Michaela's Rise

In the dim twilight the woman could just make out the face of the man who was standing threateningly in front of her daughter and herself.  They had already given him their purses, which he ransacked, snatching out the few bills they carried, and tossing the rest on the ground.  The blade of his knife caught what light there was and shined.  She thought he was in his mid-twenties, about the same age as her daughter, of average weight and height.  The man cursed and hissed, "This is it? $30 between you!?"
"It's all we got," her daughter's voice shook, "Just take it and go."
"No," the man leered, " I've got other plans. Let's me and you go have a little party.  Your Mama can watch, and maybe I'll do her too."  He reached out his hand to ensnare her wrist.
The woman did not think about what she was doing, as if of its own will her body insinuated itself between them, her own hand reaching out and blocking him.
"Let her be.  Don't make me hurt you." Her voice was low and hard.
"Hurt me?" The man laughed and snatching back his arm from her and bringing it down hard, thinking to cut her.  Just as quick, she blocked the swing with her right and stepping into him brought up her left fist, twisting it as it landed in his groin. As he doubled over she grabbed him by the hair and drove her knee into his face, at the same time yelling out a single word, "Run!"
Elena did as she was told, spinning on her heel she made straight for the lights of an all night diner.  As she sprinted, part of her wanted to go to her mother's aid, yet she knew this was the thing to do, as her mother had commanded, run for help.  Within seconds of bursting through the diner's door,  two cops on diner break were tearing across the street, hoping they were not too late.

The woman was standing very still, almost like a statue, and the man laid almost in a fetal position  a short distance away, writhing in pain.   "Mama?" Elena cried out, "Mama, are you ok?"
Slowly the older woman turned her head towards her daughter's voice. "Yes, baby, I'm alright. " 
Elena wrapped her arms about the shorter woman, holding her tight, as tears started falling. "Oh, Mama, I was so scared ! Are you sure he didn't hurt you?" 
"Only a scratch or two, love, " she looked up into Elena's face, "You did right you know," She forced a smile.  
The officer looked from where his partner knelt by the fallen man, radioing in for an ambulance, to the diminutive woman, and back again.   She spoke to him then, "He isn't dead is he?"
He shook his head, "No, ma'am.  You did this?"  She nodded.  He saw she took no glory in having thwarted the attacker. "Damn - where'd you learn to fight like that?"
"Could- could you give me a moment, please?" Her voice seemed far away." I think his knife went under that trash barrel over there."  She disengaged herself from Elena's hold. "A moment, Sweetie." Elena nodded, knowing her mother would only step a few feet away.  
Stepping up and looking at the woman's turned back and bowed head, the officer asked Elena what she was doing.  "Giving thanks that she didn't kill the guy."
When the woman returned, he was struck by difference in her face and movements. All the hardness had seemed to have drained, and now she was all softness and light, even though he could see she was a bit shaken by the ordeal, her deep blue eyes misty with unshed tears.  "Your sure that man will be alright?"  She looked up into his face, and he noted her tone of concern was real. He also sensed that this was a woman who knew a lie when she heard it. 
"I think so. The EMT's say he has a broken nose, maybe a fractured cheek bone as well.  Arm's broken too. Don't know what else, yet.  But he'll live."
She unconciuosly rubbed the palm of one hand across the knuckles of the other. "I didn't mean to hurt him - I just wanted Elena safe."
"Maybe you should let the EMTs take a look at your hand  and arm- you seem to be bleeding a bit." 
"Alright," her voice held a note of resignation now, as she allowed herself to be examined, while Elena answered the police officer's questions for the report.
"Your mom's such a little thing.  Where'd she learn to fight like that?"
"I'm not sure," Elena said honestly, "She never talks about it.  I remember asking her once, all she said was ' my past is my past, and let's let it lie there.' "
"Was she in the military?"
"I don't think so."  They both looked over at the middleaged woman, sitting on the step of the ambulance,  dangling her feet, as antiseptic was dabbed on her abrasions.  They could hear the attendents laughing at something  she said.  
"Amazing, she doesn't look like she'd hurt a fly," the officer said.
