Three weeks before the death of Orlando Jackson…
A breezy early autumn morning sat gently, moving at a near still pace.
A soothing silence blanketed the suburban sprawl of Coven County, giving way only to a hint of a whistle of the winds gusting through the balding trees.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.
Jackson opened the front door in a tank top, basketball shorts, and a durag on, wrapped in an old black robe that had gradually lightened into a dark grey discoloration. Margot was on the other side wearing a faded, oversized dark grey hoodie, with Jinn City HS Class of 2018 written in all capital varsity font letters on the front. Her hair was in a bun, and half of her face was covered by a pair of oversized sunglasses, the ones that they give you at the the ophthalmologist on your way out after dilating your pupils.
Jackson stared blankly at Margot.
“You know I’m a vampire, right?” Margot asked.
“Like you don’t already live here,” Jackson responded as he pointed his head toward his living room, inviting her in.
Margot took a long, intimate look around the Jacksons’ home. The TV, and most of the furniture and appliances were only a few years old since they remodeled a few years back. The walls, staircase, framed pictures, and an aged shoe rack were a time capsule to their youth. She kept her boxy sunglasses on.
She took her shoes off in the foyer, planting them in their usual spot on the top right of the Jacksons’ shoe rack.
“Ch’been up to?” Margot asked.
“Shit,” Jackson brought down a box of Cocoa Puffs from one of the kitchen cabinets and started pouring cereal into two plastic bowls.
The usual ambient exchange followed – a cereal box closing; milk pouring; a fridge door closing as Jackson put it all together; metal clinking as Margot pulled two spoons out of the silverware drawer.
“Outside?” Jackson prompted Margot.
“Mhm,” Margot was already walking toward the sliding glass door that led to the deck and backyard. She slid it open and was greeted with the rich aromas of incense and cannabis as she walked through.
Jackson carried both bowls of Cocoa Puffs out to the porch.
Margot was already on her favorite deck chair, cutting open a Philly blunt.
“No time wasted, eh?” Jackson was like.
“I just came from the eye doctor,” Margot answered.
Jackson’s smile vanished.
“How long was the uh. . . appointment?”
“Just a couple of days, this time,” Margot said slowly while turning Jackson’s grinder – a small, circular one with a metallic, psychedelic rainbow color gradient.
“Did they treat you alright?”
“Yeah. They know me now. Got the leaf?” she asked.
“Yeah, one sec.” Jackson walked back inside toward the kitchen.
Margot briefly took off her thick, protective sunglasses. She immediately shielded her eyes – the mild autumn sun was far too bright for her. She had small wells of tears in her eyes, which she quickly wiped with the inside of her sleeve.
She slowly directed her gaze further and further up, pushing closer to the sun in an attempt to ween herself off of needing to wear her cartoonishly big, ultra dark shades.
“You good?” Jackson asked Margot as he slid open the glass door. He had come back with what looked like a snack-sized ziploc bag of leathery, brown flakes.
“No.” Margot said. “But it’s okay.”
The mood was mellow as Jackson passed the bag to Margot. She grabbed a small amount of the brown flakes and casually cascaded them into the Philly blunt, mixing them in with the crushed weed.
“I’m sorry,” Margot was like, “It’s just been, like . . .”
“Don’t worry about it.” Jackson reassured her. “I’m chillin’, you’re chillin’. We’re chillin‘.”
Margot started to seal her a perfectly rolled Philly with brief spurts of her lighter’s flame.
“Catch, stupid!” Jackson took a pull of his Elder Wand pen and lobbed it high in the air to Margot. She caught it effortlessly with just two fingers.
Jackson raised his eyebrows and nodded slowly, in low-key astonishment.
“Oh word?! Still got those frisbee sklils, huh?”Jackson asked while he let out a plume of cannabis vapor into the brisk Autumn morning air.
“Comes in handy. It’s a solid T.S.S.,” Margot replied.
She examined her high quality spliff while puffing on the Elder Wand, hands free.
