The August sun declined over the horizon as Francis Clancy, a seraphic acolyte under the spell of doubt’s disfigurement, attempted to shatter every pathetic expectation of him. Those he loved and hated, and everyone caught in the middle, would have exulted through his failures in a twisted vicariousness.
Yet here he was to inaugurate a new chapter.
Francis’ destiny lay in the feeble predictions of his ancestors whose genomic deficiencies he had inherited but no alienist could compute thus far in the thirty-two years of his unremarkable life. There’s only so much a man can do to make his fortune. Boldness and cunning and an unceasing desire to leverage the weak could do wonders for a person so inclined to burn his brothers and sisters and never look back, but hitherto, Francis was neither cunning, nor bold.
Francis preyed on the weak, disobeyed the commandants in his weekly sermons during the day, and prayed up to the Lord Almighty for deliverance from sin during the night. Yet sin always slid its serpentine way in and he was too fucking weak to offer any sort of formidable fucking resistance against a force he could not comprehend.
Ripples of lightning streaked across the purple sky, a demonic harbinger of skittish electric interplay. The gravel underfoot churned as the tires of Francis’ Chevy switchback rumbled across the desolation. He felt heavy as lead and smiled through the alcoholic refuse emanating from each laborious breath. Oil dripped from the underside of the car and bathed the churned grit in makeshift rivulets, black as dried blood. At the end of the snaky trail between the thick forestation, a palm reader who was absent of scruples practiced his art. He claimed to offer a panacea for those who suffered from the unknown. Francis admired the mysterious and the strange. It was what made life exciting. If everything that ever happened was known beforehand, if every instance was a predetermined charade, life would be nothing but a rehearsal or a burlesque show.
The Chevy skidded to a stop on the dirt just outside the house. Here atop this promontory the outer reaches of the sea were visible and melting with the faded horizon. In Francis’ drunken state every clash of thunder shook the sea. The palm reader pushed open the door and its hinges creaked so loud it cut through the gusts of wind and thunder booms.
“Francis? Is that you?” She called out.
Francis couldn’t make out the figure on the doorstep, only the riotous bands of black hair pulled back in a ponytail, a shade so black it stood out amongst the enveloping darkness. A porchlight came on though Francis was certain he had not seen the palm reader switch on a light. The interior of his Chevy reeked of cigarette smoke and Francis cut the engine and stepped out only to light another. A bulb of fire, strobing in the thick of the night, burned as bright as the dauntless hatred coursing through his veins.
Francis surveyed the palm reader, who looked discomfited by the uncertainty of his presence. He grinned and measured himself a heraldic viper cloaked in velvet. The Masons up the valley would approve. Their closets bore the remains of lost years digging under the devil’s crust.
“Francis, get the fuck over here and tell me what the fuck you’re doing,” Victoria yelled through the deluge that washed the night under a pitiless sky, the uncertain insanity of night winds swaying palm fronds against the three story, clapboard dwelling.
“Oh, I just came out to see my fortune,” Francis shouted back, his voice as discordant as an impure alloy scraping against a black chalkboard.
“It’s two-thirty in the morning, Francis. Is everything alright?”
“Let me tell you something, Vicky,” he said, walking up toward the house, his hand behind his back to grab at the .38 Smith and Wesson tucked underneath the waistband of his muddied Levi’s; the muzzle hugged between the crease of his ass.
Victoria shook her head. “Not this conversation again, Francis. We’ve had it over twelve times this month.”
Francis froze. Felt his eyelids drooping. Selective mediums, archons, biting off segments of steel. “I, uh, I…”
“Oh dear, God,” Victoria muttered. “Francis, we’ve gone over this,” she said, her voice rising.
Francis doubled over in pain, the nanomachines snipping away at his genetic code. When he lifted his hands, he saw two stumps, and felt a phantom pain burn his brain as though it were frying on a hot stove.
“Biomechatronic limbs overheating. Please disengage from the participant.”
“Bury my heart at wounded knee,” Francis chattered. He saw Victoria trotting toward him, her oil-slick hair gushing with the acid rain falling from an electric sky and burning through Francis’ steel limbs; his own personalized hell. This might be the culmination of all that they are,” Francis thought, and lifted his downturned head just as Victoria opened her arms to cradle him.
Victoria Jejune felt the Smith and Wesson tucked behind the waistband of Francis’ jeans and, before Francis could offer a semi-rational protest against an unnatural force in Victoria Jejune’s biological makeup, she kissed him on his creased, metal, corrugated mouth, and shut him down.