In truth, Michaela did not remember where or when she'd learn those fighting techniques. Sometimes she almost remembered, just as she recalled her childhood in bits and pieces, almost in the kalidoscope spectrum of dreamlike quality.  But the whole of it always danced just above conciousness, as if full memory would overload her brain and drive her into a pit of madness. Perhaps not knowing was a blessing.  What she did remember of her past was not happy as it was, so she wasn't sure she wanted to know what had been so awful the mind blocked it out, yet her body recalled it.  She was never fully aware of her actions, it was as if her body was inhabited by someone else with a warrior's capabilities, at least as long as the threat insued.  It never left her with a feeling of power, but rather a deep sadness, and a worry that someday she might hurt someone she cared for and loved.  However, to the best of her knowledge, she'd never lost her temper and done a number beyond smacking someone.  Except in those instances like tonight.  Where did she learn to fight like that? React in a fashion so contrary to her beliefs and nature?  She sighed.
Maybe it was best not to know.
Sleep came warily, and Morphious whispered in her ears.  Her oldest brother, home on leave, telling her she was born with three strikes; being a girl, guys might try to make her do things. Being small, they wouldn't think she could do anything about it, and lastly, being his sister, certain fractions would try to hurt her for that simple sin, as revenge on him.  Showing her over and over different offence and defence tecniques.   Images of their father imposed over this. His large meaty hand coming down on her, welding a belt or utility cord.  Bellowing she would do as HE said.   Grabbing her in places fathers shouldn't. Hurting her, and she, herself unable to stop him, begging him to stop.  
She awoke with her face wet with tears.  A dream that's all. Nothing more then a dream.  She got up and padded into the kitchen for a glass of water to wash the acridic taste from her mouth. Memories of her father always left her half-sick feeling. 
In the dimlight from the kitchen window she saw him sitting at the kitchen table. "Hi, Sis," he shook his mop of black hair out of his eyes.  Logic told her, that this just could not be, Jamie had died long ago.  "Aren't you glad to see me?"
"I must still be dreaming," she said. "Or my trolley has gone off the deep end."
"Or you're talking to a ghost." He smiled an engaging smile. "C'mon, surely you've accepted seeing me by now.  They never really convinced you I was your imagination, did they?"
"Obviously not," she brought her glass to the table and sat opposite of her brother. "It always amazes me how you stay forever young."
"Die young and leave a good-looking corpse you know," he winked. " Pretty cool the way I kicked that guy's ass, huh?"
"Right now, that guy is protesting it was a man who beat him, not a little half-pint woman like you." Jamie chuckled, then turned serious. "You never could stand to inflict pain on another.  Oh, you would have tried, but then, beat yourself up afterwards. I finally got the ok, to let you in on it.  "
"You mean you take over?  That's crazy."
"Not so crazy. I never could protect you from the old man when we were kids.  Even after I came back from service.  God, Mickey, why didn't you tell me what he was doing to you? I would have killed him-" his voice broke off. "You were always so good.
You never did anything wrong, he just made up **** so he wouldn't have to admit to himself what a perverted bastard he was, shifting the blame on you," a thundercloud rolled across his face.  "When I had made it back from my last mission, I was going to take you far enough away, he could never hurt you again.  If I'd known how bad it had gotten, I would have arranged something before then..." he reached over placing his hands over hers," I just didn't think it'd get like that, I didn't know."
"No one did, Jamie.  I-I never told anyone. I didn't think anyone would believe me. "
"I would have," he gave her hands a squeeze.  "Main thing is it stopped."
"I remember that night...it wasn't long after...after your funeral.  He wouldn't stop hurting me.  I told him - warned him ," tears were rolling down Michaela's face now."But he wouldn't listen. Then...then I began punching him, fighting him- and.."
her voice trailed off.
"You didn't kill him, Mickey.  It was not you," with two fingers he lifted her bowed head,"It was NOT you. Do you understand?" His eyes bore into hers. "That was the first time I ever entered you.  By then, I had become aware of your situation, your living hell. Neither of you could see me.  I was there though, and I saw what he was doing.  I only meant to stop him initially, to block him from you. Next thing I knew, I was inside you, wearing your body like a suit.  My anger took over. It's that simple.
Over the years you've sensed me, I know that. I tried not to interfer with your life, but just protect you, as I couldn't when I was alive. "
"The gaps in my memory are from when you take over?" It was almost too much to accept.  
"Some of them, yeah. Others are just your mind's defense mechanisim.  And still other's are probably just old age kicking in," he smiled and winked on that last bit. 