“T.S.S.? Transferable Stoner Skill. Duh. Like how Snoop Dogg is great at rolling sushi,” Margot explained.
“No way,” Jackson said, swishing around his bowl of Cocoa Puffs.
“Google it. And do the honors, too.” Margot wiggled her freshly rolled blunt between her index and middle finger.
Margot and Jackson stretched out from the beat up deck chairs they were perched in, and just barely met each other in the middle, with enough reach for Margot to pass the blunt.
“Wait wait wait wait hold on,” Jackson had an epiphany. “Let me pass it back to you, but we need take a picture of our hands, though.”
“So artsy.” said Margot, in between scoops of Cocoas Puffs and a light pull from the Elder Wand.
“Nah check it out, ‘cuz when we passed the blunt like that it looks like that old painting – “
Margot gasped, “Oh my god! The Sistine Chapel!”
“Yoooooooooooo!” They both exclaimed and harmonized together in sheer awe.
“Hold on,” Jackson nearly jumped out of the deck chair with his phone in one hand and the spliff in the other. The wind turned his old robe into a cape as he opened his phone’s camera app and leaned it against the wall next to the sliding glass doors. He set a a 10 second timer on the front facing camera.
“Let’s do it,” Margot said, more excited than she had been all day.
“Ready? I’m gonna set the timer.” Jackson touched the white circle on the bottom center of the camera app, and flew back into the deck hair. His phone’s screen began a countdown from 10, displaying large numbers with the tick of each second.
10, 9, 8 . . .
Margot tossed him the lighter. Jackson quickly ignited the lighter’s flame and held it up to Margot’s top tier blunt for the inaugural first few puffs –
7, 6, 5 . . .
He reached his hand out to hers like before, just in time for his phone to take the photo.
4, 3, 2, 1. . .
“Hold on one sec, it’s a long exposure!” Jackson was like.
“You’re ridiculous,” Margot was laughing for the first time in weeks as she held her hand in place to complete the scenic shot.
Jackson ran back over just as quickly to his phone.
“Ohhh my goddd bro,” he reacted with wide eyes to their freshly minted work of art.
“Lemme see lemme see!” Margot was like, while taking a pull from the freshly lit Philly.
Jackson showed her his phone’s screen.
Margot’s jaw dropped. She took off her protective shades.
“Yoooooooooooo . . .” They harmonized again, together.
They reveled in their photographic masterpiece – a recreation of the Sistine Chapel’s famous scene of God and Adam nearly touching hands, only it was Jackson’s outstretched hand, passing the Philly blunt to Margot.
“This is fucking magnificent,” Margot slowly, flatly proclaimed.
“This should be like . . . at the MoMA,” Jackson added. He was fighting back a huge smile. He was happy to take such a cool picture, but was thrilled to make Margot feel better.
Margot slowly held out the blunt to Jackson, her eyes still locked on Jackson’s phone’s screen.
“We’re running out of options for you, Ms. Posseduto,” Jackson said.
“Wait, huh? What options? ” Margot looked at Jackson, confused.
She dropped the blunt. Her face went pale with fear.
Jackson was looking directly at Margot with fully blacked out eyes. The left side of his head was battered and bloody. His demeanor and appearance had suddenly changed. Margot was in shock, eyes locked with Jackson, unable to move.
“I know you’re not exactly happy to see me,” Jackson said in what sounded like a mix of several different voices, harmonizing together. Everything went black.
Margot awakened, suddenly – she sat up out of a small hospital bed, surrounded by plain, white walls in a small, brightly lit room.
There was a small surveillance camera in the far corner of the ceiling, opposite her bed. In that same corner was the only door to the room, which looked to be made of heavy, reinforced metal with a long, narrow, rectangular window, fitted with thick glass.
Margot caught her breath while realizing her surroundings.
She was wearing only a hospital gown under the bed’s plain white sheets. She slowed her breathing down and turned to the side, letting her legs hang off the bed. There were several bandages on her face, neck, arms, and legs.
