the evening?"
It was an innocent enough inquiry, but Leslie knew from experience that it was fully loaded. If she answered no, then the offer to come to services at the Kingdom Hall would be pressed, and Regina was a past master in persistance. If she said yes, then she'd be forced to give the reason, and no excuse would be good enough for Regina to accept. Either way, she was screwed. Unless...
"Why?" Leslie asked innocently. "You asking me out on a date or something?"
Regina laughed a little. Her little joke had caught her off guard, to Leslie's relief. "I mean, I thought you already had a boyfriend, you know?" she went on.
"That's not what I meant!" Regina exclaimed in exasperation. "I'm just saying that tonight's evening services at the Hall, and I'm inviting you to come, that's all!"
"Thanks, but no thanks," Leslie told her as graciously but as firmly as she could.
"Why not?" Regina persisted.
Leslie sighed. I'll tell you why not! I am a practicing Wiccan, I believe in the Mother Goddess, and have no interest in your Jehovah or your church! That's why not! So stop bothering me! "I'm just not interested, that's all," she replied.
Regina fished out a brochure from her handbag. "Maybe this will stir your interest in us," she suggested.
Leslie rolled her eyes. "Regina..."
"Now, I know that you heard a lot of negative press about the Witnesses," Regina argued. "But we're true practicing Christians, preparing the way for the Lord Jehovah to come." She tucked the brochure into Leslie's hand. "Just read it, think about it. You'll see that we're not the evil cultists people think we are."
Leslie's bus arrived at the stop. She pushed her way to the curb. "Service starts at six-thirty," Regina called out to her. "See you there!"
Leslie boarded the bus without a word to Regina. Yeah! When Hell freezes over! she thought nastily. She paid her fare and took a seat far in the back. She looked down at the brochure with distate, then tore it up. How would she like it if I pressured her to become a Wiccan? Leaving the newsletters in the breakroom like she leaves those stupid magazines, or inviting her to our gatherings and feasts?
She drew a deep breath to release her frustration. Why do I have to keep my beliefs in the closet while Regina is free to flaunt hers? I thought America was founded on freedom of religion! I should be allowed to practice my beliefs as openly as she does! Just once, I'd like to shout out to the whole world "I am a Wiccan! I believe in the Mother Goddess and am one with the Earth!". Well, one of these days, I will! One of these days, I am going to look Regina and her fellow Witnesses and tell them what they can do with their magazines and their door-to-door proselytizing! And when that day comes, oh, Goddess, I am going to make them wish the earth would swallow them up whole!
Clearwater, Florida. Fifty thousand Loyals waited several hundred feet away from the soon to be demolished Spyglass Resort Hotel for the appearance of Criss Angel, while millions more watched on television in the comfort of their homes. The festive mood was tempered with fear and anxiety over the demonstration about to take place.
Chaunte Fresh and Marie Austin huddled next to each other in front of the nineteen-inch set in the apartment they shared not far from the bar where they worked. They were both lucky to get that night off together, not only to watch the episode, but to offer comfort and reassurance to each other during the mindracking ordeal to come.
Nini Luciano had to work at the MindFreak store that evening, but she invited Hadley Grace to come over and watch the demonstration on the giant plasma television in the store itself. The shop was crowded with onlookers watching the show on the enormous screen in high definition, hardly breathing, let alone making conversation.
Leslie Fanning sat at her card table in front of the television, ritualistically dealing her Tarot cards and laying out three of them on the crimson cloth. What will Criss fate be? she mentally asked the Fates, or the Goddess, or whatever forces of nature were listening. Nervously she turned over the three cards on the table.
The Magician, upright. Very appropriate, considering. It symbolized mastery of the material world, creative action, self-discipline and a willingness to take risks. That was Criss in a nutshell, Leslie thought. The second card, the Chariot, upright, meant triumph over adversity, overcoming life's obstacles, and well deserved victory. Very positive. The third was the most welcome of all, the Wheel of Fortune, upright, the card of destiny and good fortune. Leslie exhaled with relief. Criss was going to make it after all.
Most of the program was taken up by interviews, shots of the hotel, computer graphics of the implosion, and prerecorded street magic performed by Criss, but the final fifteen minutes were the most tense in television history. Criss was handcuffed to the railing on the sixth floor of the building, then left alone to escape. To make matters worse, rain started to fall, and communication was faulty at best.