"If it matters, it is appreciated that you always give thanks for not taking a life when it's over."
"So you just jump in when you think someone's ass needs to be kicked?"
"Well, that's sortof a combination effort there.  You always did have a keen sense of right and wrong.  That mouth of yours could talk the moon right out of the sky, I swear.  But if it seems you need more muscle then brains, yeah, I step in."
She took a long drink of water as she pondered that. "So you're telling me all this now, why?"
"Because I think it's time we stepped things up, the world's in a sorry state, and together we can make a difference.  I won't lie, Mickey, right now I'm outside the portal to Heaven.  I did alot of things in life I'm not proud of.  This could make amends for those things. It's not something I can do alone , Mick. I don't know why I can act through you, but without you-" Suddenly without warning he slapped her, only it went straight through her face, and she only felt the chill of his essence pass through her. " I'm pretty ineffectual."
"So you need me to be your body?" She shot him a look of disbelief.
"Kinda, yeah.  I mean I can do certain things, move objects, appear, etc.  But hard contact is beyond my present state."
Michaela twisted the glass about between her palms. "Let me get this straight - you're dead, but in order to get into Heaven, you have to do a certain number of good deeds to make up for past bad deeds?" A small frown appeared between her eyes, "And to do that- you need to borrow my body?"
"That's the gist of it, yeah."
"So what aren't you telling me?"
Jamie leaned back in his chair and fidgeted with his belt buckle. "I'm not at liberty to tell you everything at this point, Mickey.  But there is alot more at stake here then me getting my wings.  Let's just say, the guy upstairs would like you to enlist in His army."
"Is there a lot of this going on? Angels borrowing bodies, I mean?"
"I'm not a full fledged angel, Mickey.  Angel's can take corpral forms any time they choose."
"You're not - then what are you?"
" A soul, a ghost - you choose," he leaned forward again. " And to answer your question - no, not all of us can 'borrow bodies' as you put it.  I think it has something to do with wanting to protect you and give you my strength all those years.  Our bond to each other makes it possible. What do you say, Mickey?" 

Michaela woke sitting at the kitchen table, her head pillowed on her arms.  At first she sat dumbly, staring about the well kept  tiny kitchen, wondering how on earth she got there.  "Must've been sleep walking," she mumbled as she stood taking her glass to the sink and began making a fresh pot of coffee.  She thought about Jaimie and all he had said. She shook her head, "Crazy dream..." but could not shake the feeling that it had not been a dream at all.  
She began her morning routine will the coffee brewed, returning back to the kitchen she began to reach for a cup, only to find a cup already poured and sitting next to the morning paper.  "Ok..." she spoke aloud,"Forgetting I already poured a cup, I can handle - but forgetting that I went outside and got the paper too?  No way could I forget that.  Something's going on..."   She let out a small yip as someone gently tweeked her cheek. Whipping about she saw nothing but air.  "Oh  this is definately strange; cups that fill themselves, and self-delivering papers, now bottom pinching?  What is going on?"  She rubbed the spot on her bottom where she had been firmly goosed.  A sound pulled her attention to the coffee maker where she saw the pot lift and another mug be filled, as the air about it lightly shimmered. Slowly the shimmering solidified, and there stood Jamie , blowing on the hot liquid as he sipped.
"You always did make a mean cup."
Michaela sat down very suddenly and hard. "I didn't dream you... you're real."
"Yeppers, I most certainly am. Sleep well?"
Suddenly she felt a bit annoyed," Well considering the ghost of my long dead brother has come to tell me he's been popping in and out of my body for years, and absolved me of all guilt in our father's death, and hinted at a full scale war against demons - yeah, I slept just peachy."
"Ah, then you have thought about it," he pretended to be oblivious to her tone.
"Obviously I have gone quite mad," she shook her head.  
"Mad? No - but you've always been a bit daft," he smirked at her revealing the dimple on his left cheek.  
"Ok..for the sake of argument - we'll say I'm not ready to commit myself.  Sitting around talking to dead relatives is normal even.   You aren't a by-product of my imagination - fine... but why after all these years, Jamie?" 