After the first few moments, she looked around a bit more and just sighed. Margot wished she could have gone back into the nightmare she just arose from, just to keep reliving the last time she got to spend a day hanging out with Jackson.
She seemed to be more disappointed rather than afraid. This wasn’t her first trip to this place – ‘the eye doctor’s office,’ as she had grown accustomed to calling it.
“I know you’re listening. And watching.” Margot said. “Why don’t you let yourself in and stop being such a creep?”
The camera in the corner of the room fed a live stream of Margot’s room to a large, wall-mounted monitor in what looked like some kind of war room or command center.
Several people in blue, grey, and black camouflage military uniforms with call center headsets on sat at computer stations with 2-3 monitors each. Satellite imagery of the Jinn City metropolitan area was on display at one of the workstations; another had each screen with a different network news channel on display, covering a breaking news story described as “DEADLY GAS STATION EXPLOSION IN COVEN COUNTY.”
Another large screen in the brightly lit command center had videos from 16 different surveillance cameras displayed on a 4 x 4 grid. The footage appeared to be from a mix of cameras near either Rondspoken Park or the Shell Gas Station. Each video on the grid showed a glimpse of Margot – hitting tennis balls, making Carlos levitate, walking toward the tennis courts. etc.
A tall, burly, bald white man in a black suit stood in the center of the room, slowly sipping on a small, disposable cup of coffee – it was the classic blue and white Greek coffee cup with “WE ARE HAPPY TO SERVE YOU” displayed in gold letters.
A thin, tall, middle aged black woman in a grey suit with greying, shoulder length locs walked over to the man and calmly stood by his side, her eyes also fixed on the main surveillance monitor showing Margot in real time.
“She’s right, you know,” she said to the man.
He sighed. “I apologize. I tried reaching out to her again as you had asked -“
“Save it. Go in there and figure this out. Now,” the woman in the grey suit said, firmly.
“Captain, with all due respect, you know she’s not going to like wha-“
“Agent Banks, this is an order, not a discussion. You made this mess. Your team, or what’s left of them, made it even worse, and now you will clean things up. Present Ms. Posseduto with her options. We’re running out of time.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Agent Banks said, without a hint of emotion.
“Yes, who?” the Captain replied, eyebrows raised.
Agent Banks quickly cleared his throat.
“Yes, Captain Baptiste.”
“One more thing,” Captain Baptiste asked, “Did you bring me one of those, too?” she asked, quickly glancing at Agent Banks’ cup of coffee.
“Of course, Captain, one second, please,” Agent Banks walked over to his workstation. There was a single cup of coffee in the same kind of blue, disposable cup under a heat lamp. A post it on his desk was pasted next to the heat lamp that read in black sharpie – “FOR CAPTAIN BAPTISTE – DO NOT TOUCH!!”
Agent Banks brought the cup of coffee over to the Captain. She opened the disposable lid and took a sip. Agent Banks wiped the sweat from his brow as discreetly as he could.
“Why thank you, Agent Banks,” Captain Baptiste said, smirking. “You do know how to make the perfect cup of coffee.”
“Thank you, Cap-“
“It’s the only reason I haven’t killed you yet,” Captain Baptiste cut him off with a nonchalant death threat and chuckled a bit to herself.
She took another sip. Agent Banks was about to walk away when she cleared her throat.
“Look at me, Agent Banks,” she ordered.
The Captain’s eyes met Agent Banks’. She blinked once; her eyes turned fully black.
A sudden, cold breeze swept through the command center. The entire room felt the sudden chill come from where Banks and Baptiste were standing and acted accordingly. A wave of fear had washed over the room. No one dared to look in Captain Baptiste’s direction.
“Get the job done,” a harsh growl of a voice filled Agent Banks’ mind. The voice harmonized with Captain Baptiste’s regular voice as she spoke the same words to him out loud. “You know why I am in charge here. We are on a mission, and I’ve been more than generous with your failures. I will not ask you again.”
She blinked again, and her eyes returned to their usual elegant greyish blue hue.