Criss gave the signal to begin the countdown, and set to work freeing himself from the handcuffs. The audience shrieked and cheered him on as he freed himself, then tried to pick the lock on the first door, but failing that, broke the window, then entered the hotel to the second door, picked the lock on that, opened the door, ran up the stairs to the next door, picked the lock, entered that, then raced up to the roof where a door with two locks challenged him. Time was running out, the helicopter lifted off while he was still in the hotel, and just when Criss had worked out one of the locks, the cameras blanked out, and the building came tumbling down with a roar.
Chaunte and Marie clung to each other, weeping. In the MindFreak shop, Nini, Hadley and the others present stared in shock. Leslie prayed to the Goddess for Criss' safety. At the site, there was silence.
Then, as if by some miracle, Criss emerged from behind a slope, covered in concrete dust but very much alive. His mother, Dimitra, and his brothers, JD and Costa, rushed up to embrace him, tears streaming down their faces. Chaunte and Marie shrieked with joy. The MindFreak store erupted in cheers. Leslie looked down at her cards, her faith in them confirmed.
Criss spent a few days in Florida, visiting his Greek friends and relatives and resting from the ordeal he had overcome. They congratulated him on his success, but his mother kept reminding him and anyone within earshot that it would be the last. An exasperated Criss kept assuring her that it would.
"Your mother loves you, Christopher," his Aunt Popi told him. "She doesn't want to outlive you, that's all."
"I don't know how he's gonna top that one, anyway," Costa commented. "I mean, how can you top being blown up in a building?"
"I have a gut feeling that he'll find a way," JD opined.
"No!" Dimitra exclaimed. "No more! That is it!" She turned to Criss and pointed her finger in his face. "Christopher, you made a promise to me, and I am going to hold you to it!"
Criss could only sit there on the overstuffed couch, smiling sheepishly. He quickly decided to change the subject. "So, Costa," he said loudly. "You got your Red Cross certification yet?"
Costa stared at Criss bemusedly. "I got it weeks ago, you know that," he replied.
Dimitra looked at him. "Red Cross? What are you talking about, Red Cross?"
"Well, it all started when I began having this recurring nightmare about some big disaster and everyone was crying out to me to save them," Costa explained. "So, I took a couple of days off and took a course in lifesaving, and I got certified by the Red Cross."
Dimitra thought about it. "Hmmm. Well, that is good to know, darling."
"Yeah," JD chimed in. "You could have been using it on Criss if he slipped up."
"If Criss slipped up," Costa retorted, "he'd be dead."
"Well, I am sure it will come in handy someday," Dimitra assured him. "It's good to know these things for just in case."
"Was it hard?" Criss asked.
"No, no, it wasn't hard," Costa replied, "we got paired off in teams, and assigned a station to practice on each other."
"Who was your partner?" Criss asked.
Costa blushed a little. "Some little blond named Dee," he answered with some embarrassment. "She knew who I was, and..."
"Started coming on to you?" Criss smiled knowingly.
"Let me put it this way," Costa said. "She gave mouth-to-mouth resusitation a bad name, that's for sure. My next certification class, I'm gonna pick someone else--anyone else! Preferably over forty!"
The family laughed. Poor Costa, a victim of his brother's fame, Dimitra thought. "Well, the important thing is that you learned something useful," she said to him reassuringly. "Who knows? You may save someone's life someday, and not just your brother's, either. God only knows what will happen in the future."
Zero pointers for the entire week on the graph. All was quiet in Nevada and California. Dr. Adams began to relax. Okay, maybe that three-point-five had been a fluke after all, he thought. One minor tremor, then the faultlines went back to sleep. It had been a false alarm; he had been worried over nothing.
Still, it did not do to become complacent. A major quake could occur at any time, anywhere. Like freedom, it required eternal vigilance, but unlike freedom, earthquakes were an all too real threat that put lives in danger and destroyed millions of dollars in property. All he and NEDA could do was monitor the graphs and keep tabs on the climate, giving warning when needed as soon as humanly possible.
A thirty to forty percent chance of a quake hitting Las Vegas, he recalled from the UNLV study. It didn't rule out the possibility altogether, but by that calculation, it meant that there was a sixty to seventy percent chance that there wouldn't be one. McKinsey Adams wasn't a gambling man by nature, but they seemed to be pretty safe odds to him.
But of course, he had been wrong before.
Last edited by Veritas; 05-22-2012 at 04:55 PM.