"Like I told you, it's time. "
They sat talking for hours. Rather Jamie talked and Michaela listened.  The battle of good and evil was eons old, going back as far as man's beginnings, each side trying for the upper hand.  While good tried to light the way to peaceful existance, evil was right there, corrupting .  Of course neither could survive without the other. It would be akin to expecting a fire to burn with out fuel or air - it just wouldn't be.  
Contrary to belief, it was not Good's mission to stamp out evil, but rather to hold it in check.
  Evil was obviously gaining the upper hand, and recent catastrophic events pointed out that it was on the rise, gathering forces.   Although, evil needed good to exist, they had no qualms about snuffing out man and taking over the world, which they considered to be rightfully theirs.
Most of humankind had become weak over the eons; of little or no faith, prefering to chase the dollar, and finding the easiest path to obtain it.   Those who refrained from wrong doing, were often guilty of apathy, turning their backs on wrong doing prefering not to get involved.
If someone would step up to lead by example, perhaps others would follow.  
"You're that someone," Jamie finished.
"You want me to go looking for trouble?" Michaela's eyes fairly popped.  
"Not necessarily look for it, but be very aware.  I'll furnish any brute strength you need."
She looked at her brother, and knew she could not refuse him the chance to pay back his wrongs.  
"I gotta tell you one more thing..." Jamie appeared uneasy for a moment, " Even though I'm dead, and that makes me immortal - you aren't.  You'd be risking your life.
I need you to understand that."  
    Elena was walking up the pathway to her mother's back door. Glancing in the kitchen window she saw her mother apparently talking with someone, who was out of sight.   She pushed open the back door as was her custom, "Hi, Mom! Who's the company" She  paused looking about, "That's funny, I could have sworn I saw you talking with someone."
"No one here but wee ghosties and us chickens," Michaela quipped nervously. 
Elena spied the coffee mugs sitting on the table, "Two cups? "
"Sure - I saw you coming,"  Michaela wondered if she explained about Jamie, if Elena would understand or quietly make her a reservation at the nearest looneybin.
Fog crept along the alleys, shrouding everything in eerie gauze.  Now and then Michaela would spot a couple necking, mostly hookers with their johns.  At least she thought they were hookers, typical for this part of town.  She pulled her coat closer around her, as the mist seeped in chilling here.
As she stepped past a stairwell, she heard a voice, "Hey, Lady - got a dollar?"
She decided to ignore the querry and to keep going.  "Lady! I'm talking to you!"
A young man and his pal emerged from the stairwell, easily jumping over the short hand rail.   With a short quick stride the heavier of the two quickly moved ahead of her. "Lady, my friend asked if you had a dollar?"
Michaela stood still, "No, no I don't. ' She sensed the other one coming up from behind, boxing her in between them.  
"C'mon, Lady.  You ain't got a lousy buck or anything?" 
"No,"   Michaela tensed.
"Damn, nobody's got anything tonight, Georgie," the heavy set youth spoke.
"Yeah, Dave, everybody's down on their luck. Crappy weather too," Georgie  rubbed his hands together and looked at Michaela who had managed to navigate around to be able to see both youths so now they were more in a semi-circle  then having her boxed between.   "Oh, hey - hope we didn't scare ya."
"No," Michaela lied, "not at all."
"Just, well hardly anyone out in this soup, and sometimes you gotta get in people's faces to be heard, ya'know?"
She guessed neither one was more then 18 or 19 years old.  They both wore tired jeans and hoodies. The one called Georgie had an earring dangling.  
"Maybe we should see her out of the alleys," Dave spoke.  "In case DD is around."
He turned his finely chisled face towards Michaela and she noted he was obviously Hispanic. "DD is not a nice guy.  He wouldn't take no for an answer.  We should walk you  to a safer place."
"Yeah," Georgie agreed, "These alleys  they're for hookers and street people, not you." His dagger-shapped earring  caught a stray beam from a passing car. In that moment Michaela saw  his face, and almost gasped as she saw the hunger there.
He was terribly thin, a light flecking of peach fuzz on his chin, and tousseled dirty blond hair. But it was his eyes that grabbed her.  Eyes that held too much knowledge, for someone so young.  Deep blue eyes that spoke volumes and yet, were the kindest eyes she had ever seen. She knew in that instant, that these boys were not hoodlums, but some of the sadder victims  of life.

Michaela looked from one face to another, and saw they meant what they were saying. 