“Are we clear?” She asked, no longer in his head.
“Y-yes, Captain Baptiste. Loud and clear,” Banks replied like a new recruit responding to a drill sergeant.
“I’ll buzz you in now. Let’s go,” the Captain said.
Agent Banks nodded, put on a sleek pair of sunglasses from his suit’s inner pocket, and left the command center.
The loud, industrial noise emitted from the door of Margot’s room. Her head turned quickly. Agent Banks stepped inside and cut to the chase.
“We’re running out of options for you, Ms. Posseduto,” Agent Banks said. “I know you’re not exactly happy to see me.”
Margot instantly recognized these words as the last thing she heard Jackson say in her dream. Hearing them again from Agent Banks hit a nerve.
“You think I’m not happy to see you? I’m thrilled,” she responded, “All of these ‘treatments’ have worked great so far, haven’t they?”
“A new medication will be available shortly.” Agent Banks stated plainly.
“If I could look at the moon right now I’d do it just so I can snap your fucking neck,” Margot said in a vicious monotone.
Agent Banks continued, “You will be in our custody until further notice-“
Margot interjected “And while I’m here I’m going to do what I can to make your life a living hell. Just returning the favor.”
Banks went on, as if reading from a script, “You will have no contact with anyone while in our custody, and will be on strict surveillance if or when you are released. We have a few options I will explain now on how to move forward, you must choose one based on-”
“Eat a dick,” Margot said, flatly.
“Ms. Posseduto, I hope you understand the seriousness-“
“Oh, FUCK OFF!”
Margot jumped off the hospital bed and flipped the mattress over in Agent Banks’ direction.
“You think I don’t ‘understand the SERIOUSNESS’?! It’s been four fucking years now! I just KILLED dozens of people, including my BEST FRIEND because of this stupid disease or whatever you want to call it -“
“Please, calm down-”
“Get control of the situation,” Captain Baptiste telepathed to Agent Banks, “Or should I step in for you?”
“Oh yeah, I should just CALM DOWN, not a BIG FUCKING DEAL at all, huh?”
“No, that’s not necessary,” Agent Banks said out loud, in response to Captain Baptiste.
“They said this stupid fucking program would help! They said ‘tHe BeSt aNd BrIgHtEsT’ were going to figure this out! Another medication?! For real?!” Margot had had enough.
“I think you need to take a break,” Captain Baptiste telepathed to Agent Banks. “I’ll take it from here.”
“She cannot be reasoned with, Captain!” Agent Banks blurted out.
Margot’s face scrunched in confusion.
“Are you wearing a wire, dude?! Who are you talking to?!” Margot asked.
“Captain, please reconsider!” Agent Banks pleaded, as his head began to twitch involuntary.
“Ohh my god what the fuck is happening. . . can I speak to your manager, Agent Jackass?”
“She’ll be right out,” Captain Baptiste responded in a demonic voice, through a possessed Agent Banks. His body levitated a few inches above the floor.
Margot’s face turned stoic.
Agent Banks flew full speed into the industrial strength door.
Margot started screaming.
Agent Banks flew violently into the reinforced door over and over for about 10 seconds.
“STOP IT!” Margot yelled in distress.
His body stayed pressed up against the steel door for a moment, while his mangled, trembling right hand reached for the door handle.
“Oops,” Agent Banks said, via Captain Baptiste’s possessed, raspy growl.
Agent Banks’ suspended, battered body pushed the door open and fell forward with a heavy thud, leaving one foot lodged between the door and it’s frame.
Captain Baptiste walked in, stepping over Agent Banks. She nudged his foot out of the way of the door, and let it close behind her.
“Who are you?! What the hell was that?!”
“I’m the Captain,” she replied, coolly.
“I didn’t do that to him. That wasn’t me, I swear!” said Margot. “It happens when I look at the moon, I don’t even know-“
“Relax, baby, I know you didn’t do this,” Captain Baptiste grinned. “I did.”
(To be continued)