Summer, Part Five
A Solstice story
Start at the beginning of the Solstice series
The summer progressed slowly for Mars.
He shut down the air conditioning to his home and refurbished the gym in the basement, adding a heavy punching bag and a grappling dummy to the weights he'd accumulated before his tour of duty. Every day was a workout, every day a test to see how much further he could push his body, how much further he could throw the specialized mannequin.
Every morning was a run through town, weight vest loaded, staring into the sun as he circled the city limits on the bicycle trail. He bought a bicycle and hit the comparatively hilly country around the Fox River every evening, finishing off with an hour's fishing to relax his mind and bring him back to himself.
He shunned the Bridgehouse and other taverns where Michael Monroe had held court in the days before he woke, grilled lean chicken and steak for himself as the sun set every night, and watched military history on his digital video recorder with a notebook in his lap, keeping track of strategies, history, dates and times.
He was surprised at how much he remembered, when he put his mind to it. Not places and names, but feelings - little things he'd never experienced in the service. The disgusting feel of swamp water in your boots, the heat of a jungle as opposed to the desert. The way a human whistle wounded as opposed to a night-bird's call. He wondered what Keely remembered, having been to Hell and back in her former life as Persephone; and wondered, too, if Hina Puku'ai had done the same after all.
Twice a week, as promised, was therapy. His doctor was mortal, so far as Mars could tell; with none of the sly winks or jibes Keely and the Mayor had thrown his way. It was good to talk, and if Dr. Han disapproved of the military focus of his charge he was completely behind the physical training.
"You've got more sun," he'd start each session, "how was the trail?"
It was easier to talk than he'd expected, to open up. After the first two weeks he'd let some of the guard down. God or man, it seemed, he had things to burden himself with; and while Dr. Han might not ever believe the truth, his quiet council set the heart at ease.
Run. Eat. Lift. Shower. Eat. Phone Susan and Vickie, talk about his progress. Check the newspaper and pay the bills... and all the rest. Normal. Prosaic.
He'd let it madden him, those first months, wind him up beyond all belief and set him to be as useless as the twittering dead lemures of Hades' domain. It had driven him to the old ways of violence, careless and full of heat and rage, volcanic and destructive after no greater goal than to destroy, pillage, dominate.
It happened. He'd seen it happen to men in Afghanistan, he was certain it happened to several in Solstice. What became of them? Who knew? He was no researcher but a quick request to the public library had shown what anyone would expect from a small town: A few unexplained deaths here and there, a single case of a drifter in the seventies who had kept things on edge for three weeks before being captured and sentenced to life in prison. Hardly the all-out supernatural war he'd half expected for days, peering from behind the blinds at everyone who drove by slowly.
What was happening now was different. Subtle. If Mars had been given to temper unchained, Michael was able to keep it controlled. By pushing himself - focusing on the goal of being in the best shape of his life, becoming once more the Spartan ideal that American life and lazy habits had stolen from him - he would be ready for the next goal.
Learning who in Solstice was who, and how best to bring them down.
It was unnatural, impossible, that too many could exist. The Mayor, Keely, them for sure. The scrawny black-haired hipster who ran his errands. It made sense that the entire office might be full of them, maybe everyone in the public sector. He'd want to be sure before making any rash decisions, but they wouldn't have his iron control. They wouldn’t understand how to chain the beasts that lay at their hearts.
That was a task for him.
He was certain Keely had told someone. It was inevitable, even if she had kept the list from him. There was no sense in working for the Mayor's office and not knowing more of what occurred behind the scenes of Solstice. Nobody had made a move, however, no presentations at his doorstep or nighttime visitations, half the things he had wound himself up to anticipate. Half the reasons he had sent Vickie away.
Now it was a question of readiness and timing. The longer he drew out the therapy, the longer he'd have to train and to think. Already he'd found the plans for the city's administrative complex online, knew which doors led where, what emergency exits existed, who was permitted into which areas and - if necessary - when.
He kept two copies of the map, one carefully folded beneath the TV tray he ate from, one tacked to the wall of his exercise room where he could study it in between sessions. It was for the best, really, that he focused his mind as well as his body. It would be all too easy to lose track of what was truly important, of what made the most sense, now that his position had risen so dramatically.
The sun high in the Solstice sky, Mars drew the blinds and set to work.
Story and image by Ivan Ewert, Copyright 2010