'Look, Lady," Georgie spoke,"really, let us walk you as far as the main street at least. If something happened to you now, we'd feel bad."  Michaela believed they would, so she consented to them escorting her beyond the darkness of the alley.   She felt oddly comfortable walking between Georgie's lith form and Dave's heftiness. It was almost as if, the three of them had known each other for a long time.  As they approached the gray opening to the alley, several forms appeared,  looking almost spectral in the undulating fog.  Instinctively, both Georgie and Dave stepped closer to their charge, forming a knot.  
"Whatcha got there,boys?"  The middle form spoke, the voice almost a growl.
"Not for you, DD," Georgie spoke.
"Oh? You mean you haven't brought me a present?  And here, I've come all this way to collect."  Michaela could not makeout the details of his face, but only his outline. Built simuliar to Dave, he was broad shouldered, and of thick body. 
"Nothing to collect. No body's out tonight." Georgie stated. "Not looking for trouble."
Michaela felt the slight tingling sensation, she had always thought was adrenalin, but now knew to be Jamie's arrival in her body.  Both Dave and Georgie had taken a step in front of her, showing protection.  
"Boys, boys," DD flashed a cruel smile, "Who said anything about trouble? I take what I want, and it's no trouble," he chortled, and his two henchmen joined in.  He reached between Dave and Georgie snatching Michaela by the front of her jacket and brought her up short, staring into her face.  "Damn! Georgie, why didn't you say this was your Mama? "
Crying out in protest Georgie and Dave stepped forwards only to collide with DD's consorts. Grunts, and the sounds of fists on flesh quickly filled the air.  Michaela's hands reached up and covered DD's , as he clenched her jacket.  "Not nice, to comment on a woman's age,"  Jamie said as he twisted his assailent's hands so they were palms up, and applied pressure bending them backwards nearly breaking the wrists as DD went to his knees.  "Call your dogs off.  Now." He applied a bit more pressure.  
"Ok - ok!" Wincing in pain, DD called out, "Enough!  Quit before she snaps my wrists!"
Exclamations of utter surprise came from both sides, as they took in the scene of DD on his knees before the woman.  
"Georgie? Dave? You guys ok?" Michaela called back over her shoulder.  
"Yeah," the answer came as they approached, wiping blood from their mouths, shoving the other two, who were much worse looking in front of them along-side of DD.   
"What do you think we should do with this DD character?"  Jamie applied a bit more pressure causing DD to cry out in pain.  
Georgie and Dave exchanged looks.  "I guess we could just let him go," Michaela spoke. " You guys have seen  he isn't so tough." She realeased his hands. "Look at me," she commanded DD. "Look hard and remember me. " He stared up at her with tearfilled eyes. "You'll never know when you'll see me again. But next time, there will be no next time. Remember that." Roughly she lifted him to his feet, and shoved him. "Now, get out of here, and don't come back."  He didn't wait, but ran off, his men close at his heels. 
"Damn," Dave looked at her, then caught her as she fainted, Jamie exiting.

Michaela stirred in unfamiliar surroundings.  The room was small but tidy, if rather dark, being lit by a lone hanging bulb.  She stared about from the army cot she laid upon.  Georgie smiled at her, then called out to Dave, "Hey! Sleeping Beauty has awaken!" 
"Good timing, the tea's ready." Dave crossed the room carrying a mug, the string of a tea bag hanging over the side.  "Easy now," he said as Michaela struggled into a sitting poition," it's very hot.  Sorry, we've no fine china for ya." He smiled a lopsided grin and sat next to Georgie.  
"It's fine. Really," Michaela looked about the one-room apartment.  "Your place? Or yours?" She looked from one to another.
"Ours," Georgie said,"Not the Ritz - but dry  and usually warm enough."  Michalea realized the two boys were using another army cot as a seating for the moment.  "You feeling alright?"
"I- I think so. What happened?"
"You fainted.  As soon as DD and his sidekicks ran off."
"I can't figure that," Dave interjected," One minute you were this bad-ass, making DD practically beg not to have his wrists broken, the next a limp kitten. Didn't know what else to do with you, but bring you here," he shrugged.
Michaela shrugged, "Not sure myself, I've never fainted before." She sipped the hot liquid. It seemed very weak, and she suspected had been pressed into making more then the one cup.  Being one room, she could easily see the kitchen area, and she saw no evidence of food laying about.  "Are you two hungry? I could really use a bite myself." She saw them exchange glances, "My treat, of course - a thank you for keeping me safe."
They sat in a booth at a  diner proclaiming to be Mother's , but was ran by an ex-marine by the name of Hobbs.  Although it looked like a greasy spoon of a place, the food was at least edible and the coffee was always fresh.  Besides Michaela knew they'd blend in there.  Over burgers and fries, Michaela learned the boys were older then they appeared  but not by much. Georgie was 22, and Dave was pushing 25. Both products of the streets, having left their respective homes still in their teens. 
Although they carried that harden edge of street people, there was an underlying tenderness.  There was something else too, Michaela couldn't quite put her finger on it.  She decided it was in their eyes, a light of some-sort, and knowledge. 
The space next to her shimmered and Jamie sat next to her.  Alarmed she jumped a bit, causing both boys to look at her.  "You ok?" Dave asked.
"Yes, I just had a chill.  Do you want another burger?  Tell you what, I'll order them on my way to the ladies.  Be right back," with that she slid out of the booth, paused on her way, ordered then beelined into the ladies, making sure Jamie followed.
Latching the door she whirled on him. "What gives?"
"I thought you had to pee?"
"No, but I couldn't bloody well talk to you at the table could I? "
"Such language!" Jamie feigned shock at his younger sister. "Actually I just wanted a better look at our new allies, when they were still and not dodging blows."
"Well perhaps room-mates would be a better term."
"Sure you've plenty of space.  There's Elena's old room and the spare."
"Now why would I be asking two strangers to share my home?"
"Because they've been chosen to fight along with you," his tone was as if he were speaking to someone of slow wit. "Look," he laid spectral hands on her shoulders," They need you. You saw how they live.  And we will need them.  That's all I'm at liberty to say."
Michaela gaped at him for a full moment.  Someone knocked urgently at the door, so she closed her mouth and made her way back to the table.
How does someone invite two strangers to come live with them anyway? Males at that! Elena is going to think I've lost it for sure...
Michaela bit her lower lip in thought.  As she slid back into the booth, Georgie asked, "Everything ok, Mickey?"
"How did you know I get called Mickey?"
"I don't know.  Guess you just seem like a Mickey to me. Don't you like it?"
"It's just that my brother use to call me that," she paused and smiled, "for just a second you sounded like him."
They made idle talk while the burgers came.  Michaela heard Jamie whisper in her ear, "Ask them."   Each time she brushed the air as if chasing away a fly. 
After the last fry had been consumed, Dave stated that they had to be going. "Early day tomorrow - gotta find us a new place to crash."
"Dave!" Georgie admonished. "Mickey doesn't need to know that."
"What's wrong with your old place," Michaela asked, inwardly thinking, 'besides everything?"
"They're just tearing it down is all," Dave stated.
"And you haven't found a new one?"  
"No worries," Georgie said awkwardly, "We'll find somewhere. Always have."
"Well..ummm..." Michaela fumbled for words, "You two any good at odd jobs and yard work?"
The guys again exchanged looks.  Michaela could almost swear it was like they spoke to each other without speaking.  "Most definately," Dave said, "You know of something?"
"I might.  It doesn't pay much, just room and board, and it's nothing fancy."
"Where is it?"
"My house." Michaela looked from one to another.
"Your place?" Georgie smiled, "Knew we liked you for a reason.  When can we move in?"
"Tonight - right now in fact, if you like."
"Oh we like.  We most definately like," Dave laughed.

Of course Elena flipped when she found out, and came right over to meet 'the boys', as her mother called them.  "Good Lord, Mom - they are NOT boys but men!  Are you crazy?  What do you know about them?  What are their backgrounds? Do they have records? How do you know they aren't homicidal manical rapists?"
Michaela laughed offering only ,"I know is all," as her defense.
Elena spent a good three hours talking with Georgie and Dave.  "All but took our fingerprints," Georgie said with a wink later to Michaela.  
"It's all good," Dave chimed in," Just shows she loves you."
Michaela was glad her daughter's grilling had not offended them.  Although she was not sure that Elena had left entirely pleased.  But then, if roles had been reveresed she wasn't too sure she'd react any differently.  


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